A review of the pharmacology of selegiline

Acta Neurol Scand Suppl. 1991:136:44-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.1991.tb05020.x.


Selegiline (1-deprenyl) is an irreversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase (MAO) type B. Because in the human brain, dopamine is metabolised mainly by MAO-B, selegiline increases dopamine content in the central nervous system. Besides the inhibition of MAO-B, selegiline also inhibits the uptake of dopamine and noradrenaline into presynaptic nerve and increases the turnover of dopamine. Thanks to these properties, selegiline significantly potentiates the pharmacological effects of levodopa. These favourable characteristics have been applied in the treatment of Parkinson's disease using selegiline both with levodopa and alone. Unlike earlier MAO-inhibitors, selegiline does not potentiate the hypertensive effects of tyramine. This is due to the selectivity to MAO-B, leaving intestinal MAO-A intact, and also due to the fact that selegiline inhibits the uptake of tyramine into neurons. Selegiline can prevent the parkinsonism caused by MPTP in animals; similar findings have been reported with other toxins like 6-OHDA and DSP-4, that destroys noradrenergic nuclei. Furthermore, selegiline reduces oxidative stress caused by degradation of dopamine and increases free radical elimination by enhancing superoxide dismutase and catalase activity. These findings may be important when considering the possible neuroprotective effects of selegiline. Besides the basic pharmacology also the interactions and pharmacokinetics of selegiline are reviewed in this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / enzymology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / blood
  • Levodopa / adverse effects
  • Levodopa / pharmacokinetics
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use
  • Monoamine Oxidase / blood
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / blood
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Parkinson Disease / enzymology*
  • Parkinson Disease / mortality
  • Selegiline / adverse effects
  • Selegiline / pharmacokinetics*
  • Selegiline / therapeutic use*
  • Survival Rate


  • Isoenzymes
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Selegiline
  • Levodopa
  • Monoamine Oxidase