Neurochemistry international

An index of 5-HT synthesis changes during early antidepressant treatment: alpha-[11C]methyl-L-tryptophan PET study.

PMID 17928105


The antidepressant selective serotonin transporter inhibitors (SSRIs) are clinically active after a delay of several weeks. Indeed, the rapid increase of serotonin (5-HT) caused by SSRIs, stimulates the 5-HT(1A) autoreceptors, which exert a negative feedback on the 5-HT neurotransmission. Only when autoreceptors are desensitized, can SSRIs exert their therapeutic activity. The 5-HT(1A) receptor antagonist pindolol has been used to accelerate the clinical effects of antidepressant by preventing the negative feedback. Using the alpha-[(11)C]methyl-L-tryptophan/positron emission tomography (PET), the goal of the present double-blind, randomized study was to compare the changes in alpha-[(11)C]methyl-L-tryptophan trapping, an index of serotonin synthesis, in patients suffering from unipolar depression treated with the SSRI citalopram (20 mg/day) plus placebo versus patients treated with citalopram plus pindol (7.5 mg/day). PET and Hamilton depression rating scale (HDRS-17) were performed at baseline, and after 10 and 24 days of antidepressant treatment. Results show that the combination citalopram plus pindol, compared to citalopram alone shows a more rapid and greater increase of an index of 5-HT synthesis in prefrontal cortex (BA 9). This research is the first human PET study demonstrating that, after 24 days, the combination SSRIs plus pindolol produces a greater increase of the metabolism of serotonin in the prefrontal cortex, an area associated to depressive symptoms.

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α-Methyl-DL-tryptophan, crystalline