Ketamine and ketamine metabolites as novel estrogen receptor ligands: Induction of cytochrome P450 and AMPA glutamate receptor gene expression

Ming Fen Ho, Cristina Correia, James N. Ingle, Rima Kaddurah-Daouk, Liewei Wang, Scott H. Kaufmann, Richard M. Weinshilboum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common psychiatric illness worldwide, and it displays a striking sex-dependent difference in incidence, with two thirds of MDD patients being women. Ketamine treatment can produce rapid antidepressant effects in MDD patients, effects that are mediated—at least partially—through glutamatergic neurotransmission. Two active metabolites of ketamine, (2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine (HNK) and (2S,6S)-HNK, also appear to play a key role in ketamine's rapid antidepressant effects through the activation of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) glutamate receptors. In the present study, we demonstrated that estrogen plus ketamine or estrogen plus active ketamine metabolites displayed additive effects on the induction of the expression of AMPA receptor subunits. In parallel, the expression of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) was also significantly upregulated. Even more striking, radioligand binding assays demonstrated that [3H]-ketamine can directly bind to ERα (KD: 344.5 ± 13 nM). Furthermore, ketamine and its (2R,6R)-HNK and (2S,6S)-HNK metabolites displayed similar affinity for ERα (IC50: 2.31 ± 0.1, 3.40 ± 0.2, and 3.53 ± 0.2 µM, respectively) as determined by [3H]-ketamine displacement assays. Finally, induction of AMPA receptors by either estrogens or ketamine and its metabolites was lost when ERα was knocked down or silenced pharmacologically. These results suggest a positive feedback loop by which estrogens can augment the effects of ketamine and its (2R,6R)-HNK and (2S,6S)-HNK metabolites on the ERα-induced transcription of CYP2A6 and CYP2B6, estrogen inducible enzymes that catalyze ketamine's biotransformation to form the two active metabolites. These observations provide novel insight into ketamine's molecular mechanism(s) of action and have potential implications for the treatment of MDD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-292
Number of pages14
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • AMPA receptors
  • CYP2A6
  • CYP2B6
  • Estrogens
  • Ketamine
  • Ketamine metabolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


Dive into the research topics of 'Ketamine and ketamine metabolites as novel estrogen receptor ligands: Induction of cytochrome P450 and AMPA glutamate receptor gene expression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this