NYMC Faculty Publications


Positive N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Modulation by Rapastinel Promotes Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-Like Effects

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March 2019


Cell Biology and Anatomy


BACKGROUND: Modulation of glutamatergic synaptic transmission by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors can produce rapid and sustained antidepressant effects. Rapastinel (GLYX-13), initially described as a N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor partial glycine site agonist, exhibits rapid antidepressant effect in rodents without the accompanying dissociative effects of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists. METHODS: The relationship between rapastinel's in vitro N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor pharmacology and antidepressant efficacy was determined by brain microdialysis and subsequent pharmacological characterization of therapeutic rapastinel concentrations in N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-specific radioligand displacement, calcium mobilization, and medial prefrontal cortex electrophysiology assays. RESULTS: Brain rapastinel concentrations of 30 to 100 nM were associated with its antidepressant-like efficacy and enhancement of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-dependent neuronal intracellular calcium mobilization. Modulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors by rapastinel was independent of D-serine concentrations, and glycine site antagonists did not block rapastinel's effect. In rat medial prefrontal cortex slices, 100 nM rapastinel increased N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents and enhanced the magnitude of long-term potentiation without any effect on miniature EPSCs or paired-pulse facilitation responses, indicating postsynaptic action of rapastinel. A critical amino acid within the NR2 subunit was identified as necessary for rapastinel's modulatory effect. CONCLUSION: Rapastinel brain concentrations associated with antidepressant-like activity directly enhance medial prefrontal cortex N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor activity and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated synaptic plasticity in vitro. At therapeutic concentrations, rapastinel directly enhances N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor activity through a novel site independent of the glycine coagonist site. While both rapastinel and ketamine physically target N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, the 2 molecules have opposing actions on N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. Modest positive modulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors by rapastinel represents a novel pharmacological approach to promote well-tolerated, rapid, and sustained improvements in mood disorders.