Résumé : Chronic treatment with antidepressants affects several proteins linked to neuroplasticity, particularly brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): this leads eventually to their therapeutic effects. It is possible that also for putative early therapeutic onset, antidepressants may act by promoting cellular adaptations linked to neuroplasticity. Escitalopram, known to be already effective in preclinical models of depression after 7. days, allowed us to investigate whether two effective treatment regimens (7 and 21. days) may contribute to synaptic plasticity by acting on BDNF signalling. We focused our attention on two regulators of BDNF transcription, CREB and CaRF (calcium responsive factor), and on kinases, CaMKII, ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK, linked to BDNF that play a distinctive role in synaptic plasticity. We evaluated whether the effects of escitalopram on these targets may be different in brain areas involved in the depressive symptomatology (hippocampus, frontal and prefrontal cortex). Here we demonstrate that escitalopram regulates intracellular pathways linked to neuroplasticity at both the time points evaluated in an area-specific manner. While the two escitalopram-treatment regimens failed to affect gene expression in the rat frontal cortex, 7. days of treatment with escitalopram activated intracellular pathways linked to BDNF and increased the levels of Pro-BDNF in the rat prefrontal cortex. Moreover, 21. days of treatment with escitalopram decreased CREB/BDNF signalling while increasing p38 levels in the rat hippocampus. Even if further experiments with different antidepressant strategies will be needed, our data suggest that escitalopram efficacy may be mediated by early and late effects on synaptic plasticity in selective brain areas. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.