Clinical studies demonstrate that scopolamine, a non-selective muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAchR) antagonist, produces rapid therapeutic effects in depressed patients, and preclinical studies report that the actions of scopolamine require glutamate receptor activation and the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). The present study extends these findings to determine the role of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and specific muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (M-AchR) subtypes in the actions of scopolamine. The administration of scopolamine increases the activity marker Fos in the mPFC, including the infralimbic (IL) and prelimbic (PrL) subregions. Microinfusions of scopolamine into either the IL or the PrL produced significant antidepressant responses in the forced swim test, and neuronal silencing of IL or PrL blocked the antidepressant effects of systemic scopolamine. The results also demonstrate that the systemic administration of a selective M1-AChR antagonist, VU0255035, produced an antidepressant response and stimulated mTORC1 signaling in the PFC, similar to the actions of scopolamine. Finally, we used a chronic unpredictable stress model as a more rigorous test of rapid antidepressant actions and found that a single dose of scopolamine or VU0255035 blocked the anhedonic response caused by CUS, an effect that requires the chronic administration of typical antidepressants. Taken together, these findings indicate that mPFC is a critical mediator of the behavioral actions of scopolamine and identify the M1-AChR as a therapeutic target for the development of novel and selective rapid-acting antidepressants.
Keywords: Anhedonia; Depression; Glutamate; Neuronal silencing; Stress.
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