, Volume 229, Issue 4, pp 617–626 | Cite as

Differential mechanisms underlie the regulation of serotonergic transmission in the dorsal and median raphe nuclei by mirtazapine: a dual probe microdialysis study

  • Kouji Fukuyama
  • Shunske Tanahashi
  • Tatsuya Hamaguchi
  • Masanori Nakagawa
  • Takashi Shiroyama
  • Eishi Motomura
  • Motohiro OkadaEmail author
Original Investigation



Blockade of α2 adrenoceptors and histamine H1 receptors plays important roles in the antidepressant and hypnotic effects of mirtazapine.


However, it remains unclear how mirtazapine’s actions at these receptors interact to affect serotonergic transmission in the dorsal (DRN) and median (MRN) raphe nuclei.


Using dual-probe microdialysis, we determined the roles of α2 and H1 receptors in the effects of mirtazapine on serotonergic transmission in the DRN and MRN and their respective projection regions, the frontal (FC) and entorhinal (EC) cortices.


Mirtazapine (<30 μM) failed to alter extracellular serotonin levels when perfused alone into the raphe nuclei, but when co-perfused with a 5-HT1A receptor antagonist, mirtazapine increased serotonin levels in the DRN, MRN, FC, and EC. Serotonin levels in the DRN and FC were decreased by blockade and increased by activation of H1 receptors in the DRN. Serotonin levels in the MRN and EC were not affected by H1 agonists/antagonists perfused in the MRN. The increase in serotonin levels in the DRN and FC induced by DRN H1 receptor activation was attenuated by co-perfusion with mirtazapine. Furthermore, the increase in serotonin levels (DRN/FC) induced by DRN α2 adrenoceptor blockade was attenuated by concurrent DRN H1 blockade, whereas the increase in serotonin levels (MRN/EC) induced by MRN α2 adrenoceptor inhibition was unaffected by concurrent MRN H1 receptor blockade.


These results suggest that enhanced serotonergic transmission resulting from α2 adrenoceptor blockade is offset by subsequent activation of 5-HT1A receptors and, in the DRN but not MRN, H1 receptor inhibition. These pharmacological actions of mirtazapine may explain its antidepressant and hypnotic actions.


Mirtazapine Microdialysis Serotonin Raphe nuclei Cortex Histamine 



This study was supported by a grant-in-aid for Scientific Research from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (22390224 and 23659564) and a grant from the Japan Epilepsy Research Foundation. We thank A/Prof. F.G. Issa ( for the careful reading and editing of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kouji Fukuyama
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shunske Tanahashi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tatsuya Hamaguchi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Masanori Nakagawa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Takashi Shiroyama
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eishi Motomura
    • 1
    • 2
  • Motohiro Okada
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Neuropsychiatry, Division of NeuroscienceMie University Graduate School of MedicineTsuJapan
  2. 2.Pharmacological Unit, Brain Science and Animal Model Research Centre (BSAM)Mie UniversityTsuJapan

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