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Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Dec;136(3):375-400. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2012.08.015. Epub 2012 Sep 1.

The genetics of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

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1
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Centre for Neuroscience, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, 6525 EZ Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are among the most widely prescribed drugs in psychiatry. Based on the fact that SSRIs increase extracellular monoamine levels in the brain, the monoamine hypothesis of depression was introduced, postulating that depression is associated with too low serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline levels. However, several lines of evidence indicate that this hypothesis is too simplistic and that depression and the efficacy of SSRIs are dependent on neuroplastic changes mediated by changes in gene expression. Because a coherent view on global gene expression is lacking, we aim to provide an overview of the effects of SSRI treatment on the final targets of 5-HT receptor signal transduction pathways, namely the transcriptional regulation of genes. We address gene polymorphisms in humans that affect SSRI efficacy, as well as in vitro studies employing human-derived cells. We also discuss the molecular targets affected by SSRIs in animal models, both in vivo and in vitro. We conclude that serotonin transporter gene variation in humans affects the efficacy and side-effects of SSRIs, whereas SSRIs generally do not affect serotonin transporter gene expression in animals. Instead, SSRIs alter mRNA levels of genes encoding serotonin receptors, components of non-serotonergic neurotransmitter systems, neurotrophic factors, hypothalamic hormones and inflammatory factors. So far little is known about the epigenetic and age-dependent molecular effects of SSRIs, which might give more insights in the working mechanism(s) of SSRIs.

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