Ketamine, a popular anesthetic, is often abused by people for its hallucinogenic effect. Thus, the safety of ketamine in pediatric populations has been called into question for potential neurotoxic effects. However, ketamine also has neuroprotective effects in many brain injury models. The differentiation of neural stem cells (NSCs) was influenced significantly by ketamine, but the molecular mechanism is still unclear. NSCs were extracted from the hippocampi of postnatal day 1 rats and treated with ketamine to induce NSCs differentiation. Our results found that ketamine promoted neuronal differentiation of NSCs dose-dependently in a small dose range (P < 0.001). The main types of neurons from NSCs were cholinergic (51 ± 4 %; 95 % CI: 41-61 %) and glutamatergic neurons (34 ± 3 %; 95 % CI: 27-42 %). Furthermore, we performed RNA sequencing to promise a more comprehensive understanding of the molecules regulated by ketamine. Finally, we combined bioimaging and multiple molecular biology techniques to clarify that ketamine influences NSC differentiation by regulating transient receptor potential canonical 3 (TRPC3) expressions. Ketamine dramatically repressed TRPC3 expression (MD [95 % CI]=0.67 [0.40-0.95], P < 0.001) with a significant increase of phosphorylated glycogen synthase kinase 3β (p-GSK3β; MD [95 % CI]=1.00 [0.74-1.27], P < 0.001) and a decrease of β-catenin protein expression (MD [95 % CI]=0.60 [0.32-0.89], P = 0.001), thereby promoting the differentiation of NSCs into neurons and inhibiting their differentiation into astrocytes. These results suggest that TRPC3 is necessary for ketamine to modulate NSC differentiation, which occurs partly via regulation of the GSK3β/β-catenin pathway.

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Ying-Jun She et al.
Neurotoxicology November 2022