Identification of a novel, fast-acting GABAergic antidepressant



Current pharmacotherapies for depression exhibit slow onset, side effects and limited efficacy. Therefore, identification of novel fast-onset antidepressants is desirable. GLO1 is a ubiquitous cellular enzyme responsible for the detoxification of the glycolytic byproduct methylglyoxal (MG). We have previously shown that MG is a competitive partial agonist at GABA-A receptors. We examined the effects of genetic and pharmacological inhibition of GLO1 in two antidepressant assay models: the tail suspension test (TST) and the forced swim test (FST). We also examined the effects of GLO1 inhibition in three models of antidepressant onset: the chronic FST (cFST), chronic mild stress (CMS) paradigm and olfactory bulbectomy (OBX). Genetic knockdown of Glo1 or pharmacological inhibition using two structurally distinct GLO1 inhibitors (S-bromobenzylglutathione cyclopentyl diester (pBBG) or methyl-gerfelin (MeGFN)) reduced immobility in the TST and acute FST. Both GLO1 inhibitors also reduced immobility in the cFST after 5 days of treatment. In contrast, the serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine (FLX) reduced immobility after 14, but not 5 days of treatment. Furthermore, 5 days of treatment with either GLO1 inhibitor blocked the depression-like effects induced by CMS on the FST and coat state, and attenuated OBX-induced locomotor hyperactivity. Finally, 5 days of treatment with a GLO1 inhibitor (pBBG), but not FLX, induced molecular markers of the antidepressant response including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) induction and increased phosphorylated cyclic-AMP response-binding protein (pCREB) to CREB ratio in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Our findings indicate that GLO1 inhibitors may provide a novel and fast-acting pharmacotherapy for depression.

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We thank Dr Michael Brownlee for the Glo1KD mice and both Charissa Newkirk and Shibani Chettri for technical assistance with these studies. This work was supported by NIH grants T32DA007255 (KMJM), T32MH020065 (MJR), F32AA025515 (AMBL), R01MH079103 (AAP), R01MH096463 (JMC), R01NS076517 a NARSAD Independent Investigator Award (SCD), a NARSAD Young Investigator Award (MJR) and an IMHRO Rising Star Depression Research Award in Memory of George Largay (SCD).

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Correspondence to A A Palmer.

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Drs Palmer and McMurray have applied for a patent-related manipulation of GLO1 to treat various neurological and psychiatric disorders. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

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McMurray, K., Ramaker, M., Barkley-Levenson, A. et al. Identification of a novel, fast-acting GABAergic antidepressant. Mol Psychiatry 23, 384–391 (2018).

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