Biochemical and functional evidence of supersensitive platelet alpha 2-adrenoceptors in major affective disorder. Effect of long-term lithium carbonate treatment

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1986 Jan;43(1):51-7. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1986.01800010053007.


The hypothesis that depressive illness is related to supersensitive alpha 2-adrenoceptors in the brain has been tested indirectly in blood platelets. The binding of tritiated clonidine hydrochloride to platelet membranes, a ligand that labels only the high-affinity state of the alpha 2-adrenoceptor that is coupled with cell functions, and the aggregation response induced by epinephrine hydrochloride, which is the result of the activation of the high-affinity state, were measured and correlated in 13 patients with major affective disorder. Both the number of high-affinity binding sites and the aggregation response were increased in depressed patients. There was a negative and significant correlation between both measures in the same depressed patients. Treatment with lithium carbonate (Plenur [Spain]; Linthane, comparable US product) was associated with a decrease in the high-affinity state and with an increase in the aggregation response. Thus, major effective disorder may be related to a dysfunction of the high-affinity state of the alpha 2-adrenoceptor that recognizes agonists and mediates physiological effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clonidine / pharmacology
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Epinephrine / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lithium / pharmacology
  • Lithium Carbonate
  • Male
  • Membranes / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Platelet Aggregation / drug effects
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha / physiology*
  • Tritium


  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha
  • Tritium
  • Lithium Carbonate
  • Lithium
  • Clonidine
  • Epinephrine