Background: Major depressive disorder is prevalent in children and adolescents and is associated with a high degree of morbidity throughout life, with potentially devastating personal consequences and public health impact. The efficacy of ketamine (KET) as an antidepressant has been demonstrated in adolescent rodents; however, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects are unknown. Recent evidence showed that KET reverses stress-induced (i.e., depressive-like) deficits within major mesocorticolimbic regions, such as the prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens (NAc), and hippocampus, in adult rodents. However, little is known about KET's effect in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which provides the majority of dopaminergic input to these brain regions. Methods: We characterized behavioral, biochemical, and electrophysiological effects produced by KET treatment in C57BL/6J male mice during adolescence (n = 7–10 per condition) within the VTA and its major projection regions, namely, the NAc and prefrontal cortex. Subsequently, molecular targets within the VTA-NAc projection were identified for viral gene transfer manipulations to recapitulate the effects of stress or KET treatment. Results: Repeated KET treatment produced a robust proresilient response to chronic social defeat stress. This effect was largely driven by Akt signaling activity within the VTA and NAc, and it could be blocked or recapitulated through direct Akt-viral–mediated manipulation. Additionally, we found that the KET-induced resilient phenotype is dependent on VTA-NAc, but not VTA–prefrontal cortex, pathway activity. Conclusions: These findings indicate that KET exposure during adolescence produces a proresilient phenotype mediated by changes in Akt intracellular signaling and altered neuronal activity within the VTA-NAc pathway.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biological Psychiatry