Rationale: Escitalopram appears to be a superior antidepressant to racemic citalopram. It has been hypothesized that binding of R-citalopram to the serotonin transporter (SERT) antagonizes escitalopram binding to and inhibition of the SERT, thereby curtailing the elevation of extracellular 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTExt), and hence antidepressant efficacy. Further, it has been suggested that a putative allosteric binding site is important for binding of escitalopram to the primary, orthosteric, site, and for R-citalopram's inhibition hereof.
Objectives: Primary: Investigate at the human (h)SERT, at clinical relevant doses, whether R-citalopram antagonizes escitalopram-induced 5-HTExt elevation. Secondary: Investigate whether abolishing the putative allosteric site affects escitalopram-induced 5-HTExt elevation and/or modulates the effect of R-citalopram.
Methods: Recombinant generation of hSERT transgenic mice; in vivo microdialysis; SERT binding; pharmacokinetics; 5-HT sensitive behaviors (tail suspension, marble burying).
Results: We generated mice expressing either the wild-type human SERT (hSERTWT) or hSERT carrying amino acid substitutions (A505V, L506F, I507L, S574T and I575T) collectively abolishing the putative allosteric site (hSERTALI/VFL+SI/TT). One mg/kg escitalopram yielded clinical relevant plasma levels and brain levels consistent with therapeutic SERT occupancy. The hSERT mice showed normal basal 5-HTExt levels. Escitalopram-induced 5-HTExt elevation was not decreased by R-citalopram co-treatment and was unaffected by loss of the allosteric site. The behavioral effects of the clinically relevant escitalopram dose were small and tended to be enhanced by R-citalopram co-administration.
Conclusions: We find no evidence that R-citalopram directly antagonizes escitalopram or that the putative allosteric site is important for hSERT inhibition by escitalopram.