Uncoupling DAPK1 from NMDA receptor GluN2B subunit exerts rapid antidepressant-like effects

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Several preclinical studies have reported the rapid antidepressant effects of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonists, although the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. Death-associated protein kinase 1 (DAPK1) couples GluN2B subunits at extrasynaptic sites to regulate NMDAR channel conductance. In the present study, we found that chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) induced extracellular glutamate accumulation, accompanied by an increase in the DAPK1-NMDAR interaction, the high expression of DAPK1 and phosphorylated GluN2B at Ser1303, a decrease in phosphorylated DAPK1 at Ser308 and synaptic protein deficits in the rat medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). CUS also enhanced GluN2B-mediated NMDA currents and extrasynaptic responses that were induced by bursts of high-frequency stimulation, which may be associated with the loss of astrocytes and low expression of glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1). The blockade of GLT-1 in the mPFC was sufficient to induce depressive-like behavior and cause similar molecular changes. Selective GluN2B antagonist, DAPK1 knockdown by adeno-associated virus-mediated short-hairpin RNA or a pharmacological inhibitor, and the uncoupling of DAPK1 from the NMDAR GluN2B subunit produced rapid antidepressant-like effects and reversed CUS-induced alterations in the mPFC. The inhibition of DAPK1 and its interaction with GluN2B subunit in the mPFC also rescued CUS-induced depressive-like behavior 7 days after treatment. A selective GluN2B antagonist did not have rewarding effects in the conditioned place preference paradigm. Altogether, our findings suggest that the DAPK1 interaction with the NMDAR GluN2B subunit acts as a critical component in the pathophysiology of depression and is a potential target for new antidepressant treatments.

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