A new chapter opens in anti-inflammatory treatments: the antidepressant bupropion lowers production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma in mice

Int Immunopharmacol. 2006 Jun;6(6):903-7. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2005.12.007. Epub 2006 Jan 25.


In a wide range of human diseases of inflammatory nature like Crohn's disease, pathology is mediated in part by pro-inflammatory cytokines like tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF) or interferon-gamma. We show here that a commonly used generic antidepressant bupropion, in wide use worldwide to treat depression in humans for a decade now, profoundly lowers levels of TNF, interferon-gamma, and interleukin-1 beta in vivo, in a mouse lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced inflammation model. Mice challenged with an otherwise lethal dose of LPS were protected by bupropion and levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 were increased. Previous data in rodents and humans indicate antidepressant effects of bupropion are mediated by its weak reuptake inhibition of norepinephrine and dopamine. Concordant with this, TNF suppression by bupropion in our mouse LPS model was largely abrogated by beta-adrenergic or dopamine D1 receptor antagonists but not by a D2 antagonist. TNF synthesis is controlled by an inverse relationship with intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and stimulation of either beta-adrenoreceptors or D1 dopaminergic receptors result in increased cAMP but stimulation of D2 receptors lowers cAMP. We conclude that bupropion may suppress TNF synthesis by mediating increased signaling at beta-adrenoreceptors and D1 receptors, resulting in increased cAMP that inhibits TNF synthesis. Bupropion is well tolerated also in non-psychiatric populations and has less risk with long term use than current anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive or TNF suppressive treatments such as prednisone, azathioprine, infliximab, or methotrexate. New anti-inflammatory treatments are needed. We believe a new chapter in antiinflammatory, TNF lowering treatment of disease has been opened. Bupropion's use for this in humans should be explored.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / pharmacology
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use
  • Bupropion / pharmacology*
  • Bupropion / therapeutic use
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Interferon-gamma / blood*
  • Interleukin-1 / blood
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Nitric Oxide / blood
  • Platelet Count
  • Shock, Septic / drug therapy
  • Shock, Septic / metabolism
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Interleukin-1
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Bupropion
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Interferon-gamma