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Brain not required for antidepressant to act

Zoloft has unexpected effects in single-celled yeast

4:19pm, April 24, 2012

Brewer’s yeast cells don’t have the brain chemical serotonin — or brains, for that matter — but that doesn’t stop the single-celled fungus from responding to an antidepressant in unexpected ways. A new study finds that the antidepressant piles up in yeast cells, distorting normally curved membranes and triggering the cells to start eating themselves.

These single cells are far removed from the vastly more complex human brain. But studying how drugs affect yeast might help scientists better understand how antidepressants work, says study coauthor and evolutionary pharmacologist Ethan Perlstein of Princeton University.

Perlstein and his colleagues focused on sertraline, sold as Zoloft, part of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These drugs are thought to boost mood by increasing the levels of serotonin floating around between nerve cells. Sertraline latches on to a molecule called the ser

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