The effects of antidepressants on mitochondrial function in a model cell system and isolated mitochondria

Neurochem Res. 2011 Feb;36(2):327-38. doi: 10.1007/s11064-010-0331-z. Epub 2010 Dec 1.


The in vitro effects of antidepressant drugs on mitochondrial function were investigated in a CHOβ(2)SPAP cell line used previously to determine the effects of antidepressants on gene transcription (Abdel-Razaq et al., Biochem Pharmacol 73:1995-2003, 2007) and in rat heart isolated mitochondria. Apoptotic effects of clomipramine (CLOM), desipramine (DMI) and of norfluoxetine (NORF, the active metabolite of fluoxetine), on cellular viability were indicated by morphological changes and concentration-dependent increases in caspase-3 activity in CHO cells after 18 h exposure to CLOM, DMI and NORF. However, tianeptine (TIAN) was without effect. CLOM and NORF both reduced integrated mitochondrial function as shown by marked reductions in membrane potential (MMP) in mitochondria isolated from rat hearts. DMI also showed a similar but smaller effect, whereas, TIAN did not elicit any significant change in MMP. Moreover, micromolar concentrations of CLOM, DMI and NORF caused significant inhibitions of the activities of mitochondrial complexes (I, II/III and IV). The inhibitory effects on complex IV activity were most marked. TIAN inhibited only complex I activity at concentrations in excess of 20 μM. The observed inhibitory effects of antidepressants on the mitochondrial complexes were accompanied by a significant decrease in the mitochondrial state-3 respiration at concentrations above 10 μM. The results demonstrate that the apoptotic cell death observed in antidepressant-treated cells could be due to disruption of mitochondrial function resulting from multiple inhibition of mitochondrial enzyme complexes. The possibility that antimitochondrial actions of antidepressants could provide a potentially protective pre-conditioning effect is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • CHO Cells
  • Clomipramine / pharmacology
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Desipramine / pharmacology
  • Electron Transport Chain Complex Proteins / metabolism
  • Fluoxetine / analogs & derivatives
  • Fluoxetine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / physiology
  • Mitochondria, Heart / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria, Heart / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Thiazepines / pharmacology


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Electron Transport Chain Complex Proteins
  • Thiazepines
  • Fluoxetine
  • tianeptine
  • norfluoxetine
  • Clomipramine
  • Desipramine