GABA interneurons mediate the rapid antidepressant-like effects of scopolamine

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Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a recurring psychiatric illness that causes substantial health and socioeconomic burdens. Clinical reports have revealed that scopolamine, a nonselective muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist, produces rapid antidepressant effects in individuals with MDD. Preclinical models suggest that these rapid antidepressant effects can be recapitulated with blockade of M1-type muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (M1-AChR); however, the cellular mechanisms underlying activity-dependent synaptic and behavioral responses to scopolamine have not been determined. Here, we demonstrate that the antidepressant-like effects of scopolamine are mediated by GABA interneurons in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Both GABAergic (GAD67+) interneurons and glutamatergic (CaMKII+) interneurons in the mPFC expressed M1-AChR. In mice, viral-mediated knockdown of M1-AChR specifically in GABAergic neurons, but not glutamatergic neurons, in the mPFC attenuated the antidepressant-like effects of scopolamine. Immunohistology and electrophysiology showed that somatostatin (SST) interneurons in the mPFC express M1-AChR at higher levels than parvalbumin interneurons. Moreover, knockdown of M1-AChR in SST interneurons in the mPFC demonstrated that M1-AChR expression in these neurons is required for the rapid antidepressant-like effects of scopolamine. These data indicate that SST interneurons in the mPFC are a promising pharmacological target for developing rapid-acting antidepressant therapies.

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