, Volume 333, Issue 4, pp 342-348

Effects of a selective 5-HT reuptake blocker, citalopram, on the sensitivity of 5-HT autoreceptors: Electrophysiological studies in the rat brain

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Citalopram (CIT), is a selective serotonin (5-HT) reuptake blocker and a clinically effective antidepressant. The present electrophysiological studies were undertaken to investigate in vivo the acute and long-term effects of CIT administration on 5-HT neurotransmission. In a first series of experiments, a single dose of CIT (0.05–0.5 mg/kg) was administered intravenously to naive rats while recording the activity of a 5-HT-containing neuron in the nucleus raphe dorsalis. A dose-response relationship of the inhibitory effect of CIT on the firing activity of 5-HT neurons was obtained with an ED50 of 0.23±0.03 mg/kg. In a second series of experiments, rats were treated with CIT (20 mg/kg/day, i.p.) for 2, 7 and 14 days. In rats treated for 2 days, there was a marked reduction in the firing activity of 5-HT neurons in the nucleus raphe dorsalis; there was a partial recovery after 7 days and a complete recovery after 14 days of treatment. The response of 5-HT neurons to intravenously administered LSD was decreased in rats treated for 14 days with CIT, indicating a desensitization of the somatodendritic 5-HT autoreceptor. In a third series of experiments, carried out in rats treated with CIT (20 mg/kg/day, i.p.) for 14 days, the suppression of firing activity of CA3 hippocampal pyramidal neurons produced by microiontophoretically-applied 5-HT and by the electrical activation of the ascending 5-HT pathway was measured. Long-term treatment with CIT did not modify the responsiveness of these neurons to microiontophoretically-applied 5-HT; however, the effect of the electrical activation of the ascending 5-HT pathway on these same neurons was enhanced. To determine if 5-HT reuptake blockade could be responsible for this enhancement, CIT (1 mg/kg) was injected intravenously in naive rats while stimulating the ascending 5-HT pathway; it failed to modify the effectiveness of the stimulation. To assess the involvement of the 5-HT terminal autoreceptor, methiothepin, a 5-HT autoreceptor antagonist, was injected intravenously (1 mg/kg) in naive rats and in rats treated for 14 days with CIT while stimulating the ascending 5-HT pathway. Methiothepin enhanced the effect of the stimulation in naive rats but failed to do so in the CIT-treated rats. It is concluded that long-term CIT treatment enhances 5-HT neurotransmission by desensitizing both the somatodendritic and terminal 5-HT autoreceptors.