Korean J Physiol Pharmacol.  2018 Sep;22(5):585-595. 10.4196/kjpp.2018.22.5.585.

Tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline inhibits 5-hydroxytryptamine 3 receptor currents in NCB-20 cells

  • 1Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul 06591, Korea.
  • 2Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul 06591, Korea. sungkw@catholic.ac.kr


Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, is commonly used to treat depression and neuropathic pain, but its mechanism is still unclear. We tested the effect of amitriptyline on 5-hydroxytryptamine 3 (5-HT₃) receptor currents and studied its blocking mechanism because the clinical applications of amitriptyline overlapped with 5-HT₃ receptor therapeutic potentials. Using a whole-cell voltage clamp method, we recorded the currents of the 5-HT₃ receptor when 5-HT was applied alone or co-applied with amitriptyline in cultured NCB-20 neuroblastoma cells known to express 5-HT₃ receptors. To elucidate the mechanism of amitriptyline, we simulated the 5-HT₃ receptor currents using Berkeley Madonna® software and calculated the rate constants of the agonist binding and receptor transition steps. The 5-HT₃ receptor currents were inhibited by amitriptyline in a concentration-dependent, voltage-independent manner, and a competitive mode. Amitriptyline accelerated the desensitization of the 5-HT₃ receptor. When amitriptyline was applied before 5-HT treatment, the currents rose slowly until the end of 5-HT treatment. When amitriptyline was co-applied with 5-HT, currents rose and decayed rapidly. Peak current amplitudes were decreased in both applications. All macroscopic currents recorded in whole cell voltage clamping experiments were reproduced by simulation and the changes of rate constants by amitriptyline were correlated with macroscopic current recording data. These results suggest that amitriptyline blocks the 5-HT₃ receptor by close and open state blocking mechanisms, in a competitive manner. We could expand an understanding of pharmacological mechanisms of amitriptyline related to the modulation of a 5-HT₃ receptor, a potential target of neurologic and psychiatric diseases through this study.


5-Hydroxytriptamine 3 receptor; Amitriptyline; Depression; Patch clamp; Simulation
Full Text Links
  • KJPP
export Copy
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Similar articles
Copyright © 2021 by Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors. All rights reserved.     E-mail: koreamed@kamje.or.kr