Sustained administration of pramipexole modifies the spontaneous firing of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin neurons in the rat brain

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Feb;34(3):651-61. doi: 10.1038/npp.2008.114. Epub 2008 Aug 6.


Pramipexole (PPX) is a D(2)/D(3) receptor agonist that has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression. Serotonin (5-HT), norepinephrine (NE) and dopamine (DA) systems are known to be involved in the pathophysiology and treatment of depression. Due to reciprocal interactions between these neuronal systems, drugs selectively targeting one system-specific receptor can indirectly modify the firing activity of neurons that contribute to firing patterns in systems that operate via different neurotransmitters. It was thus hypothesized that PPX would alter the firing rate of DA, NE and 5-HT neurons. To test this hypothesis, electrophysiological experiments were carried out in anesthetized rats. Subcutaneously implanted osmotic minipumps delivered PPX at a dose of 1 mg/kg per day for 2 or 14 days. After a 2-day treatment with PPX the spontaneous neuronal firing of DA neurons was decreased by 40%, NE neuronal firing by 33% and the firing rate of 5-HT neurons remained unaltered. After 14 days of PPX treatment, the firing rate of DA had recovered as well as that of NE, whereas the firing rate of 5-HT neurons was increased by 38%. It was also observed that sustained PPX administration produced desensitization of D(2)/D(3) and 5-HT(1A) cell body autoreceptors, as well as a decrease in sensitivity of alpha(2)-adrenergic cell body autoreceptors. These adaptive changes are implicated in long-term firing rate adaptations of DA, NE and 5-HT neurons after prolonged PPX administration. In conclusion, the therapeutic action of PPX in depression might be attributed to increased DA and 5-HT neurotransmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Animals
  • Autoreceptors / drug effects
  • Benzothiazoles / administration & dosage*
  • Benzothiazoles / pharmacology*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electrophysiology
  • Idazoxan / pharmacology
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Pramipexole
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A / drug effects
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3 / drug effects
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Autoreceptors
  • Benzothiazoles
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A
  • Serotonin
  • Pramipexole
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Idazoxan