Chronic administration of imipramine and citalopram alters the expression of NMDA receptor subunit mRNAs in mouse brain. A quantitative in situ hybridization study

J Mol Neurosci. 1998 Jun;10(3):219-33. doi: 10.1007/BF02761776.


Chronic administration of antidepressants produces region-specific adaptive changes in the radioligand binding properties of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. We hypothesized that this effect of chronic antidepressant administration was owing to an alteration in NMDA receptor subunit composition. This hypothesis was examined using in situ hybridization with [35S]-labeled riboprobes to quantify the impact of chronic (16 d) injection with either imipramine (15 mg/kg) or citalopram (20 mg/kg) on the levels of transcripts encoding NMDA receptor subunits in mouse brain. These antidepressants altered the levels of mRNA encoding the zeta-subunit in a parallel fashion, with both drugs either reducing transcript levels (e.g., in the cortex, cerebellum, thalamus, and striatum) or producing no substantial effects (e.g., hippocampus). In contrast, these antidepressants often produced distinct, region-specific effects on mRNA levels encoding the epsilon family of subunits. For example, citalopram treatment produced widespread reductions in epsilon 1-subunit mRNA levels (e.g., in frontal cortex, CA2 of hippocampus, and amygdala), whereas imipramine reduced levels of this transcript only in the amygdala. Conversely, imipramine treatment produced widespread reductions in epsilon 2-subunit mRNA levels (e.g., in cortex, CA1-4 of hippocampus, and amygdala), whereas the effects of citalopram on levels of this transcript were largely restricted to amygdala. These findings indicate that long-term antidepressant treatment produces region-specific changes in expression of transcripts for NMDA receptor subunits, presumably altering NMDA receptor composition. Because subunit composition determines the physiological and pharmacological properties of NMDA receptors, these changes may play a critical role in the therapeutic actions of structurally diverse antidepressants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / drug effects
  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Antisense Elements (Genetics)
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cerebellum / drug effects
  • Cerebellum / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Citalopram / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Imipramine / pharmacology*
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neostriatum / drug effects
  • Neostriatum / metabolism
  • Organ Specificity
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics*
  • Thalamus / drug effects
  • Thalamus / metabolism


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antisense Elements (Genetics)
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Citalopram
  • Imipramine