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Behav Pharmacol. 2003 May;14(3):229-35.

Role of the NMDA receptor NR2B subunit in the discriminative stimulus effects of ketamine.

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CNS Research, Bayer Health Care, Aprather Weg 18a, 42096 Wuppertal, Germany.


The noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, ketamine, is a dissociative anesthetic with antihyperalgesic properties. However, its clinical use is compromised by psychotomimetic side-effects. As ketamine and other noncompetitive NMDA antagonists, such as phencyclidine and dizocilpine, are not selective for the NR2A-2D subunits of the NMDA receptor, it is unclear which of these subunits is responsible for the psychotomimetic side-effects. This study investigated the role of the NR2B subunit in the ketamine drug discrimination model, a possible correlate for such side-effects. In a first experiment aimed at assessing general potency and time dependency, ketamine, dizocilpine, phencyclidine and the NR2B-selective antagonists ifenprodil and Ro 25-6981, dose-dependently suppressed fixed ratio 10 food-reinforced responding in rats, with peak efficacy obtained around 15-40 min. In rats trained to discriminate ketamine from vehicle in a two-lever fixed ratio 10 food-reinforced procedure, ketamine, dizocilpine, phencyclidine and Ro 25-6981 induced complete generalization (>80%); whereas ifenprodil induced partial generalization (33%). These findings suggest that the NR2B subunit is involved in the discriminative stimulus effects of noncompetitive NMDA antagonists, and that selective NR2B antagonists may also induce psychotomimetic side-effects.

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