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Neuropharmacology. 2003 Aug;45(2):167-73.

The R-enantiomer of citalopram counteracts escitalopram-induced increase in extracellular 5-HT in the frontal cortex of freely moving rats.

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Department of Neurochemistry and Discovery ADME, H. Lundbeck A/S, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The selective serotonin (5-HT) reuptake inhibitor, citalopram, is a racemic mixture of an S(+)- and R(-)-enantiomer, escitalopram and R-citalopram, respectively. The present study compares the effects of escitalopram, R-citalopram and citalopram on extracellular levels of 5-HT in the frontal cortex of freely moving rats. In addition, co-injection of escitalopram and R-citalopram (ratios 1:2 and 1:4) were assessed. In some experiments escitalopram and R-citalopram were infused into the frontal cortex by reverse microdialysis. Finally, the extracellular level of escitalopram in the frontal cortex was studied after administration of escitalopram alone or in combination with R-citalopram. Escitalopram (1.0-3.9 mg/kg, s.c.) produced a greater maximal increase in extracellular 5-HT than citalopram (2.0-8.0 mg/kg, s.c.). R-citalopram (15.6 mg/kg s.c.) did not affect the 5-HT levels. When co-injected, R-citalopram counteracted the escitalopram-induced increase in extracellular 5-HT levels. Local infusion of the two enantiomers into the frontal cortex produced a similar inhibitory response. R-citalopram did not influence the extracellular levels of escitalopram and therefore does not exert its effect via a pharmacokinetic interaction with escitalopram. In conclusion, the 5-HT-reuptake inhibitory activity of citalopram resides in escitalopram, and the R-enantiomer counteracts this effect. This observation would predict an improved clinical profile of escitalopram compared to citalopram.

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