Background: Converging lines of evidence are consistent with an inhibitory effect of the antidepressant and smoking-cessation aid bupropion on dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake, but the in vivo effects of the drug at the human dopamine transporter (DAT) have not been studied to date. This study employed positron emission tomography (PET) to assess the extent and duration of DAT receptor occupancy by bupropion and its metabolites under conditions of steady-state oral dosing with bupropion sustained-release (SR) in healthy volunteers.
Methods: Six healthy male volunteers received bupropion SR 150 mg daily on days 1 through 3 and 150 mg every 12 hours on day 4 through the morning of day 11. PET investigations were performed between 1 and 7 days before initiation of bupropion SR dosing, as well as 3, 12, and 24 hours after the last dose of bupropion SR on day 11.
Results: Bupropion and its metabolites inhibited striatal uptake of the selective DAT-binding radioligand (11)C-betaCIT-FE in vivo. Three hours after the last dose of bupropion SR, average DAT occupancy by bupropion and its metabolites was 26%-a level that was maintained through the last PET assessment at 24 hours after dosing.
Conclusions: Bupropion and its metabolites induced a low occupancy of the striatal DAT over 24 hours under conditions of steady-state oral dosing with therapeutic doses of bupropion SR. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that dopamine reuptake inhibition may be responsible in part for the therapeutic effects of the drug.