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PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e21328. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021328. Epub 2011 Jun 21.

Gene expression changes in GABA(A) receptors and cognition following chronic ketamine administration in mice.

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Brain Research Center, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong S.A.R., China.


Ketamine is a well-known anesthetic agent and a drug of abuse. Despite its widespread use and abuse, little is known about its long-term effects on the central nervous system. The present study was designed to evaluate the effect of long-term (1- and 3-month) ketamine administration on learning and memory and associated gene expression levels in the brain. The Morris water maze was used to assess spatial memory and gene expression changes were assayed using Affymetrix Genechips; a focus on the expression of GABA(A) receptors that mediate a tonic inhibition in the brain, was confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR and western blot. Compared with saline controls, there was a decline in learning and memory performance in the ketamine-treated mice. Genechip results showed that 110 genes were up-regulated and 136 genes were down-regulated. An ontology analysis revealed the most significant effects of ketamine were on GABA(A) receptors. In particular, there was a significant up-regulation of both mRNA and protein levels of the alpha 5 subunit (Gabra5) of the GABA(A) receptors in the prefrontal cortex. In conclusion, chronic exposure to ketamine impairs working memory in mice, which may be explained at least partly by up-regulation of Gabra5 subunits in the prefrontal cortex.

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