Postsynaptic alpha-2 Adrenergic Receptors are Critical for the Antidepressant-Like Effects of Desipramine on Behavior
Zhang HT, Whisler LR, Huang Y, Xiang Y, O'Donnell JM.
[1] 1Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry,
West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV, USA [2]
2Department of Physiology and Pharmacology,
West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV, USA
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008 Oct 15.


The antidepressant desipramine inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine (NE), leading to activation of both pre- and postsynaptic adrenergic receptors, including alpha-1, alpha-2, beta-1, and beta-2 subtypes. However, it is not clear which adrenergic receptors are involved in mediating its antidepressant effects. Treatment of mice with desipramine (20 mg/kg, i.p.) produced an antidepressant-like effect, as evidenced by decreased immobility in the forced-swim test; this was antagonized by pretreatment with the alpha-2 adrenergic antagonist idazoxan (0.1-2.5 mg/kg, i.p.). Similarly, idazoxan, administered peripherally (0.5-2.5 mg/kg, i.p.) or centrally (1-10 mug, i.c.v.), antagonized the antidepressant-like effect of desipramine in rats responding under a differential-reinforcement-of-low-rate (DRL) 72-s schedule, ie, decreased response rate and increased reinforcement rate. By contrast, pretreatment with the beta-adrenergic antagonists propranolol and CGP-12177 or the alpha-1 adrenergic antagonist prazosin did not alter the antidepressant-like effect of desipramine on DRL behavior. The lack of involvement of beta-adrenergic receptors in mediating the behavioral effects of desipramine was confirmed using knockout lines. In the forced-swim test, the desipramine-induced decrease in immobility was not altered in mice deficient in beta-1, beta-2, or both beta-1 and beta-2 adrenergic receptors. In addition, desipramine (3-30 mg/kg) produced an antidepressant-like effect on behavior under a DRL 36-s schedule in mice deficient in both beta-1 and beta-2 adrenergic receptors. As antagonism of presynaptic alpha-2 adrenergic receptors facilitates NE release, which potentiates the effects of desipramine, the present results suggest that postsynaptic alpha-2 adrenergic receptors play an important role in its antidepressant effects.
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