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• The new evidence of ketamine ameliorates the depressive-like behaviors in stressed rats.
• proBDNF/mBDNF ratio provide novel perspectives and potential targets for the development of effective therapeutic intervention for depression.
• The potential antidepressant mechanism of ketamine likely occurs through activating the tPA-BDNF pathway to produce protective effects.


Some studies have indicated that ketamine has a rapid antidepressant effects, but the underlying molecular mechanism is still unclear. Researchers have found that mature brain-derived neurotrophic factor (mBDNF) and its precursor proBDNF are related to depression; they elicit opposite effects on cellular functions. It is clear that tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a key regulatory element in the conversion of proBDNF to mBDNF. The chronic unpredicted mild stress (CUMS) procedure is a classical and reliable method to establish the model of depression. This study found that sucrose preference and locomotor activity were both reduced in CUMS-treated rats while were increased in those who were injected with ketamine. The hippocampal proBDNF/mBDNF ratio was downregulated after ketamine treatment in those rats, together with an increased level of tPA in the hippocampus. However, tPA activity was unaltered after ketamine intraperitoneal injection. Intrahippocampal injection of active plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (inhibitor of tPA) before ketamine treatment reversed the antidepressant effects and upregulated the proBDNF/mBDNF ratio. The results of this study suggest that the antidepressant action induced by ketamine may be related to tPA-mediated conversion of proBDNF to mBDNF in the hippocampus.

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