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Effects of acetaminophen on monoaminergic systems in the rat central nervous system

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Although acetaminophen is a well established analgesic, its mechanism of action is still unknown. We investigated whether this drug could affect central monoaminergic neurotransmission in rats. Significant increases in serotonin (5-HT) levels were found in the posterior cortex, hypothalamus, striatum, hippocampus and brain stem, but not spinal cord, 45 min after per os administration of 200–400 mg/kg of acetaminophen. However, this treatment altered neither the levels of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid nor the accumulation of 5-hydroxytryptophan after blockade of aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase. On the other hand, a decrease in both the levels of the dopamine (DA) metabolite, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, and the accumulation of dihydroxyphenylalanine were noted in the striatum of acetaminophen-treated rats. Finally, acetaminophen administration significantly increased noradrenaline (NA) levels in the posterior cortex. In vitro studies showed that acetaminophen (1 mM) enhanced K+-evoked overflow of [3H]5-HT, but not [3H]DA and [3H]NA, previously taken up in brain slices, and exerted no direct effect on monoamine oxidase A, tyrosine hydroxylase and catechol-O-methyl-transferase activities. These results indicate that acetaminophen affects central monoaminergic neurotransmission, thereby suggesting that monoamines (especially 5-HT) might participate in its analgesic action.

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Courade, JP., Caussade, F., Martin, K. et al. Effects of acetaminophen on monoaminergic systems in the rat central nervous system. Naunyn-Schmied Arch Pharmacol 364, 534–537 (2001).

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