Depressed patients suffer from cognitive dysfunction, including memory deficits. Acute serotonin (5-HT) depletion impairs memory and mood in vulnerable patients. The investigational multimodal acting antidepressant vortioxetine is a 5-HT3, 5-HT7 and 5-HT1D receptor antagonist, 5-HT1B receptor partial agonist, 5-HT1A receptor agonist and 5-HT transporter (SERT) inhibitor that enhances memory in normal rats in novel object recognition (NOR) and conditioned fear (Mørk et al., 2013). We hypothesized that vortioxetine's 5-HT receptor mechanisms are involved in its memory effects, and therefore investigated these effects in 5-HT depleted rats. Four injections of the irreversible tryptophan hydroxylase inhibitor 4-chloro-dl-phenylalanine methyl ester hydrochloride (PCPA, 86mg/kg, s.c.) induced 5-HT depletion, as measured in hippocampal homogenate and microdialysate. The effects of acute challenge with vortioxetine or the 5-HT releaser fenfluramine on extracellular 5-HT were measured in PCPA-treated and control rats. PCPA's effects on NOR and spontaneous alternation (SA) performance were assessed along with the effects of acute treatment with 5-hydroxy-l-tryptophan (5-HTP), vortioxetine, the selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitor escitalopram, or the 5-HT norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor duloxetine. SERT occupancies were estimated by ex vivo autoradiography. PCPA depleted central 5-HT by >90% in tissue and microdialysate, and impaired NOR and SA performance. Restoring central 5-HT with 5-HTP reversed these deficits. At similar SERT occupancies (>90%) vortioxetine, but not escitalopram or duloxetine, restored memory performance. Acute fenfluramine significantly increased extracellular 5-HT in control and PCPA-treated rats, while vortioxetine did so only in control rats. Thus, vortioxetine restores 5-HT depletion impaired memory performance in rats through one or more of its receptor activities.
European Neuropsychopharmacology : the Journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2014, Vol 24, Issue 1, p. 148-159