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Concept: Buspirone


Repeated episodes of binge-like alcohol consumption produce anxiety, depression and various deleterious effects including alterations in neurogenesis. While the involvement of the serotonin receptor 1 A (5-HT1A) in the regulation of anxiety-like behavior and neurogenesis is well documented, its contribution to alcohol withdrawal-induced anxiety and alcohol-induced deficits in neurogenesis is less documented. Using the Drinking-In-the-Dark (DID) paradigm to model chronic long-term (12 weeks) binge-like voluntary alcohol consumption in mice, we show that the selective partial activation of 5-HT1A receptors by tandospirone (3 mg/kg) prevents alcohol withdrawal-induced anxiety in a battery of behavioral tests (marble burying, elevated-plus-maze, open-field), which is accompanied by a robust decrease in binge-like ethanol intake (1 and 3 mg/kg). Furthermore, using triple immunolabelling of proliferation and neuronal differentiation markers, we show that long-term DID elicits profound deficits in neurogenesis and neuronal fate specification in the dorsal hippocampus that are entirely reversed by a 2-week chronic treatment with the 5-HT1A partial agonist tandospirone (3 mg/kg/day). Together, our results confirm previous observations that 5-HT1A receptors play a pivotal role in alcohol drinking behavior and the associated emotional and neurogenic impairments, and suggest that 5-HT1A partial agonists represent a promising treatment strategy for alcohol abuse.

Concepts: Psychology, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Functional selectivity, 5-HT receptor, Buspirone


The therapeutic effect of current antidepressant drugs appears after several weeks of treatment and a significant number of patients do not respond to treatment. Here, we report the effects of the multi-modal antidepressant vortioxetine (Lu AA21004), a 5-HT3 and 5-HT7 receptor antagonist, 5-HT1B receptor partial agonist, 5-HT1A receptor agonist and 5-HT transporter (SERT) inhibitor, on rat 5-HT neurotransmission. Using in vivo electrophysiological recordings in the dorsal raphe nucleus of anaesthetized rats, we assessed the acute and subchronic effects of vortioxetine and/or the selective 5-HT3 receptor agonist, SR57227 or the selective 5-HT1A receptor agonist flesinoxan, on 5-HT neuronal firing activity. Using ex-vivo autoradiography, we correlated SERT occupancy and presumed 5-HT firing activity. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, fluoxetine, was used as comparator. Importantly, the recovery of 5-HT neuronal firing was achieved after 1 d with vortioxetine and 14 d with fluoxetine. SR57227 delayed this recovery. In contrast, vortioxetine failed to alter the reducing action of 3 d treatment of flesinoxan. Acute dosing of vortioxetine inhibited neuronal firing activity more potently than fluoxetine. SR57227 prevented the suppressant effect of vortioxetine, but not of fluoxetine. In contrast, flesinoxan failed to modify the suppressant effect of vortioxetine acutely administered. Differently to fluoxetine, vortioxetine suppressed neuronal firing without saturating occupancy at the SERT. Vortioxetine produced a markedly faster recovery of 5-HT neuronal firing than fluoxetine. This is at least partly due to 5-HT3 receptor antagonism of vortioxetine in association with its reduced SERT occupancy.

Concepts: Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Inverse agonist, Buprenorphine, 5-HT receptor, Buspirone


Azapirones, which are serotonin1A (5-HT1A) receptor partial agonists, have been used as an adjunctive treatment for schizophrenia with mixed results. This is a meta-analysis of the efficacy and tolerability of azapirones for schizophrenia based on randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials (RCTs). English and Chinese databases were systematically and independently searched by two investigators. Data were extracted and analyzed using the RevMan software (version 5.3). Seven RCTs (n = 368) of azapirones (buspirone in 6 RCTs and tandospirone in 1 RCT) were identified and analyzed. Only adjunctive buspirone outperformed placebo regarding total psychopathology [standardized mean difference: -1.03 (95% confidence interval (CI): -1.91, -0.15), P = 0.02; I2 = 92%], but the significance disappeared in sensitivity analysis after removing two outlying studies, and in 10 of the 12 subgroup analyses. In 5 RCTs examining neurocognitive function of azapirones, only 2 RCTs found the superiority of buspirone in improving attention/speeded motor performance, verbal and performance intelligence. Adjunctive buspirone outperformed placebo regarding extrapyramidal symptoms [SMD:-0.51, (95%CI: -0.99, -0.02), P = 0.04; I2 = 0%]. Similar rates of discontinuation [risk ratio:1.06 (95%CI:0.54, 2.07), P = 0.86, I2 = 0%] and adverse drug reactions were found between both groups. Adjunctive buspirone and tandospirone failed to show efficacy for psychotic symptoms, but adjunctive buspirone may be associated with improvement in extrapyramidal symptoms and cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Due to the preliminary nature of this meta-analysis, larger sample size and higher quality RCTs are needed to confirm these finding.

