Ketamine is a non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist that has been shown to induce a rapid antidepressant effect in treatment-resistant patients. Vortioxetine is a multimodal-acting antidepressant that exert its therapeutic activity through serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) reuptake inhibition and modulation of several 5-HT receptors. In clinical trials, vortioxetine improves depression symptoms and cognitive dysfunction. Neuroplasticity as well as serotonergic and glutamatergic signaling attain significant roles in depression pathophysiology and antidepressant responses.
Here, we investigate the effects of ketamine and vortioxetine on gene expression related to serotonergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission as well as neuroplasticity and compare them to those of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine. Rats were injected with fluoxetine (10 mg/kg), ketamine (15 mg/kg), or vortioxetine (10 mg/kg) at 2, 8, 12, or 27 h prior to harvesting of the frontal cortex and hippocampus. mRNA levels were measured by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR).
The main finding was that vortioxetine enhanced plasticity-related gene expression (Mtor, Mglur1, Pkcα, Homer3, Spinophilin, and Synapsin3) in the frontal cortex at 8 h after a single dose. Ingenuity pathway analysis of this subset of data identified a biological network that was engaged by vortioxetine and is plausibly associated with neuroplasticity. Transcript levels had returned to baseline levels 12 h after injection. Only minor effects on gene expression were found for ketamine or fluoxetine.
In conclusion, acute vortioxetine, but not fluoxetine or ketamine, transiently increased plasticity-related gene expression in the frontal cortex. These effects may be ascribed to the direct 5-HT receptor activities of vortioxetine.