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Mol Cell Biochem. 1997 Sep;174(1-2):255-9.

Inhibition of complex I by neuroleptics in normal human brain cortex parallels the extrapyramidal toxicity of neuroleptics.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn, Germany.


There is increasing evidence that a defect of the mitochondrial respiratory chain is implicated in the development of Parkinson disease. Decreased complex I activity of the mitochondrial respiratory chain has been reported in platelets, muscle, and brain of patients with Parkinson disease. Extrapyramidal symptoms (e.g. parkinsonism and dystonic reactions) are major limiting side effects of neuroleptics. Experimental evidence suggests that neuroleptics inhibit complex I in rat brain. There has not been a study of the effects of neuroleptics in human tissue, however. We therefore analyzed the activities of complexes I + III, complexes II + III, succinate dehydrogenase, complex IV (cytochrome c oxidase), and of citrate synthase in normal human brain cortex after the addition of haloperidol and chlorpromazine and the atypical neuroleptics risperidone, zotepine, and clozapine. Activity of complex I was progressively inhibited by all neuroleptics. Half-maximal inhibition (IC50) was 0.1 mM for haloperidol, 0.4 mM for chlorpromazine, and 0.5 mM for risperidone and zotepine. Clozapine had no effect on enzyme activity at concentrations up to 0.5 mM, followed by a slow decline with a maximum inhibition of 70% at 10 mM. IC50 was at about 2.5 mM. Thus, the concentration of clozapine needed to cause 50% inhibition of the activity of complexes I and III was about 5 times that of zotepine and risperidone, about 6 times that of chlorpromazine, and 25 times that of haloperidol. The inhibition thus paralleled the incidence of extrapyramidal effects caused by the different neuroleptics as they are known from numerous clinical studies. Our data support the hypothesis that neuroleptic-induced extrapyramidal side effects may be due to inhibition of the mitochondrial respiratory chain.

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