Toxicology, June 2015. 
Sinner B, Friedrich O, Lindner R, Bundscherer A, Graf BM 


Ketamine and its stereoisomer S(+)-ketamine are widely used for sedation in pediatric anesthesia and intensive care medicine. Numerous experimental studies indicate that ketamine is potentially toxic to the developing brain. Here, we examined the long-term effects of NMDA receptor blockade on NMDA receptor subunit expression, alterations in neuronal Ca(2+)-oscillations and apoptosis. Hippocampal neurons, 15 days in culture, were exposed to either S(+)-ketamine or the NMDA receptor blocker MK801 for 24h. Cytosolic Ca(2+)-concentration was determined by fluorescence microscopy and the expression of the NMDA subunits NR1, NR2A and 2B was assessed by qRT-PCR, whereas Western blots and activated Caspase-3 served to measure the extent of apoptosis. Long-term incubation with MK801 or higher doses of S(+)-ketamine resulted in a dose-dependent decreased ability of MK801 to reduce amplitude and frequency of the Ca(2+)-oscillations 15min following washout of the drug. This was accompanied by an increase in NR1 mRNA but not the NR2A and B subunit expression at the same time point. 24h following washout of the specific drug, a significant elevation of the pro-apoptotic marker BAX, as well as activated Caspase-3 positive neurons, could be detected in cultures exposed to 100μM MK801 and 25μM S(+)-ketamine. Here, we show that long-term blockade of the NMDA receptor in developing rat hippocampal neurons significantly increased NR1 subunit expression, and that this was associated with an alteration in neuronal activity. Apoptosis was only induced 24h after withdrawal of long-term blockade for high doses of S(+)-ketamine. 

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