Document Type


Publication Date



Dextromethorphan is an antitussive with a high margin of safety that has been hypothesized to display rapid-acting antidepressant activity based on pharmacodynamic similarities to the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist ketamine. In addition to binding to NMDA receptors, dextromethorphan binds to sigma-1 (s1) receptors, which are believed to be protein targets for a potential new class of antidepressant medications. The purpose of this study was to determine whether dextromethorphan elicits antidepressant-like effects and the involvement of s1 receptors in mediating its antidepressant-like actions. The antidepressant-like effects of dextromethorphan were assessed in male, Swiss Webster mice using the forced swim test. Next, s1 receptor antagonists (BD1063 and BD1047) were evaluated in conjunction with dextromethorphan to determine the involvement of s receptors in its antidepressant-like effects. Quinidine, a cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2D6 inhibitor, was also evaluated in conjunction with dextromethorphan to increase the bioavailability of dextromethorphan and reduce exposure to additional metabolites. Finally, saturation binding assays were performed to assess the manner in which dextromethorphan interacts at the s1 receptor. Our results revealed dextromethorphan displays antidepressant-like effects in the forced swim test that can be attenuated by pretreatment with s1 receptor antagonists, with BD1063 causing a shift to the right in the dextromethorphan dose response curve. Concomitant administration of quinidine potentiated the antidepressant-like effects of dextromethorphan. Saturation binding assays revealed that a Ki concentration of dextromethorphan reduces both the Kd and the Bmax of [3H](+)-pentazocine binding to s1 receptors. Taken together, these data suggest that dextromethorphan exerts some of its antidepressant actions through s1 receptors.

Publisher's Statement

Originally published in PLOS One, 9(2) [Article e89985]. Licensed under CC BY 4.0. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089985