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Science 329 (5994): 959-964

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

mTOR-Dependent Synapse Formation Underlies the Rapid Antidepressant Effects of NMDA Antagonists

Nanxin Li, Boyoung Lee, Rong-Jian Liu, Mounira Banasr, Jason M. Dwyer, Masaaki Iwata, Xiao-Yuan Li, George Aghajanian, Ronald S. Duman*

Abstract: The rapid antidepressant response after ketamine administration in treatment-resistant depressed patients suggests a possible new approach for treating mood disorders compared to the weeks or months required for standard medications. However, the mechanisms underlying this action of ketamine [a glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonist] have not been identified. We observed that ketamine rapidly activated the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, leading to increased synaptic signaling proteins and increased number and function of new spine synapses in the prefrontal cortex of rats. Moreover, blockade of mTOR signaling completely blocked ketamine induction of synaptogenesis and behavioral responses in models of depression. Our results demonstrate that these effects of ketamine are opposite to the synaptic deficits that result from exposure to stress and could contribute to the fast antidepressant actions of ketamine.

Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry, Center for Genes and Behavior, Departments of Psychiatry and Neurobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, 34 Park Street, New Haven, CT 06508, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: ronald.duman{at}

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Ketamine's Quick Antidepressant Actions.
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