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Immunopharmacology. 1996 Aug;34(1):27-37.

Tricyclic antidepressants inhibit IL-6, IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha release in human blood monocytes and IL-2 and interferon-gamma in T cells.

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Wallenberg Laboratory, Department of Biochemistry, University of Stockholm, Sweden.


Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are widely used in treating depressive disorders. It has been demonstrated that, for instance, IL-1 beta and IL-6 inhibit the HPA axis, which plays a role in the development of depressions. Therefore. we were interested in investigating how TCAs influence cytokine release by T lymphocytes and monocytes respectively. Cells were incubated with either 5 microM clomipramine, 15 microM imipramine or 20 microM citalopram. IL-2 release was suppressed to 60% of the control values by clomipramine and imipramine (p = 0.001; p = 0.000), but citalopram was found to cause a much weaker inhibition (only 18%) (p = 0.16). INF-gamma release was affected to a lower degree than IL-2 release, and imipramine (34%) (p = 0.054) was more potent than clomipramine (24%) (p = 0.16) and citalopram (12%) (p = 0.059) in this case. Monocytes incubated with TCA for 4 h exhibited only limited inhibition of IL-1 beta and IL-6 release, i.e., 6-25% for all three compounds. The corresponding value for TNF-alpha release was 20-45% inhibition, with citalopram being the weakest inhibitor. After 10 h of monocytes to LPS exposure, all three compounds exerted a strong inhibition of IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha release, i.e., 60-70% with p-values below 0.012 for all of them. However the inhibition of IL-6 release was less than 35%. Citalopram was equality as potent as imipramine and clomipramine in inhibiting IL-6 release after long-term exposure of monocytes to LPS. All three TCAs elevated intracellular cAMP concentrations significantly in T lymphocytes and monocytes (p < 0.001).

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