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Using positron emission tomography and the selective 5-HT1A receptor radioligand [11C]WAY100635, we previously demonstrated a preferential occupancy of 5-HT1A autoreceptors, compared to postsynaptic receptors by pindolol in healthy volunteers. We have speculated that preferential occupancy may be clinically important for the purported actions of pindolol in accelerating the antidepressant effects of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In this study, we have examined the preferential occupancy by pindolol of 5-HT1A autoreceptors, following three different pindolol regimes (10 mg single dose, 2.5 mg t.i.d., and 5 mg t.i.d., in 15 depressed patients on SSRIs. In addition, seven healthy volunteers were examined following a single 10 mg dose of pindolol. We found a preferential occupancy of 22.6+/-7.7% following a single dose of 10 mg of pindolol, in the healthy volunteers, which was attenuated in depressed patients on the same dose of pindolol to 2.9+/-10.8% (Student's t=3.94, df=12, p=0.002). In addition, we found a significant negative correlation between the degree of preferential occupancy and the severity of depression as assessed by the Hamilton depression rating score (HAM-D), Spearman's rho=-0.728, N=14, p=0.003, in the depressed sample. A possible mechanism underlying preferential occupancy and the attenuation of this phenomenon in depressed patients on SSRIs may include changes in the proportion of high affinity 5-HT1A sites in the autoreceptor region of the midbrain raphe. Speculatively, the degree of preferential occupancy may serve as a surrogate marker for depression, or the pharmacological effects of antidepressants.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1688 - 1698


Adrenergic beta-Antagonists, Adult, Autoreceptors, Depressive Disorder, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Phenotype, Pindolol, Piperazines, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Pyridines, Radiopharmaceuticals, Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A, Serotonin Antagonists, Tomography, Emission-Computed