Antidepressant treatments, including those that increase serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission, require several weeks or months until the onset of the therapeutic effect in depressed patients. The negative feedback on 5-HT transmission exhibited by the 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(1B) autoreceptors has been postulated as a possible delaying factor. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of the acute and subchronic treatment with pindolol, a 5-HT(1A/1B,) β₁ and β₂ adrenoceptor antagonist, on 5-HT synthesis, one of the key parameters of 5-HT neurotransmission. Male Sprague-Dawley (SPD) rats (180-220 g) were treated with pindolol or an adequate volume of saline, administered either acutely (15 mg/kg i.p.; SPD-AC-SAL, SPD-AC-TR) or subchronically (15 mg/kg day i.p. for 7 days; SPD-SUBCHR-SAL, SPD-SUBCHR-TR). Thirty minutes following the single i.p. injection (acute experiment) or at the 8th day following the commencement of the subchronic treatment (subchronic experiment), 5-HT synthesis was measured using α-[¹⁴C]methyl-L-tryptophan autoradiography. The analysis of variance (ANOVA), followed by the Benjamini-Hochberg correction for multiple comparisons, revealed: (1) a significant increase of 5-HT synthesis in the SPD-AC-TR rats, relative to the SPD-AC-SAL rats in all brain regions examined except the substantia nigra--pars reticularis, dorsal subiculum, inferior olive, raphe magnus and raphe obscurus and (2) a significant increase of 5-HT synthesis in the SPD-SUBCHR-TR rats, relative to the SPD-SUBCHR-SAL rats in all brain regions except the median raphe, hypothalamus and raphe pontine. On the basis of these results, we hypothesized that the antagonism of the 5-HT(1A/1B) receptors prevents the negative feedback mediated by these receptors on 5-HT synthesis, resulting in a persistent increase of 5-HT synthesis. The results accord with clinical reports on the utility of pindolol in the augmentation of antidepressant treatment.
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