Clinical studies consistently demonstrate that a single sub-psychomimetic dose of ketamine, an ionotropic glutamatergic n-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist, produces fast-acting antidepressant responses in patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD), although the underlying mechanism is unclear 1-3 . Depressed patients report alleviation of MDD symptoms within two hours of a single low-dose intravenous infusion of ketamine with effects lasting up to two weeks 1-3 , unlike traditional antidepressants (i.e. serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which take weeks to reach efficacy. This delay is a major drawback to current MDD therapies, leaving a need for faster acting antidepressants particularly for suicide-risk patients 3 . Ketamine's ability to produce rapidly acting, long-lasting antidepressant responses in depressed patients provides a unique opportunity to investigate underlying cellular mechanisms. We show that ketamine and other NMDAR antagonists produce fast-acting behavioural antidepressant-like effects in mouse models that depend on rapid synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). We find that ketamine-mediated NMDAR blockade at rest deactivates eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2) kinase (also called CaMKIII) resulting in reduced eEF2 phosphorylation and desuppression of BDNF translation. Furthermore, we find inhibitors of eEF2 kinase induce fast-acting behavioural antidepressant-like effects. Our findings suggest that protein synthesis regulation by spontaneous neurotransmission may serve as a viable therapeutic target for fast-acting antidepressant development.