The serotonin transporter protein (SERT) has been the target for the development of several modern antidepressants with an objective of achieving selectivity over other monoamine transporters, thereby minimising side effects observed in the older generation of tricyclic antidepressants. The clinical selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been shown to be among the most effective therapies in the treatment of depression. However they have clinical disadvantages over other classes of antidepressant drugs such as slow onset of action nausea and sleep disruption. The negative feedback loop attributed to the presynaptic 5-HT1A receptors has been implicated in the “time lag” observed in many patients between the administration of the SSRI and its observed therapeutic action. In recent years the focus has been on developing compounds with dual affinity for serotonergic auto-receptors along with an inhibitory activity at SERT. These structurally diverse products promise to be the next generation of anti-depressant medicines. This review presents an analysis of the recently reported structural classes with SSRI activity and rationalises the unique relationship between their molecular properties and biological activities. Specific emphasis is placed on the development of molecular structures with dual serotonergic activity. Recent advances in the design and synthesis of single molecular entities possessing 5-HT reuptake inhibition together with 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, 5-HT1D, 5-HT2A, DAT, NET, α2-adrenoceptor and acetylcholinesterase antagonism are reviewed. The structural studies to identify proposed SERT binding sites together with the role of structure and ligand based design in the development of more effective SSRIs are summarised.
Keywords: Anti-depressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SERT pharmacophores, dual action serotonergic antidepressants
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