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Minimolecule may explain how antidepressants work

Prozac increases levels of a microRNA

3:28pm, September 16, 2010

Scientists have uncovered a new chemical process that may explain how antidepressants like Prozac work. The newly found mechanism also suggests why the drugs take weeks to start helping and may one day point to new therapies for depression.

A team from Paris has found that fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac, increases the amount of a particular microRNA called miR-16 in the brain. A microRNA is a small piece of RNA that prevents the translation of messenger RNA into protein.

The miR-16 microRNA slows the formation of a cleaner-upper protein called the serotonin transporter. The protein clears away serotonin, a chemical that helps brain cells communicate and alleviates depression, from the space between brain cells.

With less of the cleaner-upper to gobble up serotonin in the brain, there’s more serotonin in the spaces between brain cells, and depression symptoms lessen for some patients. The results are published in the Sept. 17

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