Stress-sensitive antidepressant-like effects of ketamine in the mouse forced swim test

PLoS One. 2019 Apr 15;14(4):e0215554. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215554. eCollection 2019.


Major depression is a stress-linked disease with significant morbidity and the anesthetic drug ketamine is of growing interest in the treatment of depression, since in responsive individuals a single dose has rapid (within hours) antidepressant effects that can be sustained for over a week in some instances. This combination of fast action and a therapeutic effect that lasts far beyond the drug's half-life points to a unique mechanism of action. In this reverse translational study, we investigate the degree to which ketamine counteracts stress-related depression-like behavioral responses by determining whether it affects unstressed animals similarly to stressed mice. To test this, male C57BL/6J mice were given a single injection of vehicle (0.9% saline; i.p.), 10 mg/kg ketamine, or 30 mg/kg ketamine, and were tested in the forced swim test (FST) 24 hours and 7 days later, as well as in the open field test on the eighth day. Unstressed mice had normal group housing, environmental enrichment, and experimenter pre-handling (5 days), whereas stressed animals were subjected to chronic mild stress (single housing, reduced enrichment and minimal handling), where some mice also had daily two-week unpredictable chronic stress (UCS). We find that ketamine (24 hours post-injection) decreases immobility and increases mobile (swimming) behavior (antidepressant-like effects) in UCS animals but does the opposite in unstressed mice, similar to recent human findings. In summary, these data suggest that chronic psychological stress interacts with ketamine treatment to modulate its effects in the C57BL/6J mouse FST, which reinforces the relevance of this test, and this strain of mice, to human, stress-induced depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Depression* / drug therapy
  • Depression* / etiology
  • Depression* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Stress, Psychological* / complications
  • Stress, Psychological* / drug therapy
  • Stress, Psychological* / physiopathology
  • Swimming*


  • Ketamine