Ketamine decreases neuronally released glutamate via retrograde stimulation

Ketamine produces a rapid antidepressant response in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), but the underlying mechanisms appear multifaceted. One hypothesis, proposes that by antagonizing NMDA receptors on GABAergic interneurons, ketamine disinhibits afferens to glutamatergic principal neurons and increases extracellular glutamate levels. However, ketamine seems also to reduce rapid glutamate release at some synapses. Therefore, clinical studies in MDD patients have stressed the need to identify mechanisms whereby ketamine decreases presynaptic activity and glutamate release. In the present study, the effect of ketamine and its antidepressant metabolite, (2R,6R)-HNK, on neuronally derived glutamate release was examined in rodents. We used FAST methodology to measure depolarization-evoked extracellular glutamate levels in vivo in freely moving or anesthetized animals, synaptosomes to detect synaptic recycling ex vivo and primary cortical neurons to perform functional imaging and to examine intracellular signaling in vitro. In all these versatile approaches, ketamine and (2R,6R)-HNK reduced glutamate release in a manner which could be blocked by AMPA receptor antagonism.

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Fig: Acute local and systemic administration of ketamine and (2 R, 6 R)-HNK reduces the presynaptic glutamate release

Antagonism of adenosine A1 receptors, which are almost exclusively expressed at nerve terminals, also counteracted ketamine’s effect on glutamate release and presynaptic activity. Signal transduction studies in primary neuronal cultures demonstrated that ketamine reduced P-T286-CamKII and P-S9-Synapsin, which correlated with decreased synaptic vesicle recycling. Moreover, systemic administration of A1R antagonist counteracted the antidepressant-like actions of ketamine and (2R,6R)-HNK in the forced swim test. To conclude, by studying neuronally released glutamate, we identified a novel retrograde adenosinergic feedback mechanism that mediate inhibitory actions of ketamine on glutamate release that may contribute to its rapid antidepressant action.

Lazarevic, V., Yang, Y., Flais, I. et al. Ketamine decreases neuronally released glutamate via retrograde stimulation of presynaptic adenosine A1 receptors. Mol Psychiatry (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-021-01246-3

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