Ketamine, a noncompetitive N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, produces rapid and long-lasting antidepressant effects in major depressive disorder (MDD) patients. (2R,6R)-Hydroxynorketamine [(2R,6R)-HNK], a metabolite of ketamine, is reported to produce rapid antidepressant effects in rodent models without the side effects of ketamine. Importantly, (2R,6R)-HNK does not block NMDA receptors like ketamine, and the molecular signaling mechanisms for (2R,6R)-HNK remain unknown. Here, we examined the involvement of BDNF/TrkB/mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling in the antidepressant actions of (2R,6R)-HNK. Intramedial prefrontal cortex (intra-mPFC) infusion or systemic (2R,6R)-HNK administration induces rapid and long-lasting antidepressant effects in behavioral tests, identifying the mPFC as a key region for the actions of (2R,6R)-HNK. The antidepressant actions of (2R,6R)-HNK are blocked in mice with a knockin of the BDNF Val66Met allele (which blocks the processing and activity-dependent release of BDNF) or by intra-mPFC microinjection of an anti-BDNF neutralizing antibody. Blockade of L-type voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels (VDCCs), required for activity-dependent BDNF release, also blocks the actions of (2R,6R)-HNK. Intra-mPFC infusion of pharmacological inhibitors of TrkB or mTORC1 signaling, which are downstream of BDNF, also block the actions of (2R,6R)-HNK. Moreover, (2R,6R)-HNK increases synaptic function in the mPFC. These findings indicate that activity-dependent BDNF release and downstream TrkB and mTORC1 signaling, which increase synaptic function in the mPFC, are required for the rapid and long-lasting antidepressant effects of (2R,6R)-HNK, supporting the potential use of this metabolite for the treatment of MDD.
Keywords: (2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine; BDNF; depression; ketamine; mTORC1.