Differential effects of antidepressant drugs on mTOR signalling in rat hippocampal neurons

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Nov;17(11):1831-46. doi: 10.1017/S1461145714000534. Epub 2014 Jun 5.


Recent studies suggest that ketamine produces antidepressant actions via stimulation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), leading to increased levels of synaptic proteins in the prefrontal cortex. Thus, mTOR activation may be related to antidepressant action. However, the mTOR signalling underlying antidepressant drug action has not been well investigated. The aim of the present study was to determine whether alterations in mTOR signalling were observed following treatment with antidepressant drugs, using ketamine as a positive control. Using Western blotting, we measured changes in the mTOR-mediated proteins and synaptic proteins in rat hippocampal cultures. Dendritic outgrowth was determined by neurite assay. Our findings demonstrated that escitalopram, paroxetine and tranylcypromine significantly increased levels of phospho-mTOR and its down-stream regulators (phospho-4E-BP-1 and phospho-p70S6K); fluoxetine, sertraline and imipramine had no effect. All drugs tested increased up-stream regulators (phospho-Akt and phospho-ERK) levels. Increased phospho-mTOR induced by escitalopram, paroxetine or tranylcypromine was significantly blocked in the presence of specific PI3K, MEK or mTOR inhibitors, respectively. All drugs tested also increased hippocampal dendritic outgrowth and synaptic proteins levels. The mTOR inhibitor, rapamycin, significantly blocked these effects on escitalopram, paroxetine and tranylcypromine whereas fluoxetine, sertraline and imipramine effects were not affected. The effects of escitalopram, paroxetine and tranylcypromine paralleled those of ketamine. This study presents novel in vitro evidence indicating that some antidepressant drugs promote dendritic outgrowth and increase synaptic protein levels through mTOR signalling; however, other antidepressant drugs seem to act via a different pathway. mTOR signalling may be a promising target for the development of new antidepressant drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neurites / drug effects
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt / metabolism
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 70-kDa / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Eif4ebp1 protein, rat
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • mTOR protein, rat
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 70-kDa
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases