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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2000 Mar;3(1):1-11.

Progressive attenuation of the firing activity of locus coeruleus noradrenergic neurons by sustained administration of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.


Sustained administration of the selective serotonin (5-HT) reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) citalopram for 2, 14, and 21 d, and paroxetine for 2 and 21 d (20 and 10 mg/kg.d, respectively, s.c. using osmotic minipumps) produced a gradual decrease in spontaneous firing activity of locus coeruleus (LC) noradrenergic neurons. In contrast, sustained desipramine administration for 2 and 21 d (10 mg/kg.d) robustly reduced LC firing activity, though only to the same extent, following these two treatment periods. The enhancement of the firing rate of LC neurons produced by the 5-HT1A agonist 8-OH-DPAT (10-50 &mgr;g/kg, i.v.) in desipramine- and citalopram-treated rats was abolished, indicating a desensitization of 5-HT1A receptors. However, the attenuation of the firing rate of LC neurons induced by the 5-HT2 agonist DOI (5-50 &mgr;g/kg, i.v.) was decreased approx. 2-fold in citalopram-treated rats but not significantly altered in desipramine-treated rats. Since 5-HT neurons exert a tonic inhibitory effect on LC neurons, it appears that enhancing 5-HT neurotransmission by sustained SSRI administration leads to a reduction of the firing rate of noradrenergic neurons. In conclusion, SSRIs attenuate the activity of noradrenergic neurons with a delay that is consistent with their beneficial effect in depression and some anxiety disorders, such as panic, generalized and social anxiety disorders. However, given the hyperadrenergic state often observed in anxiogenic conditions the latter phenomenon is believed to contribute more to the anxiolytic effect of SSRIs than to their antidepressant action.

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