Ketamine has rapid and sustained antidepressant effects in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). However, the underlying mechanisms of action are not well understood. There is increasing evidence that TRD is associated with a pro-inflammatory state and that ketamine may inhibit inflammatory processes. We thus investigated whole blood transcriptional profiles related to TRD and gene expression changes associated with treatment response to ketamine. Whole blood was collected at baseline (21 healthy controls [HC], 26 patients with TRD) and then again in patients with TRD 24 hours following a single intravenous infusion of ketamine (0.5 mg/kg). We performed RNA-sequencing and analyzed (a) baseline transcriptional profiles between patients with TRD and HC, (b) responders vs. non-responders before ketamine treatment, and (c) gene expression signatures associated with clinical improvement. At baseline, patients with TRD compared to HC showed a gene expression signature indicative of interferon signaling pathway activation. Prior to ketamine administration, the metabotropic glutamate receptor gene GRM2 and the ionotropic glutamate receptor gene GRIN2D were upregulated in responders compared to non-responders. Response to ketamine was associated with a distinct transcriptional signature, however, we did not observe gene expression changes indicative of an anti-inflammatory effect. Future studies are needed to determine the role of the peripheral immune system in the antidepressant effect of ketamine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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