Apelin is a small peptide secreted by the adipose tissue notably in conditions of obesity-induced hyper-insulinemia. Apelin exerts a range of physiological functions at the periphery including the improvement of insulin sensitivity and the increase of muscle strength or cardiac contractibility. Interestingly, the brain is endowed with a high density of APJ, the single target of apelin, and growing evidence suggests various central actions of this adipokine. Recent studies reported that the intracerebroventricular infusion of apelin modulates emotional states in middle age stressed animals. However, results are so far been mixed and have not allowed for definitive conclusions about the impact of apelin on anxio-depressive-like phenotype. This study aims 1) to evaluate whether serum apelin levels are associated with mood in older adults and 2) to determine the impact of the genetic apelin inactivation in 12-month old mice fed a standard diet (STD) or in 6-month old mice fed a high fat diet (HFD). A higher plasma apelin level was associated with higher depressive symptoms in older adults. In line with these clinical findings, 12-month old apelin knock-out (Ap) mice displayed a spontaneous antidepressant-like phenotype. In a marked contrast, 6-month old Ap mice harbored a higher degree of peripheral insulin resistance than wild-types in response to HFD and were more prone to develop anxiety while the depressive-like state was not modified. We also provided evidence that such anxious behavior was associated with an impairment of central serotonergic and dopaminergic neuronal activities. Finally, although the insulin sensitizing drug metformin failed to reverse HFD-induced insulin resistance in 6-month old Ap mice, it reversed their anxious phenotype. These results emphasize a complex contribution of apelin in the regulation of emotional state that might depend on the age and the metabolic status of the animals. Further investigations are warranted to highlight the therapeutic potential of manipulating the apelinergic system in mood-related disorders.
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