Vortioxetine, a novel antidepressant for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD), is a 5-HT3, 5-HT7 and 5-HT1D receptor antagonist, 5-HT1B receptor partial agonist, 5-HT1A receptor agonist and serotonin (5-HT) transporter (SERT) inhibitor. Here we review its preclinical and clinical properties and discuss translational aspects. Vortioxetine increases serotonergic, noradrenergic, dopaminergic, cholinergic, histaminergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission in brain structures associated with MDD. These multiple effects likely derive from its interaction with 5-HT-receptor-mediated negative feedback mechanisms controlling neuronal activity. In particular, 5-HT3 receptors may play a prominent role, since their blockade i) increases pyramidal neuron activity by removing 5-HT3 receptor-mediated excitation of GABA interneurons, and ii) augments SSRI effects on extracellular 5-HT. However, modulation of the other 5-HT receptor subtypes also likely contributes to vortioxetine's pharmacological effects. Preclinical animal models reveal differences from SSRIs and SNRIs, including antidepressant-like activity, increased synaptic plasticity and improved cognitive function. Vortioxetine had clinical efficacy in patients with MDD: 11 placebo-controlled studies (including one in elderly) with efficacy in 8 (7 positive, 1 supportive), 1 positive active comparator study plus a positive relapse prevention study. In two positive studies, vortioxetine was superior to placebo in pre-defined cognitive outcome measures. The clinically effective dose range (5-20mg/day) spans ~50 to >80% SERT occupancy. SERT and 5-HT3 receptors are primarily occupied at 5mg, while at 20mg, all targets are likely occupied at functionally relevant levels. The side-effect profile is similar to that of SSRIs, with gastrointestinal symptoms being most common, and a low incidence of sexual dysfunction and sleep disruption possibly ascribed to vortioxetine's receptor modulation.
Keywords: Clinical efficacy; Cognitive dysfunction; Major depressive disorder; Serotonin receptors; Vortioxetine.
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