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Anesthesiology. 2012 Jan;116(1):147-58. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e31823cf233.

Lidocaine metabolites inhibit glycine transporter 1: a novel mechanism for the analgesic action of systemic lidocaine?

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Department of Anesthesiology, Medical Faculty, Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.

Erratum in

  • Anesthesiology. 2012 Jun;116(6):1404.



Lidocaine exerts antinociceptive effects when applied systemically. The mechanisms are not fully understood but glycinergic mechanisms might be involved. The synaptic glycine concentration is controlled by glycine transporters. Whereas neurons express two types of glycine transporters, astrocytes specifically express glycine transporter 1 (GlyT1). This study focuses on effects of lidocaine and its major metabolites on GlyT1 function.


The effects of lidocaine and its metabolites monoethylglycinexylidide (MEGX), glycinexylidide, and N-ethylglycine on GlyT1 function were investigated in uptake experiments with [¹⁴C]-labeled glycine in primary rat astrocytes. Furthermore, the effect of lidocaine and its metabolites on glycine-induced currents were investigated in GlyT1-expressing Xenopus laevis oocytes.


Lidocaine reduced glycine uptake only at toxic concentrations. The metabolites MEGX, glycinexylidide, and N-ethylglycine, however, significantly reduced glycine uptake (P < 0.05). Inhibition of glycine uptake by a combination of lidocaine with its metabolites at a clinically relevant concentration was diminished with increasing extracellular glycine concentrations. Detailed analysis revealed that MEGX inhibits GlyT1 function (P < 0.05), whereas N-ethylglycine was identified as an alternative GlyT1 substrate (EC₅₀ = 55 μM).


Although lidocaine does not function directly on GlyT1, its metabolites MEGX and N-ethylglycine [corrected] were shown to inhibit GlyT1-mediated glycine uptake by at least two different mechanisms. Whereas N-ethylglycine [corrected] was demonstrated to be an alternative GlyT1 substrate, MEGX was shown to inhibit GlyT1 activity in both primary astrocytes and in GlyT1-expressing Xenopuslaevis oocytes at clinically relevant concentrations. These findings provide new insights into the possible mechanisms for the antinociceptive effect of systemic lidocaine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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