Congratulations to Dr. Ashley Bernardo and the team for the publication in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Chronic stress is a risk factor for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and in rodents, it recapitulates human behavioral, cellular and molecular changes. In MDD and after chronic stress, neuronal dysfunctions and deficits in GABAergic signaling are observed and responsible for symptom severity. GABA signals predominantly through GABAA receptors (GABAA-R) composed of various subunit types that relate to downstream outcomes. Activity at α2-GABAA-Rs contributes to anxiolytic properties, α5-GABAA-Rs to cognitive functions, and α1-GABAA-Rs to sedation. Therefore, a therapy aiming at increasing α2- and α5-GABAA-Rs activity, but devoid of α1-GABAA-R activity, has potential to address several symptomologies of depression while avoiding side-effects. This study investigated the activity profiles and behavioral efficacy of two enantiomers of each other (GL-II-73 and GL-I-54), separately and as a racemic mixture (GL-RM), and potential disease-modifying effects on neuronal morphology. Results confirm GL-I-54 and GL-II-73 exert positive allosteric modulation at the α2-, α3-, α5-GABAA-Rs and α5-containing GABAA-Rs, respectively, and separately reduces immobility in the forced swim test and improves stress-induced spatial working memory deficits. Using unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS), we show that acute and chronic administration of GL-RM provide pro-cognitive effects, with mild efficacy on mood symptoms, although at lower doses avoiding sedation. Morphology studies showed reversal of spine density loss caused by UCMS after chronic GL-RM treatment at apical and basal dendrites of the PFC and CA1. Together, these results support using a racemic mixture with combined α2-, α3-, α5-GABAA-R profile to reverse chronic stress-induced mood symptoms, cognitive deficits, and with anti-stress neurotrophic effects.