Recent human clinical studies with the NMDA receptor (NMDAR) antagonist ketamine have revealed profound and long-lasting antidepressant effects with rapid onset in several clinical trials, but antidepressant effects were preceded by dissociative side effects. Here we show that GLYX-13, a novel NMDAR glycine-site functional partial agonist, produces an antidepressant-like effect in the Porsolt, novelty induced hypophagia, and learned helplessness tests in rats without exhibiting substance abuse-related, gating, and sedative side effects of ketamine in the drug discrimination, conditioned place preference, pre-pulse inhibition and open-field tests. Like ketamine, the GLYX-13-induced antidepressant-like effects required AMPA/kainate receptor activation, as evidenced by the ability of NBQX to abolish the antidepressant-like effect. Both GLYX-13 and ketamine persistently (24 h) enhanced the induction of long-term potentiation of synaptic transmission and the magnitude of NMDAR-NR2B conductance at rat Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses in vitro. Cell surface biotinylation studies showed that both GLYX-13 and ketamine led to increases in both NR2B and GluR1 protein levels, as measured by Western analysis, whereas no changes were seen in mRNA expression (microarray and qRT-PCR). GLYX-13, unlike ketamine, produced its antidepressant-like effect when injected directly into the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). These results suggest that GLYX-13 produces an antidepressant-like effect without the side effects seen with ketamine at least in part by directly modulating NR2B-containing NMDARs in the MPFC. Furthermore, the enhancement of 'metaplasticity' by both GLYX-13 and ketamine may help explain the long-lasting antidepressant effects of these NMDAR modulators. GLYX-13 is currently in a Phase II clinical development program for treatment-resistant depression.