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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2008 Dec;201(2):273-84. doi: 10.1007/s00213-008-1271-z. Epub 2008 Aug 15.

Pharmacological stimulation of NMDA receptors via co-agonist site suppresses fMRI response to phencyclidine in the rat.

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Biology, Neurosciences CEDD, GlaxoSmithKline Medicines Research Centre, Verona, Italy.



Increasing experimental evidence suggests that impaired N-methyl-D: -aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor (NMDAr) function could be a key pathophysiological determinant of schizophrenia. Agonists at the allosteric glycine (Gly) binding site of the NMDA complex can promote NMDAr activity, a strategy that could provide therapeutic efficacy for the disorder. NMDAr antagonists like phencyclidine (PCP) can induce psychotic and dissociative symptoms similar to those observed in schizophrenia and are therefore widely used experimentally to impair NMDA neurotransmission in vivo.


In the present study, we used pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging (phMRI) to investigate the modulatory effects of endogenous and exogenous agonists at the NMDAr Gly site on the spatiotemporal patterns of brain activation induced by acute PCP challenge in the rat. The drugs investigated were D: -serine, an endogenous agonist of the NMDAr Gly site, and SSR504734, a potent Gly transporter type 1 (GlyT-1) inhibitor that can potentiate NMDAr function by increasing synaptic levels of Gly.


Acute administration of PCP induced robust and sustained activation of discrete cortico-limbo-thalamic circuits. Pretreatment with D: -serine (1 g/kg) or SSR504734 (10 mg/kg) completely inhibited PCP-induced functional activation. This effect was accompanied by weak but sustained deactivation particularly in cortical areas.


These findings suggest that agents that stimulate NMDAr via Gly co-agonist site can potentiate NMDAr activity in the living brain and corroborate the potential for this class of drugs to provide selective enhancement of NMDAr neurotransmission in schizophrenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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