Background and purpose: (R)-Ketamine (arketamine) may have utility as a rapidly acting antidepressant. While (R)-ketamine has lower potency than (R,S)-ketamine to inhibit NMDA receptors in vitro, the extent to which (R)-ketamine shares the NMDA receptor-mediated adverse effects of (R,S)-ketamine in vivo has not been fully characterised. Furthermore, (R)-ketamine is metabolised to (2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine (HNK), which may contribute to its antidepressant-relevant actions.
Experimental approach: Using mice, we compared (R)-ketamine with a deuterated form of the drug (6,6-dideutero-(R)-ketamine, (R)-d2 -ketamine), which hinders its metabolism to (2R,6R)-HNK, in behavioural tests predicting antidepressant responses. We also examined the actions of intracerebroventricularly infused (2R,6R)-HNK. Further, we quantified putative NMDA receptor inhibition-mediated adverse effects of (R)-ketamine.
Key results: (R)-d2 -Ketamine was identical to (R)-ketamine in binding to and functionally inhibiting NMDA receptors but hindered (R)-ketamine's metabolism to (2R,6R)-HNK. (R)-Ketamine exerted greater potency than (R)-d2 -ketamine in several antidepressant-sensitive behavioural measures, consistent with a role of (2R,6R)-HNK in the actions of (R)-ketamine. There were dose-dependent sustained antidepressant-relevant actions of (2R,6R)-HNK following intracerebroventricular administration. (R)-Ketamine exerted NMDA receptor inhibition-mediated behaviours similar to (R,S)-ketamine, including locomotor stimulation, conditioned-place preference, prepulse inhibition deficits, and motor incoordination, with approximately half the potency of the racemic drug.
Conclusions and implications: Metabolism of (R)-ketamine to (2R,6R)-HNK increases the potency of (R)-ketamine to exert antidepressant-relevant actions in mice. Adverse effects of (R)-ketamine require higher doses than those necessary for antidepressant-sensitive behavioural changes in mice. However, our data revealing that (R)-ketamine's adverse effects are elicited at sub-anaesthetic doses indicate a potential risk for sensory dissociation and abuse liability.
© 2019 The British Pharmacological Society.