Discriminative stimulus properties
of antidepressant agents: a review

Dekeyne A, Millan MJ.
Behav Pharmacol. 2003 Sep;14(6):391-407


SUMMARY: Though drug discrimination techniques have proven invaluable in characterizing the interoceptive properties of drugs of abuse, antipsychotics and anxiolytics, with the exception of some fragmentary data with tricyclic agents, surprisingly few studies have been undertaken with antidepressants. Nevertheless, the preferential dopamine (DA) reuptake inhibitor, bupropion, elicits a robust discriminative stimulus in rodents. Moreover, in rats trained on a two-lever FR-10 schedule for food reward, the selective serotonin (5-HT) reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), citalopram, and the noradrenaline (NA) reuptake inhibitor (NARI), reboxetine, elicit discriminative stimuli at doses that selectively elevate extracellular levels of 5-HT and NA, respectively. In generalization tests, mixed inhibitors of 5-HT and NA reuptake, such as venlafaxine, substitute for both citalopram and reboxetine, while SSRIs substitute for citalopram but not for reboxetine. Intriguingly, selective NARIs appear to substitute both for reboxetine and for citalopram though, owing to long-term instability of the citalopram cue, the latter observation will require confirmation. Bupropion and the atypical antidepressant, mirtazapine - a 5-HT2/alpha2-adrenoceptor (AR) antagonist devoid of affinity for 5-HT and NA reuptake sites - substitute for neither citalopram nor reboxetine, indicating that 'antidepressant' effects per se do not account for their interoceptive properties. Moreover, mirtazapine abolishes the citalopram cue, an action mimicked by the selective 5-HT2C antagonist, SB242,084. The discriminative stimulus elicited by reboxetine is blocked by the alpha1-AR antagonist, prazosin. In contrast, it is not significantly attenuated by the alpha2-AR antagonist, RX821,002, nor by betaxolol or ICI118,551, antagonists at alpha1- and alpha2-ARs, respectively. These observations indicate that 5-HT2C receptors and alpha1-ARs contribute to the discriminative stimulus properties of SSRIs and NARIs, respectively. The present article reviews the literature devoted to the discriminative stimulus properties of antidepressant agents as training drugs, focusing in particular upon novel data with citalopram and reboxetine. In addition, several open questions and future research directions are evoked. It would be of considerable interest to extend such drug discrimination studies to other classes of antidepressants or potential antidepressants, including venlafaxine, mirtazapine and antagonists at neuropeptide (corticotropin releasing factor1 and neurokinin1) receptors.
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