Emerging Therapeutics Based on the Amino Acid Neurotransmitter System: An Update on the Pharmaceutical Pipeline for Mood Disorders

Chronic Stress (Thousand Oaks). 2021 Jun 2:5:24705470211020446. doi: 10.1177/24705470211020446. eCollection 2021 Jan-Dec.


Mood disorders represent a pressing public health issue and significant source of disability throughout the world. The classical monoamine hypothesis, while useful in developing improved understanding and clinical treatments, has not fully captured the complex nature underlying mood disorders. Despite these shortcomings, the monoamine hypothesis continues to dominate the conceptual framework when approaching mood disorders. However, recent advances in basic and clinical research have led to a greater appreciation for the role that amino acid neurotransmitters play in the pathophysiology of mood disorders and as potential targets for novel therapies. In this article we review progress of compounds that focus on these systems. We cover both glutamate-targeting drugs such as: esketamine, AVP-786, REL-1017, AXS-05, rapastinel (GLYX-13), AV-101, NRX-101; as well as GABA-targeting drugs such as: brexanolone (SAGE-547), ganaxolone, zuranolone (SAGE-217), and PRAX-114. We focus the review on phase-II and phase-III clinical trials and evaluate the extant data and progress of these compounds.

Keywords: clinical trials; depression; ketamine/esketamine; mood disorders; rapid-acting antidepressants.

Publication types

  • Review