Concepts: Sample size, Agonist, Adverse drug reaction, Statistical hypothesis testing, Antipsychotic, Buspirone, Tandospirone, Azapirone


Cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychotomimetic component of marihuana, exhibits anxiolytic-like properties in many behavioural tests, although its potential for treating major depression has been poorly explored. Moreover, the mechanism of action of CBD remains unclear. Herein, we have evaluated the effects of CBD following acute and chronic administration in the olfactory bulbectomy mouse model of depression (OBX), and investigated the underlying mechanism. For this purpose, we conducted behavioural (open field and sucrose preference tests) and neurochemical (microdialysis and autoradiography of 5-HT1A receptor functionality) studies following treatment with CBD. We also assayed the pharmacological antagonism of the effects of CBD to dissect out the mechanism of action. Our results demonstrate that CBD exerts fast and maintained antidepressant-like effects as evidenced by the reversal of the OBX-induced hyperactivity and anhedonia. In vivo microdialysis revealed that the administration of CBD significantly enhanced serotonin and glutamate levels in vmPFCx in a different manner depending on the emotional state and the duration of the treatment. The potentiating effect upon neurotransmitters levels occurring immediately after the first injection of CBD might underlie the fast antidepressant-like actions in OBX mice. Both antidepressant-like effect and enhanced cortical 5-HT/glutamate neurotransmission induced by CBD were prevented by 5-HT1A receptor blockade. Moreover, adaptive changes in pre- and post-synaptic 5-HT1A receptor functionality were also found after chronic CBD. In conclusion, our findings indicate that CBD could represent a novel fast antidepressant drug, via enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signalling through a 5-HT1A receptor-dependent mechanism.

Concepts: Serotonin, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Cannabis, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Neuropsychopharmacology, Nefazodone, Buspirone


To determine safety and efficacy of the 5HT1A serotonin partial agonist buspirone on core autism and associated features in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Autism, Agonist, Autism spectrum, 5-HT receptor, Buspirone, Partial agonist


Current pharmacological treatments of depression and related disorders suffer from major problems, such as a low rate of response, slow onset of therapeutic effects, loss of efficacy over time and serious side effects. Therefore, there is an urgent need to explore new therapeutic approaches that address these issues. Interestingly, the atypical antidepressant tianeptine already meets in part these clinical goals. However, in spite of three decades of basic and clinical investigations, the molecular target of tianeptine, as well as its mechanism of action, remains elusive. Herein, we report the characterization of tianeptine as a μ-opioid receptor (MOR) agonist. Using radioligand binding and cell-based functional assays, including bioluminescence resonance energy transfer-based assays for G-protein activation and cAMP accumulation, we identified tianeptine as an efficacious MOR agonist (Ki Human of 383±183 nM and EC50 Human of 194±70 nM  and EC50 Mouse of 641±120 nM for G-protein activation). Tianeptine was also a full δ-opioid receptor (DOR) agonist, although with much lower potency (EC50 Human of 37.4±11.2 μM and EC50 Mouse of 14.5±6.6  μM for G-protein activation). In contrast, tianeptine was inactive at the κ-opioid receptor (KOR, both human and rat). On the basis of these pharmacological data, we propose that activation of MOR (or dual activation of MOR and DOR) could be the initial molecular event responsible for triggering many of the known acute and chronic effects of this agent, including its antidepressant and anxiolytic actions.

Concepts: Therapeutic effect, Pharmacology, Effectiveness, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Buspirone


To evaluate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of vilazodone as an acute treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Vilazodone is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adults.

