Sexually Dimorphic Behavioral Profile in a Transgenic Model Enabling Targeted Recombination in Active Neurons in Response to Ketamine and (2R,6R)-Hydroxynorketamine Administration

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Mar 20;21(6):2142. doi: 10.3390/ijms21062142.


Background: Rapid-acting antidepressants ketamine and (2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine ((2R,6R)-HNK) have overcome some of the major limitations of classical antidepressants. However, little is known about sex-specific differences in the behavioral and molecular effects of ketamine and (2R,6R)-HNK in rodents.

Methods: We treated mice with an intraperitoneal injection of either saline, ketamine (30 mg kg-1) or (2R,6R)-HNK (10 mg kg-1). We performed a comprehensive behavioral test battery to characterize the Arc-CreERT2 × CAG-Sun1/sfGFP mouse line which enables targeted recombination in active populations. We performed a molecular study in Arc-CreERT2 × CAG-Sun1/sfGFP female mice using both immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization.

Results: Arc-CreERT2 × CAG-Sun1/sfGFP mice showed sex differences in sociability and anxiety tests. Moreover, ketamine and (2R,6R)-HNK had opposite effects in the forced swim test (FST) depending on gender. In addition, in male mice, ketamine-treated animals were less immobile compared to (2R,6R)-HNK, thus showing a different profile of the two drugs in the FST. At the molecular level we identified Bdnf mRNA level to be increased after ketamine treatment in female mice.

Conclusion: Arc-CreERT2 × CAG-Sun1/sfGFP mice showed sex differences in social and anxiety behavior and a different pattern between ketamine and (2R,6R)-HNK in the FST in male and female mice. At the molecular level, female mice treated with ketamine showed an increase of Bdnf mRNA level, as previously observed in male mice.

Keywords: BDNF; activated neurons; antidepressant; behavior; hydroxynorketamine; ketamine; rapid-acting; sex difference.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / pathology
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage*
  • Ketamine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Social Behavior


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Ketamine
  • 6-hydroxynorketamine