A role for serotonin and beta-endorphin in the analgesia induced by some tricyclic antidepressant drugs

Paola Sacerdote, Anna Brini, Paolo Mantegazza, Alberto E. Panerai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The analgesic effect of acute or chronic nortriptyline, amitriptyline and clomipramine and their effects on morphine induced analgesia were evaluated in the rat. Clomipramine and amitriptyline, but not nortriptyline, induce analgesia, while all potentiate the effect of morphine when administered acutely. The analgesic effect of clomipramine is blunted by both the serotonin antagonist metergoline and the opiate receptor blocker naloxone, thus indicating an involvement of both the serotoninergic and endogenous opioid system. The involvement of the serotoninergic system is confirmed by the similar results obtained with the serotonin precursor 5-hydroxytryptophan administered alone or together with morphine. A relation between the serotoninergic and the endogenous opioid systems is also shown by the increase in hypothalamic beta-endorphin concentrations elicited by all the drugs used after acute or chronic treatment, with the only exception of nortriptyline, that has been shown to exert its effects mainly through the noradrenergic system. In conclusion, the analgesic effect of clomipramine and amitriptyline and their potentiation of morphine induced analgesia seems to be related to an activation of the endogenous opioid system mediated by serotonin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-158
Number of pages6
JournalPharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1987


  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan
  • Amitriptyline
  • Analgesia
  • Beta-endorphin
  • Clomipramine
  • Morphine
  • Nortriptyline
  • Serotonin
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology


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