Ketamine may produce rapid and sustained antidepressant effects. Despite the fact that the detailed underlying mechanism remains unknown, recent studies have suggested the involvement of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway and glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) signal, respectively, in the process of ketamine exerting antidepressant actions. This study aimed to investigate the mechanism by which ketamine phosphorylates GSK-3β in the rat prefrontal cortex (PFC) via applying vehicle or the antagonists of mTOR signalling pathway proteins including PI3K/Akt, mTOR and p70S6 kinase to the rats in the forced swimming test (FST) prior to ketamine administration, and subsequently observing the levels of phosphorylated GSK-3β, mTOR and p70S6K in rat PFC as well as the immobility time of rats in the FST. Our results revealed that compared to treatment with vehicle, ketamine increased the levels of phosphorylated GSK-3β in rat PFC (p < 0.05), which was attenuated by PI3K/Akt antagonist pretreatment (p < 0.05), but could not be affected by mTOR antagonist or p70S6K antagonist pretreatment. In addition, all the antagonists reversed the ketamine-induced increases in the phosphorylation of mTOR and p70S6K (p < 0.05). They also all abolished the rapid-acting antidepressant actions of ketamine demonstrated by the increased immobility time of rats in the FST. In conclusion, Akt mediates the phosphorylation of GSK-3β in rat PFC during the process of ketamine exerting rapid antidepressant actions.

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