d-Serine is an amino acid and can work as an agonist at the glycine sites of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR). Interestingly, both types of glutamatergic modulators, NMDAR enhancers and blockers, can improve depression through common targets, namely alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionaic acid receptors (AMPARs) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). To elucidate the cellular signaling pathway underlying this counterintuitive observation, we activated NMDARs in rats by using d-serine. Saline, ketamine (NMDAR antagonist), and desipramine (tricyclic antidepressant) were used as controls. The antidepressant-like effects of all agents were evaluated using the forced swim test. The activation of the AMPAR-mTOR signaling pathway, release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and alteration of AMPAR and NMDAR trafficking in the hippocampus of rats were examined. A single high dose of d-serine exerted an antidepressant-like effect that was mediated by rapid AMPAR-induced mTOR signaling pathway and increased BDNF proteins, identical to that of ketamine. Furthermore, in addition to the increased protein kinase A phosphorylation of the AMPAR subunit GluR1 (an indicator of AMPAR insertion in neurons), treatment with individual optimal doses of d-serine and ketamine also increased adaptin β2-NMDAR association (an indicator of the intracellular endocytic machinery and subsequent internalization of NMDARs). Desipramine did not influence these processes. Our study is the first to demonstrate an association between d-serine and ketamine; following adaptative regulation of AMPAR and NMDAR may lead to common changes of them. These findings provide novel targets for safer antidepressant agents with mechanisms similar to those of ketamine.
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