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Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 1;6:23789. doi: 10.1038/srep23789.

Mechanism of Paroxetine (Paxil) Inhibition of the Serotonin Transporter.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06520 USA.
Computational Structural Biology Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 35 Convent Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892 USA.


The serotonin transporter (SERT) is an integral membrane protein that exploits preexisting sodium-, chloride-, and potassium ion gradients to catalyze the thermodynamically unfavorable movement of synaptic serotonin into the presynaptic neuron. SERT has garnered significant clinical attention partly because it is the target of multiple psychoactive agents, including the antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil), the most potent selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor known. However, the binding site and orientation of paroxetine in SERT remain controversial. To provide molecular insight, we constructed SERT homology models based on the Drosophila melanogaster dopamine transporter and docked paroxetine to these models. We tested the predicted binding configurations with a combination of radioligand binding and flux assays on wild-type and mutant SERTs. Our data suggest that the orientation of paroxetine, specifically its fluorophenyl ring, in SERT's substrate binding site directly depends on this pocket's charge distribution, and thereby provide an avenue toward understanding and enhancing high-affinity antidepressant activity.

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