Currently approved antidepressant drug treatment typically takes several weeks to be effective. The non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist ketamine has shown efficacy as a rapid-acting treatment for depression, but its use is associated with significant side effects. We assessed effects following blockade of the glycineB co-agonist site of the NMDA receptor by the selective full antagonist 7-Cl-kynurenic acid (7-Cl-KYNA), delivered by systemic administration of its brain-penetrant prodrug 4-Cl-kynurenine (4-Cl-KYN) in mice. Following administration of 4-Cl-KYN, 7-Cl-KYNA was promptly recovered extracellularly in hippocampal microdialysate of freely-moving animals. The behavioral responses of the animals were assessed using measures of ketamine-sensitive antidepressant efficacy (including the 24-hour forced swim test, learned helplessness test, and novelty-suppressed feeding test). In these tests, distinct from fluoxetine, and similar to ketamine, 4-Cl-KYN administration resulted in rapid, dose-dependent and persistent antidepressant-like effects following a single treatment. The antidepressant effects of 4-Cl-KYN were prevented by pre-treatment with glycine or the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor antagonist 2,3-dihydroxy-6-nitro-7-sulfamoyl-benzo[f]quinoxaline-2,3-dione (NBQX). 4-Cl-KYN administration was not associated with the rewarding and psychotomimetic effects of ketamine, and did not induce locomotor sensitization or stereotypic behaviors. Our results provide further support for antagonism of the glycineB site for the rapid treatment of treatment-resistant depression and indicate that the prodrug approach using 4-Cl-KYN holds promise for use in humans, without the negative side effects seen with ketamine or other channel blocking NMDA receptor antagonists.
- The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics