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Medical hypotheses

An extension of hypotheses regarding rapid-acting, treatment-refractory, and conventional antidepressant activity of dextromethorphan and dextrorphan.


PMID 22401777

Abstract

It was previously hypothesized that dextromethorphan (DM) and dextrorphan (DX) may possess antidepressant properties, including rapid and conventional onsets of action and utility in treatment-refractory depression, based on pharmacodynamic similarities to ketamine. These similarities included sigma-1 (σ(1)) agonist and NMDA antagonist properties, calcium channel blockade, muscarinic binding, serotonin transporter (5HTT) inhibition, and μ receptor potentiation. Here, six specific hypotheses are developed in light of additional mechanisms and evidence. Comparable potencies to ketamine for DM and DX are detailed for σ(1) (DX>DM>ketamine), NMDA PCP site (DX>ketamine>DM), and muscarinic (DX>ketamine>DM) receptors, 5HTT (DM>DX≫ketamine), and NMDA antagonist potentiation of μ receptor stimulation (DM>ketamine). Rapid acting antidepressant properties of DM include NMDA high-affinity site, NMDR-2A, and functional NMDR-2B receptor antagonism, σ(1) stimulation, putative mTOR activation (by σ(1) stimulation, μ potentiation, and 5HTT inhibition), putative AMPA receptor trafficking (by mTOR activation, PCP antagonism, σ(1) stimulation, μ potentiation, and 5HTT inhibition), and dendritogenesis, spinogenesis, synaptogenesis, and neuronal survival by NMDA antagonism and σ(1) and mTOR signaling. Those for dextrorphan include NMDA high-affinity site and NMDR-2A antagonism, σ(1) stimulation, putative mTOR activation (by σ(1) stimulation and ß adrenoreceptor stimulation), putative AMPA receptor trafficking (by mTOR activation, PCP antagonism, σ(1) stimulation, ß stimulation, and μ antagonism), and dendritogenesis, spinogenesis, synaptogenesis, and neuronal survival by NMDA antagonism and σ(1) and mTOR signaling. Conventional antidepressant properties for dextromethorphan and dextrorphan include 5HTT and norepinephrine transporter inhibition, σ(1) stimulation, NMDA and PCP antagonism, and possible serotonin 5HT1b/d receptor stimulation. Additional properties for dextromethorphan include possible presynaptic α(2) adrenoreceptor antagonism or postsynaptic α(2) stimulation and, for dextrorphan, ß stimulation and possible muscarinic and μ antagonism. Treatment-refractory depression properties include increased serotonin and norepinephrine availability, PCP, NMDR-2B, presynaptic alpha-2 antagonism, and the multiplicity of other antidepressant receptor mechanisms. Suggestions for clinical trials are provided for oral high-dose dextromethorphan and Nuedexta (dextromethorphan combined with quinidine to block metabolism to dextrorphan, thereby increasing dextromethorphan plasma concentrations). Suggestions include exclusionary criteria, oral dosing, observation periods, dose-response approaches, and safety and tolerability are considered. Although oral dextromethorphan may be somewhat more likely to show efficacy through complementary antidepressant mechanisms of dextrorphan, a clinical trial will be more logistically complex than one of Nuedexta due to high doses and plasma level variability. Clinical trials may increase our therapeutic armamentarium and our pharmacological understanding of treatment-refractory depression and antidepressant onset of action.