Mechanisms of action and clinical efficacy of NMDA receptor modulators in mood disorders

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Abstract

Although the biogenic amine models have provided meaningful links between clinical phenomena and pharmacological management of mood disorders (MDs), the onset of action of current treatments is slow and a proportion of individuals fail to adequately respond. A growing number of investigations have focused on the glutamatergic system as a viable target. Herein we review the putative role of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) signaling in the pathophysiology of MDs. Prompting this focus are several lines of evidence: 1) altered glutamate and NMDA receptor (NMDAR) expression and functioning; 2) antidepressant effects of NMDAR signaling blockers; 3) interaction between conventional therapeutic regimens and NMDAR signaling modulators; 4) biochemical evidence of interaction between monoaminergic system and NMDAR signaling; 5) interaction between neurotrophic factors and NMDAR signaling in mood regulation; 6) cross-talk between NMDAR signaling and inflammatory processes; and 7) antidepressant effects of a number of NMDA modulators in recent clinical trials. Altogether, these studies establish a warrant for the refinement of novel compounds that target glutamatergic mechanisms for the treatment of MDs.

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