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December 1981

Presynaptic Adrenergic Receptor Sensitivity in Depression: The Effect of Long-term Desipramine Treatment

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, and the Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven, Conn.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1981;38(12):1334-1340. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1981.01780370036004

• Stimulation of presynaptic α2-adrenergic receptors located on norepinephrine (NE)-containing cells in the brain decreases the firing rate and turnover of NE in these neurons. To assess whether abnormalities in the regulation of the NE system during desipramine hydrochloride treatment may be present in depressed patients, the effects of an α2-agonist, clonidine hydrochloride, on plasma levels of the NE metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxy/phenethyleneglycol (MHPG) and on blood pressure (BP) were evaluated in ten depressed patients before and during long-term desipramine treatment. Long-term desipramine treatment significantly attenuated the effects of clonidine on plasma MHPG level and BP, indicating that during desipramine treatment α2-adrenergic receptors had become supsensitive. In addition, plasma MHPG levels were significantly reduced during long-term desipramine treatment. These findings are discussed in relation to the hypothesized therapeutic mechanism of action of desipramine and the hypotheses relating noradrenergic function and depression.

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