In vivo effect of tramadol on locus coeruleus neurons is mediated by alpha2-adrenoceptors and modulated by serotonin
Berrocoso E, Mico JA, Ugedo L.
Pharmacology and Neuroscience Research Group,
Department of Neuroscience (Pharmacology and Psychiatry),
School of Medicine, University of Cadiz,
Plaza Falla 9, E-11003 Cadiz, Spain.
Neuropharmacology. 2006 Jul;51(1):146-53.


Tramadol is a centrally-acting analgesic endowed with opioid, noradrenergic and serotonergic properties. Various data suggest that, in addition to its analgesic effect, tramadol may have antidepressant and anxiolytic-like effects. This study investigates, through single-unit extracellular recording techniques, the in vivo effects of tramadol on locus coeruleus (LC) neurons and its possible effects on alpha(2)-adrenoceptors, opioid receptors and the 5-HT system. Tramadol produced a dose-dependent and complete inhibition of LC activity (ED(50)=2.1mg/kg). This inhibitory effect was prevented and reversed by the selective alpha(2)-adrenoceptor antagonist, idazoxan, but not by the opioid receptor antagonist, naloxone. The inhibition of the synthesis of 5-HT by p-chlorophenylalanine and the pre-administration of the 5-HT(1A) receptor agonist, 8-OH-DPAT at 40microg/kg, caused a significant potentiation of the tramadol effect decreasing the ED(50) by 53% and 67% respectively. Lower doses of 8-OH-DPAT, of 1 and 4microg/kg, did not significantly modify the tramadol effect. In summary, the results indicate that tramadol elicits an inhibitory effect on LC neurons in vivo through alpha(2)-adrenoceptors. Moreover, this effect is modulated by the 5-HT system and particularly by 5-HT(1A) receptors.
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