UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Ketamine and its metabolite, (2R,6R)-HNK, restore hippocampal LTP and long-term spatial memory in the Wistar-Kyoto rat model of depression Aleksandrova, Lily R.; Wang, Yu Tian; Phillips, Anthony G.


Accumulating evidence implicates dysregulation of hippocampal synaptic plasticity in the pathophysiology of depression. However, the effects of ketamine on synaptic plasticity and their contribution to its mechanism of action as an antidepressant, are still unclear. We investigated ketamine’s effects on in vivo dorsal hippocampal (dHPC) synaptic plasticity and their role in mediating aspects of antidepressant activity in the Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) model of depression. dHPC long-term potentiation (LTP) was significantly impaired in WKY rats compared to Wistar controls. Importantly, a single low dose (5 mg/kg, ip) of ketamine or its metabolite, (2R,6R)-HNK, rescued the LTP deficit in WKY rats at 3.5 h but not 30 min following injection, with residual effects at 24 h, indicating a delayed, sustained facilitatory effect on dHPC synaptic plasticity. Consistent with the observed dHPC LTP deficit, WKY rats exhibited impaired hippocampal-dependent long-term spatial memory as measured by the novel object location recognition test (NOLRT), which was effectively restored by pre-treatment with both ketamine or (2R,6R)-HNK. In contrast, in WKYs, which display abnormal stress coping, ketamine, but not (2R,6R)-HNK, had rapid and sustained effects in the forced swim test (FST), a commonly used preclinical screen for antidepressant-like activity. The differential effects of (2R,6R)-HNK observed here reveal a dissociation between drug effects on FST immobility and dHPC synaptic plasticity. Therefore, in the WKY rat model, restoring dHPC LTP was not correlated with ketamine’s effects in FST, but importantly, may have contributed to the reversal of hippocampal-dependent cognitive deficits, which are critical features of clinical depression. Our findings support the theory that ketamine may reverse the stress-induced loss of connectivity in key neural circuits by engaging synaptic plasticity processes to “reset the system”.

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