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Am J Psychiatry. 2004 May;161(5):826-35.

Serotonin transporter occupancy of five selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors at different doses: an [11C]DASB positron emission tomography study.

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Clarke Site, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, 250 College St., Toronto, Ont. M5T 1R8, Canada.



Minimum therapeutic doses of paroxetine and citalopram produce 80% occupancy for the serotonin (5-HT) transporter (5-HTT). The authors used [(11)C]DASB positron emission tomography to measure occupancies of three other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) at minimum therapeutic doses. The relationship between dose and occupancy was also investigated.


Striatal 5-HTT binding potential was measured in 77 subjects before and after 4 weeks of medication administration. Binding potential is proportional to the density of receptors not blocked by medication. Subjects received citalopram, fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, or extended-release venlafaxine. Healthy subjects received subtherapeutic doses; subjects with mood and anxiety disorders received therapeutic doses. Percent reduction in 5-HTT binding potential for each medication and dose was calculated. To obtain test-retest data, binding potential was measured before and after 4 weeks in six additional healthy subjects.


Substantial occupancy occurred at subtherapeutic doses for all SSRIs. Compared to test-retest data, each drug at the minimum therapeutic dose had a significant effect on striatal 5-HTT binding potential. Mean occupancy at this dose was 76%-85%. At higher plasma SSRI concentrations, 5-HTT occupancy tended to increase above 80%. For each drug, as the dose (or plasma level) increased, occupancy increased nonlinearly, with a plateau for higher doses.


At tolerable doses, SSRIs have increasing occupancy with increasing plasma concentration or dose. Occupancy of 80% across five SSRIs occurs at minimum therapeutic doses. This suggests that 80% 5-HTT blockade is important for therapeutic effect. Occupancy should be measured during development of antidepressant compounds targeting the 5-HTT.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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