Calcium/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II and Eukaryotic Elongation Factor 2 Kinase Pathways Mediate the Antidepressant Action of Ketamine

Chinnakkaruppan Adaikkan, Elham Taha, Iliana Barrera, Orit David, Kobi Rosenblum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Ketamine is an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist, which on administration produces fast-acting antidepressant responses in patients with major depressive disorder. Yet, the mechanism underlying the antidepressant action of ketamine remains unclear. Methods: To unravel the mechanism of action of ketamine, we treated wild-type C57BL/6 mice with calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) specific inhibitor tatCN21 peptide. We also used eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF2K) (also known as CaMKIII) knockout mice. We analyzed the effects biochemically and behaviorally, using the forced swim, tail suspension, and novelty suppressed feeding tests. Results: Consistent with the literature, one of the major pathways mediating the antidepressant action of ketamine was reduction of phosphorylation of eEF2 via eEF2K. Specifically, knocking out eEF2K in mice eliminated phosphorylation of eEF2 at threonine at position 56, resulting in increased protein synthesis, and made mice resistant both biochemically and behaviorally to the antidepressant effects of ketamine. In addition, administration of ketamine led to differential regulation of CaMKII function, manifested as autoinhibition (pT305 phosphorylation) followed by autoactivation (pT286) of CaMKIIα in the hippocampus and cortex. The inhibition phase of CaMKII, which lasted 10 to 20 minutes after administration of ketamine, occurred concurrently with eEF2K-dependent increased protein synthesis. Moreover, ketamine administration–dependent delayed induction of GluA1 (24 hours) was regulated by the activation of CaMKII. Importantly, systemic administration of the CaMKII inhibitor tatCN21 increased global protein synthesis and induced behavioral resistance to ketamine. Conclusions: Our data suggest that drugs that selectively target CaMKs and regulate protein synthesis offer novel strategies for treatment of major depressive disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Society of Biological Psychiatry


  • CaMKII
  • GluA1
  • Ketamine
  • Protein synthesis
  • eEF2 kinase
  • tatCN21

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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