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Rapid antidepressant effect of ketamine correlates with astroglial plasticity in the hippocampus

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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Astroglia contribute to the pathophysiology of major depression and antidepressant drugs act by modulating synaptic plasticity; therefore, the present study investigated whether the fast antidepressant action of ketamine is reflected in a rapid alteration of the astrocytes’ morphology in a genetic animal model of depression.

EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: S-Ketamine (15 mg·kg-1 ) or saline was administered as a single injection to Flinders Line (FSL/ FRL) rats. Twenty-four hours after the treatment, perfusion fixation was carried out and the morphology of glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP)-positive astrocytes in the CA1 stratum radiatum (CA1.SR) and the molecular layer of the dentate gyrus (GCL) of the hippocampus was investigated by applying stereological techniques and analysis with Imaris software. The depressive-like behaviour of animals was also evaluated using forced swim test.

KEY RESULTS: FSL rats treated with ketamine exhibited a significant reduction in immobility time in comparison with the FSL-vehicle group. The volumes of the hippocampal CA1.SR and GCL regions were significantly increased 1 day after ketamine treatment in the FSL rats. The size of astrocytes in the ketamine-treated FSL rats was larger than those in the FSL-vehicle group. Additionally, the number and length of the astrocytic processes in the CA1.SR region were significantly increased 1 day following ketamine treatment.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Our results support the hypothesis that astroglial atrophy contributes to the pathophysiology of depression and a morphological modification of astrocytes could be one mechanism by which ketamine rapidly improves depressive behaviour.

Ardalan, M., Rafati, A. H., Nyengaard, J. R., & Wegener, G. (2017). Rapid antidepressant effect of ketamine correlates with astroglial plasticity in the hippocampus. British Journal of Pharmacology, 174(6), 483-492. 10.1111/bph.13714
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