Is the inhibition of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors by bupropion involved in its clinical actions?

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

70 Scopus citations


In this mini review we will focus on those molecular and cellular mechanisms exerted by bupropion (BP), ultimately leading to the antidepressant and anti-nicotinic properties described for this molecule. The main pharmacological mechanism is based on the fact that BP induces the release as well as inhibits the reuptake of neurotransmitters such as a dopamine (DA) and norepinephrine (NE). Additional mechanisms of action have been also determined. For example, BP is a noncompetitive antagonist (NCA) of several nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs). Based on this evidence, the dual antidepressant and anti-nicotinic activity of BP is currently considered to be mediated by its stimulatory action on the DA and NE systems as well as its inhibitory action on AChRs. Considering the results obtained in the archetypical mouse muscle AChR, a sequential mechanism can be hypothesized to explain the inhibitory action of BP on neuronal AChRs: (1) BP first binds to AChRs in the resting state, decreasing the probability of ion channel opening, (2) the remnant fraction of open ion channels is subsequently decreased by accelerating the desensitization process, and (3), BP interacts with a binding domain located between the serine (position 6′) and valine (position 13′) rings that is shared with the NCA phencyclidine and other tricyclic antidepressants. This new evidence paves the way for further investigations using AChRs as targets for the action of safer antidepressants and novel anti-addictive compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2098-2108
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Antidepressants
  • Bupropion
  • Depression
  • Neurotransmitter transporters
  • Nicotine addiction
  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors


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