Concepts: Serotonin, Agonist, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Generalized anxiety disorder, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Buspirone


Vilazodone (VLZ) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adults. In preclinical studies, VLZ had significantly lower sexual side effects than SSRIs and reduced serotonin transporter (SERT) levels in forebrain regions. In the current study, once-daily paroxetine (PAR, 10 mg/kg), VLZ (10 mg/kg), PAR+buspirone (BUS, 3 mg/kg; a 5-HT1A partial agonist), or vehicle (VEH) was administered to male rats for 2 weeks then switched for 7 days (eg, PAR switched to VLZ, PAR+BUS, or VEH). Sexual behavior (eg, ejaculation frequency and latency) was evaluated 1-hr postdose on days 1, 7, 14, and 21. After 2 weeks, treatment with PAR but not VLZ resulted in a significant decrease in sexual behavior. In a 30-min test, the range of ejaculation frequency was 3.08-3.5 with VLZ and 1.00-1.92 with PAR (P<.05 vs VEH). After switching from PAR to VEH, PAR+BUS, or VEH, sexual behaviors were normalized to control levels. In contrast, the switch from VLZ to PAR resulted in reduced sexual behaviors. This preclinical study showed that unlike PAR, an SSRI with no 5-HT1A receptor activity, initial treatment with VLZ did not result in sexual side effects at therapeutically relevant doses. Results in male rats switched from PAR to VLZ or PAR+BUS strongly suggest that activation of 5-HT1A receptors may mitigate the sexual side effects associated with conventional SSRIs.

Concepts: Serotonin, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Major depressive disorder, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Reuptake inhibitor, Fluoxetine, Buspirone


The mixed serotonin (5-HT) 1A/2A/2B/2C/6/7 receptor agonist psilocybin dose-dependently induces an altered state of consciousness (ASC) that is characterized by changes in sensory perception, mood, thought, and the sense of self. The psychological effects of psilocybin are primarily mediated by 5-HT2A receptor activation. However, accumulating evidence suggests that 5-HT1A or an interaction between 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors may contribute to the overall effects of psilocybin. Therefore, we used a double-blind, counterbalanced, within-subject design to investigate the modulatory effects of the partial 5-HT1A agonist buspirone (20mg p.o.) and the non-hallucinogenic 5-HT2A/1A agonist ergotamine (3mg p.o.) on psilocybin-induced (170µg/kg p.o.) psychological effects in two groups (n=19, n=17) of healthy human subjects. Psychological effects were assessed using the Altered State of Consciousness (5D-ASC) rating scale. Buspirone significantly reduced the 5D-ASC main scale score for Visionary Restructuralization (VR) (p<0.001), which was mostly driven by a reduction of the VR item cluster scores for elementary and complex visual hallucinations. Further, buspirone also reduced the main scale score for Oceanic Boundlessness (OB) including derealisation and depersonalisation phenomena at a trend level (p=0.062), whereas ergotamine did not show any effects on the psilocybin-induced 5D-ASC main scale scores. The present finding demonstrates that buspirone exerts inhibitory effects on psilocybin-induced effects, presumably via 5-HT1A receptor activation, an interaction between 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors, or both. The data suggest that the modulation of 5-HT1A receptor activity may be a useful target in the treatment of visual hallucinations in different psychiatric and neurological diseases.

Concepts: Mind, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Inverse agonist, 5-HT receptor, 5-HT1A receptor, Buspirone


Tau hyperphosphorylation is an important pathological feature of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). To investigate whether escitalopram could inhibit amyloid-β (Aβ)-induced tau hyperphosphorylation and the underlying mechanisms, we treated the rat primary hippocampal neurons with Aβ1-42 and examined the effect of escitalopram on tau hyperphosphorylation. Results showed that escitalopram decreased Aβ1-42-induced tau hyperphosphorylation. In addition, escitalopram activated the Akt/GSK-3β pathway, and the PI3K inhibitor LY294002 blocked the attenuation of tau hyperphosphorylation induced by escitalopram. Moreover, the 5-HT1A receptor agonist 8-OH-DPAT also activated the Akt/GSK-3β pathway and decreased Aβ1-42-induced tau hyperphosphorylation. Furthermore, the 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY-100635 blocked the activation of Akt/GSK-3β pathway and the attenuation of tau hyperphosphorylation induced by escitalopram. Finally, escitalopram improved Aβ1-42 induced impairment of neurite outgrowth and spine density, and reversed Aβ1-42 induced reduction of synaptic proteins. Our results demonstrated that escitalopram attenuated Aβ1-42-induced tau hyperphosphorylation in primary hippocampal neurons through the 5-HT1A receptor mediated Akt/GSK-3β pathway.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory, Buprenorphine, Buspirone