NYMC Faculty Publications

Zelquistinel Is an Orally Bioavailable Novel NMDA Receptor Allosteric Modulator That Exhibits Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-Like Effects

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The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

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Cell Biology and Anatomy


BACKGROUND: The role of glutamatergic receptors in major depressive disorder continues to be of great interest for therapeutic development. Recent studies suggest that both negative and positive modulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR) can produce rapid antidepressant effects. Here we report that zelquistinel, a novel NMDAR allosteric modulator, exhibits high oral bioavailability and dose-proportional exposures in plasma and the central nervous system and produces rapid and sustained antidepressant-like effects in rodents by enhancing activity-dependent, long-term synaptic plasticity. METHODS: NMDAR-mediated functional activity was measured in cultured rat brain cortical neurons (calcium imaging), hNR2A or B subtype-expressing HEK cells, and synaptic plasticity in rat hippocampal and medial prefrontal cortex slices in vitro. Pharmacokinetics were evaluated in rats following oral administration. Antidepressant-like effects were assessed in the rat forced swim test and the chronic social deficit mouse model. Target engagement and the safety/tolerability profile was assessed using phencyclidine-induced hyperlocomotion and rotarod rodent models. RESULTS: Following a single oral dose, zelquistinel (0.1-100 µg/kg) produced rapid and sustained antidepressant-like effects in the rodent depression models. Brain/ cerebrospinal fluid concentrations associated with zelquistinel antidepressant-like activity also increased NMDAR function and rapidly and persistently enhanced activity-dependent synaptic plasticity (long-term potentiation), suggesting that zelquistinel produces antidepressant-like effects by enhancing NMDAR function and synaptic plasticity. Furthermore, Zelquistinel inhibited phencyclidine (an NMDAR antagonist)-induced hyperlocomotion and did not impact rotarod performance. CONCLUSIONS: Zelquistinel produces rapid and sustained antidepressant effects by positively modulating the NMDARs, thereby enhancing long-term potentiation of synaptic transmission.