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A novel strategy for improving the treatment of depressive illness is augmentation of antidepressants with a 5-HT1(1A) autoreceptor antagonist. However, trials using the 5-HT1(1A)/beta-blocker pindolol are proving inconsistent. We report how positron emission tomography (PET) and in vitro autoradiography can inform trials of antidepressant augmentation. We show that in healthy volunteers, in vivo, pindolol (n = 10) and penbutolol (n = 4), but not tertatolol (n = 4) occupy the human 5-HT(1A) receptors, at clinical doses. Pindolol, as well as the beta-blockers penbutolol and tertatolol, has high affinity for human 5-HT(1A) receptors in post-mortem brain slices (n = 4). Pindolol shows preference for 5-HT(1A) autoreceptors versus the post-synaptic receptors both in vitro and in vivo. Our data reveal that pindolol doses used in antidepressant trials so far are suboptimal for significant occupancy at the 5-HT(1A) autoreceptor. Penbutolol or higher doses of pindolol are candidates for testing as antidepressant augmenting regimes in future clinical trials.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





285 - 293


Adrenergic beta-Antagonists, Adult, Aged, Antidepressive Agents, Autoradiography, Autoreceptors, Brain Chemistry, Female, Humans, In Vitro Techniques, Male, Middle Aged, Penbutolol, Pindolol, Piperazines, Propanolamines, Pyridines, Receptors, Neurotransmitter, Receptors, Serotonin, Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1, Serotonin Antagonists, Thiophenes, Tomography, Emission-Computed