Tricyclic antidepressants inhibit hippocampal α7* and α9α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors by different mechanisms

Hugo R. Arias, Elizabeth Vázquez-Gómez, Andy Hernández-Abrego, Sofía Gallino, Dominik Feuerbach, Marcelo O. Ortells, Ana Belén Elgoyhen, Jesús García-Colunga

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9 Scopus citations


The activity of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) at α7 and α9α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) as well as at hippocampal α7-containing (i.e., α7*) AChRs is determined by using Ca 2+ influx and electrophysiological recordings. To determine the inhibitory mechanisms, additional functional tests and molecular docking experiments are performed. The results established that TCAs (a) inhibit Ca 2+ influx in GH3-α7 cells with the following potency (IC 50 in μM) rank: amitriptyline (2.7 ± 0.3) > doxepin (5.9 ± 1.1) ∼ imipramine (6.6 ± 1.0). Interestingly, imipramine inhibits hippocampal α7* AChRs (42.2 ± 8.5 μM) in a noncompetitive and voltage-dependent manner, whereas it inhibits α9α10 AChRs (0.53 ± 0.05 μM) in a competitive and voltage-independent manner, and (b) inhibit [ 3 H]imipramine binding to resting α7 AChRs with the following affinity rank (IC 50 in μM): imipramine (1.6 ± 0.2) > amitriptyline (2.4 ± 0.3) > doxepin (4.9 ± 0.6), whereas imipramine's affinity was no significantly different to that for the desensitized state. The molecular docking and functional results support the notion that imipramine noncompetitively inhibits α7 AChRs by interacting with two overlapping luminal sites, whereas it competitively inhibits α9α10 AChRs by interacting with the orthosteric sites. Collectively our data indicate that TCAs inhibit α7, α9α10, and hippocampal α7* AChRs at clinically relevant concentrations and by different mechanisms of action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrophysiology
  • Hippocampal neurons
  • Mechanisms of inhibition
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • α7 and α9α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors


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