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      The Neurobiology and Pharmacotherapy of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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          Abstract

          New approaches to the neurobiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are needed to address the reported crisis in PTSD drug development. These new approaches may require the field to move beyond a narrow fear-based perspective, as fear-based medications have not yet demonstrated compelling efficacy. Antidepressants, particularly recent rapid-acting antidepressants, exert complex effects on brain function and structure that build on novel aspects of the biology of PTSD, including a role for stress-related synaptic dysconnectivity in the neurobiology and treatment of PTSD. Here, we integrate this perspective within a broader framework—in other words, a dual pathology model of (a) stress-related synaptic loss arising from amino acid–based pathology and (b) stress-related synaptic gain related to monoamine-based pathology. Then, we summarize the standard and experimental (e.g., ketamine) pharmacotherapeutic options for PTSD and discuss their putative mechanism of action and clinical efficacy.

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          Most cited references 118

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          Synaptic dysfunction in depression: potential therapeutic targets.

          Basic and clinical studies demonstrate that depression is associated with reduced size of brain regions that regulate mood and cognition, including the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, and decreased neuronal synapses in these areas. Antidepressants can block or reverse these neuronal deficits, although typical antidepressants have limited efficacy and delayed response times of weeks to months. A notable recent discovery shows that ketamine, a N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist, produces rapid (within hours) antidepressant responses in patients who are resistant to typical antidepressants. Basic studies show that ketamine rapidly induces synaptogenesis and reverses the synaptic deficits caused by chronic stress. These findings highlight the central importance of homeostatic control of mood circuit connections and form the basis of a synaptogenic hypothesis of depression and treatment response.
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            Glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists rapidly reverse behavioral and synaptic deficits caused by chronic stress exposure.

            Despite widely reported clinical and preclinical studies of rapid antidepressant actions of glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists, there has been very little work examining the effects of these drugs in stress models of depression that require chronic administration of antidepressants or the molecular mechanisms that could account for the rapid responses. We used a rat 21-day chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) model to test the rapid actions of NMDA receptor antagonists on depressant-like behavior, neurochemistry, and spine density and synaptic function of prefrontal cortex neurons. The results demonstrate that acute treatment with the noncompetitive NMDA channel blocker ketamine or the selective NMDA receptor 2B antagonist Ro 25-6981 rapidly ameliorates CUS-induced anhedonic and anxiogenic behaviors. We also found that CUS exposure decreases the expression levels of synaptic proteins and spine number and the frequency/amplitude of synaptic currents (excitatory postsynaptic currents) in layer V pyramidal neurons in the prefrontal cortex and that these deficits are rapidly reversed by ketamine. Blockade of the mammalian target of rapamycin protein synthesis cascade abolishes both the behavioral and biochemical effects of ketamine. The results indicate that the structural and functional deficits resulting from long-term stress exposure, which could contribute to the pathophysiology of depression, are rapidly reversed by NMDA receptor antagonists in a mammalian target of rapamycin dependent manner. Copyright © 2011 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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              A molecular and cellular theory of depression.

              Recent studies have begun to characterize the actions of stress and antidepressant treatments beyond the neurotransmitter and receptor level. This work has demonstrated that long-term antidepressant treatments result in the sustained activation of the cyclic adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate system in specific brain regions, including the increased function and expression of the transcription factor cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element-binding protein. The activated cyclic adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate system leads to the regulation of specific target genes, including the increased expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in certain populations of neurons in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. The importance of these changes is highlighted by the discovery that stress can decrease the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and lead to atrophy of these same populations of stress-vulnerable hippocampal neurons. The possibility that the decreased size and impaired function of these neurons may be involved in depression is supported by recent clinical imaging studies, which demonstrate a decreased volume of certain brain structures. These findings constitute the framework for an updated molecular and cellular hypothesis of depression, which posits that stress-induced vulnerability and the therapeutic action of antidepressant treatments occur via intracellular mechanisms that decrease or increase, respectively, neurotrophic factors necessary for the survival and function of particular neurons. This hypothesis also explains how stress and other types of neuronal insult can lead to depression in vulnerable individuals and it outlines novel targets for the rational design of fundamentally new therapeutic agents.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology
                Annu. Rev. Pharmacol. Toxicol.
                Annual Reviews
                0362-1642
                1545-4304
                January 06 2019
                January 06 2019
                : 59
                : 1
                : 171-189
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Clinical Neuroscience Division, Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, Connecticut 06516, USA;
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA
                Article
                10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010818-021701
                © 2019

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