Abstract Resveratrol is a natural polyphenol enriched in Polygonum cuspidatum and has diverse biological activities. There is only limited information about the antidepressant-like effect of resveratrol. The present study assessed whether resveratrol treatment (20, 40 and 80mg/kg, i.p., 21days) has an antidepressant-like effect on the forced swim test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST) in mice and examined what its molecular targets might be. The results showed that resveratrol administration produced antidepressant-like effects in mice, evidenced by the reduced immobility time in the FST and TST, while it had no effect on the locomotor activity in the open field test. Resveratrol treatment significantly reduced serum corticosterone levels, which had been elevated by the FST and TST. Moreover, resveratrol increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protein and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. All of these antidepressant-like effects of resveratrol were essentially similar to those observed with the clinical antidepressant, fluoxetine. These results suggest that the antidepressant-like effects of resveratrol in the FST and TST are mediated, at least in part, by modulating hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, BDNF and ERK phosphorylation expression in the brain region of mice.