The antidepressant drug fluoxetine is an inhibitor of human ether-a-go-go-related gene (HERG) potassium channels.J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2002 Feb; 300(2):543-8.JP
Fluoxetine is a commonly prescribed antidepressant compound. Its action is primarily attributed to selective inhibition of the reuptake of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) in the central nervous system. Although this group of antidepressant drugs is generally believed to cause fewer proarrhythmic side effects compared with tricyclic antidepressants, serious concerns have been raised by case reports of tachycardia and syncopes associated with fluoxetine treatment. To determine the electrophysiological basis for the arrhythmogenic potential of fluoxetine, we investigated the effects of this drug on cloned human ether-a-go-go-related gene (HERG) potassium channels heterologously expressed in Xenopus oocytes using the two-microelectrode voltage-clamp technique. We found that fluoxetine blocked HERG channels with an IC(50) value of 3.1 microM. Inhibition occurred fast to open channels with very slow unbinding kinetics. Analysis of the voltage dependence of block revealed loss of inhibition at membrane potentials greater than 40 mV, indicating that channel inactivation prevented block by fluoxetine. No pronounced changes in electrophysiological parameters such as voltage dependence of activation or inactivation, or inactivation time constant could be observed, and block was not frequency-dependent. This is the first study demonstrating that HERG potassium channels are blocked by the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine. We conclude that HERG current inhibition might be an explanation for the arrhythmogenic side effects of this drug.