Current treatments for depression are less than optimal in terms of onset of action, response and remission rates, and side-effect profiles. Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter controlling synaptic excitability and plasticity in most brain circuits, including limbic pathways involved in depression. Thus, drugs that target glutamate neuronal transmission offer novel approaches to treat depression. Recently, the NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine has demonstrated clinical efficacy in a randomized clinical trial of depressed patients. Metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors function to regulate glutamate neuronal transmission by altering the release of neurotransmitter or modulating the post-synaptic responses to glutamate. Accumulating evidence from biochemical and behavioral studies support the idea that the regulation of glutamatergic neurotransmission via mGlu receptors is linked to mood disorders and that these receptors may serve as novel targets for the discovery of small molecule modulators with unique antidepressant properties. For example, mGlu receptor modulation can facilitate neuronal stem cell proliferation (neurogenesis) and the release of neurotransmitters that are associated with treatment response to depression in humans (serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine). In particular, compounds that antagonize mGlu2, mGlu3 and/or mGlu5 receptors (e.g. LY341495, MSG0039, MPEP) have been linked to the above pharmacology and have also shown in vivo activity in animal models predictive of antidepressant efficacy such as the forced-swim test. The in vivo actions of these agents can be antagonized by compounds that block AMPA receptors, suggesting that their actions are direct downstream consequences of the enhancement of glutamate neuronal transmission in brain regions involved in depression. These data provide new approaches to finding mechanistically distinct drugs for depression that may have advantages over current therapies for some patients. Moreover, since the mood disorders encompase a non-homogenous set of symptoms, comorbid disorders, and potential etiologies, the rich arsensel that exists within the mGlu receptor families provides an opportunity for both broad and customized therapeutics.
Keywords: Metabotropic glutamate, mGlu receptors, depression, LY354740, LY341495, MSG0039, MPEP, mGlu2, mGlu3, mGlu5
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