Objective: Minimum therapeutic doses of paroxetine and citalopram produce 80% occupancy for the serotonin (5-HT) transporter (5-HTT). The authors used [(11)C]DASB positron emission tomography to measure occupancies of three other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) at minimum therapeutic doses. The relationship between dose and occupancy was also investigated.
Method: Striatal 5-HTT binding potential was measured in 77 subjects before and after 4 weeks of medication administration. Binding potential is proportional to the density of receptors not blocked by medication. Subjects received citalopram, fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, or extended-release venlafaxine. Healthy subjects received subtherapeutic doses; subjects with mood and anxiety disorders received therapeutic doses. Percent reduction in 5-HTT binding potential for each medication and dose was calculated. To obtain test-retest data, binding potential was measured before and after 4 weeks in six additional healthy subjects.
Results: Substantial occupancy occurred at subtherapeutic doses for all SSRIs. Compared to test-retest data, each drug at the minimum therapeutic dose had a significant effect on striatal 5-HTT binding potential. Mean occupancy at this dose was 76%-85%. At higher plasma SSRI concentrations, 5-HTT occupancy tended to increase above 80%. For each drug, as the dose (or plasma level) increased, occupancy increased nonlinearly, with a plateau for higher doses.
Conclusions: At tolerable doses, SSRIs have increasing occupancy with increasing plasma concentration or dose. Occupancy of 80% across five SSRIs occurs at minimum therapeutic doses. This suggests that 80% 5-HTT blockade is important for therapeutic effect. Occupancy should be measured during development of antidepressant compounds targeting the 5-HTT.