OPEN Foundation

S. Thompson

Harnessing psilocybin: antidepressant-like behavioral and synaptic actions of psilocybin are independent of 5-HT2R activation in mice

Abstract

Depression is a widespread and devastating mental illness and the search for rapid-acting antidepressants remains critical. There is now exciting evidence that the psychedelic compound psilocybin produces not only powerful alterations of consciousness, but also rapid and persistent antidepressant effects. How psilocybin exerts its therapeutic actions is not known, but it is widely presumed that these actions require altered consciousness, which is known to be dependent on serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) activation. This hypothesis has never been tested, however. We therefore asked whether psilocybin would exert antidepressant-like responses in mice and, if so, whether these responses required 5-HT2AR activation. Using chronically stressed male mice, we observed that a single injection of psilocybin reversed anhedonic responses assessed with the sucrose preference and female urine preference tests. The antianhedonic response to psilocybin was accompanied by a strengthening of excitatory synapses in the hippocampus-a characteristic of traditional and fast-acting antidepressants. Neither behavioral nor electrophysiological responses to psilocybin were prevented by pretreatment with the 5-HT2A/2C antagonist ketanserin, despite positive evidence of ketanserin’s efficacy. We conclude that psilocybin’s mechanism of antidepressant action can be studied in animal models and suggest that altered perception may not be required for its antidepressant effects. We further suggest that a 5-HT2AR-independent restoration of synaptic strength in cortico-mesolimbic reward circuits may contribute to its antidepressant action. The possibility of combining psychedelic compounds and a 5-HT2AR antagonist offers a potential means to increase their acceptance and clinical utility and should be studied in human depression.

Hesselgrave, N., Troppoli, T. A., Wulff, A. B., Cole, A. B., & Thompson, S. M. (2021). Harnessing psilocybin: antidepressant-like behavioral and synaptic actions of psilocybin are independent of 5-HT2R activation in mice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(17), e2022489118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2022489118

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Convergent Mechanisms Underlying Rapid Antidepressant Action

Abstract

Traditional pharmacological treatments for depression have a delayed therapeutic onset, ranging from several weeks to months, and there is a high percentage of individuals who never respond to treatment. In contrast, ketamine produces rapid-onset antidepressant, anti-suicidal, and anti-anhedonic actions following a single administration to patients with depression. Proposed mechanisms of the antidepressant action of ketamine include N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) modulation, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic interneuron disinhibition, and direct actions of its hydroxynorketamine (HNK) metabolites. Downstream actions include activation of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), deactivation of glycogen synthase kinase-3 and eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2), enhanced brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling, and activation of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid receptors (AMPARs). These putative mechanisms of ketamine action are not mutually exclusive and may complement each other to induce potentiation of excitatory synapses in affective-regulating brain circuits, which results in amelioration of depression symptoms. We review these proposed mechanisms of ketamine action in the context of how such mechanisms are informing the development of novel putative rapid-acting antidepressant drugs. Such drugs that have undergone pre-clinical, and in some cases clinical, testing include the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist scopolamine, GluN2B-NMDAR antagonists (i.e., CP-101,606, MK-0657), (2R,6R)-HNK, NMDAR glycine site modulators (i.e., 4-chlorokynurenine, pro-drug of the glycineB NMDAR antagonist 7-chlorokynurenic acid), NMDAR agonists [i.e., GLYX-13 (rapastinel)], metabotropic glutamate receptor 2/3 (mGluR2/3) antagonists, GABAA receptor modulators, and drugs acting on various serotonin receptor subtypes. These ongoing studies suggest that the future acute treatment of depression will typically occur within hours, rather than months, of treatment initiation.
Zanos, P., Thompson, S. M., Duman, R. S., Zarate, C. A., & Gould, T. D. (2018). Convergent mechanisms underlying rapid antidepressant action. CNS drugs, 1-31. 10.1007/s40263-018-0492-x
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