TrkB neurotrophin receptor at the core of antidepressant
effects, but how?
The role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor TrkB has been studied in the context of mood disorders and their treatments for a couple of decades. Pharmacologically diverse antidepressant drugs increase the synthesis of BDNF in the cortex (and some subcortical structures) and this effect accounts for their ability to facilitate neurotrophic processes eventually leading into heightened plasticity within the cortex. Induction of BDNF-TrkB signaling has also been associated with the mechanism of action of ketamine and more recently with some other anesthetics, even with ones not thought to possess antidepressant potential. Notably, both ketamine and conventional antidepressants activate TrkB receptor and its downstream signaling rapidly within the same time scale in the brain while electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), among the most potent inducers of BDNF, has not been unequivocally shown to produce such acute effects on TrkB. The ability of antidepressants to regulate TrkB signaling is developmentally regulated and requires an intact central nervous system. The purpose of this review is to highlight and discuss some of these peculiarities associated with the effects of ketamine and classical antidepressants and BDNF on TrkB signaling.