Intravenous infusion of xenon-containing liposomes generates rapid antidepressant-like effects

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Aim:Similar to ketamine, xenon gas acts as a glutamatergic N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonist, but devoid of propensity to cause untoward effects. Herein, we loaded xenon gas into a liposomal carrier called xenon-containing liposomes (Xe-liposome) for systemic delivery, and investigated its effect as an antidepressant and also analyzed synaptic biomarkers including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), protein kinase B (AKT), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), protein kinase C (PKC) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2 (ERK1/2) in blood and brain.Methods:Xe-liposomes (15 μl/mg) were prepared by a pressurized freeze-thaw method, and injected via the lateral tail vein (0.6 mL/rat) in male Wistar rats. The uncaging of xenon gas from circulating Xe-liposome was facilitated by continuous ultrasound application externally on the neck over the internal common carotid artery. One-hour after Xe-liposome infusion, animals were assessed for depression-like behaviors using a forced swimming test (FST), and spontaneous locomotor activity. Blood, as well as frontal cortex and hippocampal samples were obtained for immunoblotting and/or enzyme-linked immune sorbent assays.Results:Acute intravenous infusion of Xe-liposome, at 6 mg/kg, showed an increase in swimming time in the FST (p < 0.006), indicating antidepressant-like phenotypes. Higher doses of Xe-liposomes (9 mg/kg) failed to improve swimming duration. This behavioral discrepancy was not associated with locomotion aberrations, as gross activity of rats remained similar for both doses. In biochemical analyses of frontal cortex, protein levels of BDNF increased by 64%, and enhanced phosphorylation of AKT (43%) and mTOR (93%) was observed at the 6 mg/kg dose level of Xe-liposomes, while these biomarkers and phosphorylated PKC and ERK1/2 levels remained unchanged at the higher dose. Moreover, Xe-liposomal treatment did not change the plasma and protein levels of BDNF, and phosphorylated AKT, mTOR, PKC and ERK1/2 hippocampal expressions.Conclusion:Xe-liposomes mediate a rapid antidepressant-like effect through activation of AKT/mTOR/BDNF signaling pathway.HighlightsXenon gas formulated in a liposomal carrier called xenon-containing liposomes (Xe-liposomes).Xe-liposomes showed dose-dependent and rapid antidepressant-like phenotypes following acute intravenous administration.Unlike ketamine, Xe-liposomes did not influence locomotor activity even at higher doses.Antidepressant effects of xenon may be mediated through activation of AKT/mTOR/BDNF signaling.

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