Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 467–489 | Cite as

Comparison of the Effects of Antidepressants and Their Metabolites on Reuptake of Biogenic Amines and on Receptor Binding

  • Connie Sánchez
  • John Hyttel


1. The present survey compares the effects of antidepressants and their principal metabolites on reuptake of biogenic amines and on receptor binding. The following antidepressants were included in the study: the tricyclic antidepressants amitriptyline, dothiepin, and lofepramine and the atypical antidepressant bupropion, which all have considerable market shares in the UK and/or US markets; the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline; and the recently approved antidepressants venlafaxine and nefazodone.

2. Amitriptyline has similar in vitro reuptake inhibitory potencies for 5-HT and NA, whereas the metabolite nortriptyline is preferentially a NA reuptake inhibitor. Both amitriptyline and nortriptyline are also 5-HT2 receptor antagonists.

3. Dothiepin has equipotent 5-HT and NA reuptake inhibitory activity, whereas northiaden shows a slight selectivity for NA reuptake inhibition. Dothiepin and northiaden are also 5-HT2 receptor antagonists. The slow elimination rate of northiaden (36–46 hr) compared to dothiepin (14–24 hr) suggests that northiaden contributes significantly to the therapeutic effect of dothiepin.

4. Lofepramine is extensively metabolized to desipramine. Desipramine plays an important role in the antidepressant activity of lofepramine, as the plasma elimination half-life of lofepramine (4–6 hr) is much shorter than that of desipramine (24 hr). Both compounds are potent and selective inhibitors of NA reuptake.

5. The five approved SSRIs, citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline, are potent 5-HT reuptake inhibitors, and the demethyl metabolites, norfluoxetine, demethylsertraline, and demethylcitalopram, also show selectivity. Paroxetine and sertraline are the most potent inhibitors of 5-HT reuptake, whereas citalopram is the most selective. Fluoxetine is the least selective and the metabolite of fluoxetine, norfluoxetine, is a more selective and more potent 5-HT reuptake inhibitor than the parent compound and has an extremely long half-life (7–15 compared to 1–3 days). Thus the metabolite plays an important role for the therapeutic effect of fluoxetine. Fluoxetine is also a 5-HT2C receptor antagonist. Demethylsertraline is a weaker and less selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitor in vitro than sertraline, but demethylsertraline has a very long half-life (62–104 hr) compared to the parent compound (24 hr) and it might play a role in the therapeutic effects of sertraline. Demethylcitalopram has about a 10 times lower 5-HT reuptake inhibitory potency in vitro than citalopram, and the elimination half-lives are approximately 1.5 and 2 days, respectively.

6. Bupropion and hydroxybupropion are weak inhibitors of biogenic amine reuptake. The mechanisms of action responsible for the clinical effects of bupropion are not fully understood, but it has been suggested that both dopaminergic and noradrenergic components play a role and that the hydroxybupropion metabolite contributes significantly to the antidepressant activity.

7. Venlafaxine and O-demethylvenlafaxine are weak inhibitors of 5-HT and NA reuptake, and the selectivity ratios are close to one. O-Demethylvenlafaxine is eliminated more slowly than venlafaxine (plasma half-lives of 5 and 11 hr, respectively), and it is likely that it contributes to the overall therapeutic effect of venlafaxin.

8. Nefazodone and α-hydroxynefazodone are equipotent 5-HT and NA reuptake inhibitors. Both compounds are also 5-HT2 receptor antagonists. Both parent compound and metabolite have short elimination half-lives.

antidepressants metabolites biogenic amine reuptake inhibition receptor binding in vitro 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Connie Sánchez
    • 1
  • John Hyttel
    • 1
  1. 1.Pharmacological ResearchH. Lundbeck A/SValby, CopenhagenDenmark

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