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Antidepressant drugs, in particular those targeting the serotonin (5-HT)-reuptake system via the serotonin transporter (5-HTT), are known to exhibit antiinflammatory properties and have demonstrated therapeutic efficacy in rodent models of autoimmune disease like experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis or experimental rheumatoid arthritis. A crucial difference between animal models and the actual human autoimmune disease is the fact that in animals predominantly induced T cells are studied after sensitization with autoantigen. In humans, however, naturally occurring cytokine-producing T cells might play a significant role as well. For this reason, we investigated the effect of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor citalopram on cytokine-producing cells in the thymus of C57BL/6 mice, focusing on the (predominantly) T-cell-produced cytokines IL-2, IL-4 and IL-17. Citalopram was able to strongly reduce the frequency of IL-4- and IL-2-producing cells triggered by CD3 stimulation, but exhibited a less pronounced effect on IL-17-producing cells. 5-HTT expression was found to be very low in thymocytes in comparison with splenocytes, and the effect of free extracellular serotonin on CD3-induced thymocyte cytokine production did not mimic the effect of citalopram. We conclude that citalopram has a potent suppressive effect on cytokine production in the thymus, and that this effect is unlikely to be mediated by elevation of extracellular serotonin levels via the 5-HTT. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Aparna R Shenoy, Thomas Dehmel, Mark Stettner, David Kremer, Bernd C Kieseier, Hans Peter Hartung, Harald H Hofstetter. Citalopram suppresses thymocyte cytokine production. Journal of neuroimmunology. 2013 Sep 15;262(1-2):46-52

PMID: 23886473

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