Insights into the mechanisms of action of the MAO inhibitors phenelzine and tranylcypromine: a review

J Psychiatry Neurosci. 1992 Nov;17(5):206-14.


Although the non-selective monoamine oxidase inhibitors phenelzine and tranylcypromine have been used for many years, much still remains to be understood about their mechanisms of action. Other factors, in addition to the inhibition of monoamine oxidase and the subsequent elevation of brain levels of the catecholamines and 5-hydroxytryptamine, may contribute to the overall pharmacological profiles of these drugs. This review also considers the effects on brain levels of amino acids and trace amines, uptake and release of neurotransmitter amines at nerve terminals, receptors for amino acids and amines, and enzymes other than monoamine oxidase, including enzymes involved in metabolism of other drugs. The possible contributions of metabolism and stereochemistry to the actions of these monoamine oxidase inhibitors are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amines / analysis
  • Amines / pharmacokinetics
  • Amino Acids / analysis
  • Amino Acids / pharmacokinetics
  • Catecholamines / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / pharmacokinetics
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Phenelzine / metabolism
  • Phenelzine / pharmacology*
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Tranylcypromine / metabolism
  • Tranylcypromine / pharmacology*


  • Amines
  • Amino Acids
  • Catecholamines
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Serotonin
  • Tranylcypromine
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Phenelzine