GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors as possible targets for the neuroprotective and antidepressant effects of fluoxetine

Janos P. Kiss, Bernadett K. Szasz, László Fodor, Arpad Mike, Nora Lenkey, Dalma Kurkó, József Nagy, E. Sylvester Vizi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Citations (Scopus)


Accumulating evidence has indicated the involvement of glutamatergic neurotransmission in the pathophysiology of excitotoxicity and in the mechanism of action of antidepressants. We have previously shown that tricyclic desipramine and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine inhibit NMDA receptors (NMDARs) in the clinically relevant, low micromolar concentration range. As the different subtypes of NMDARs are markedly different in their physiological and pathological functions, our aim was to investigate whether the effect of antidepressants is subtype-specific. Using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in rat cortical cell cultures, we studied the age-dependence of inhibition of NMDA-induced currents after treatment with desipramine and fluoxetine, as the expression profile of the NMDAR subtypes changes as a function of days in vitro. We also investigated the inhibitory effect of these antidepressants on NMDA-induced currents in HEK 293 cell lines that stably expressed rat recombinant NMDARs with GluN1a/GluN2A or GluN1a/GluN2B subunit compositions. The inhibitory effect of desipramine was not age-dependent, whereas fluoxetine displayed a continuously decreasing inhibitory profile, which was similar to the GluN1/GluN2B subtype-selective antagonist ifenprodil. In HEK 293 cells, desipramine equally inhibited NMDA currents in both cell lines, whereas fluoxetine showed an inhibitory effect only in cells that expressed the GluN1/GluN2B subtype. Our data show that fluoxetine is a selective inhibitor of GluN2B-containing NMDARs, whereas desipramine inhibits both GluN1/GluN2A and GluN1/GluN2B subtypes. As the clinical efficacy of these drugs is very similar, the putative NMDAR-associated therapeutic effect of antidepressants may be mediated only via inhibition of the GluN2B-containing subtype. The manifestation of the GluN1/GluN2B-selectivity of fluoxetine suggests the neuroprotective potential for this drug in both acute and chronic neurodegenerative disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
JournalNeurochemistry international
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2012


  • Depression
  • Desipramine
  • Fluoxetine
  • GluN2B subunit
  • NMDA receptor subtypes
  • Neuroprotection
  • Whole-cell patch-clamp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology

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