Ketamine and MK-801 by blocking NMDA receptors may induce reinforcing effects as well as schizophrenia-like symptoms. Recent results showed that ketamine can also effectively reverse depressive signs in patients' refractory to standard therapies. This evidence clearly points to the need of characterization of effects of these NMDARs antagonists on relevant brain areas for mood disorders. The aim of the present study was to investigate the molecular changes occurring at glutamatergic synapses 24 h after ketamine or MK-801 treatment in the rat medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and hippocampus (Hipp). In particular, we analyzed the levels of the glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1), NMDA receptors, AMPA receptors subunits, and related scaffolding proteins. In the homogenate, we found a general decrease of protein levels, whereas their changes in the post-synaptic density were more complex. In fact, ketamine in the mPFC decreased the level of GLT-1 and increased the level of GluN2B, GluA1, GluA2, and scaffolding proteins, likely indicating a pattern of enhanced excitability. On the other hand, MK-801 only induced sparse changes with apparently no correlation to functional modification. Differently from mPFC, in Hipp, both substances reduced or caused no changes of glutamate receptors and scaffolding proteins expression. Ketamine decreased NMDA receptors while increased AMPA receptors subunit ratios, an effect indicative of permissive metaplastic modulation; conversely, MK-801 only decreased the latter, possibly representing a blockade of further synaptic plasticity. Taken together, these findings indicate a fine tuning of glutamatergic synapses by ketamine compared to MK-801 both in the mPFC and Hipp.
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