Psychotropic drugs have contrasting skeletal effects that are independent of their effects on physical activity levels Academic Article uri icon


  • Popular psychotropic drugs, like the antidepressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and the mood stabilizer lithium, may have skeletal effects. In particular, preclinical observations suggest a direct negative effect of SSRIs on the skeleton. A potential caveat in studies of the skeletal effects of psychotropic drugs is the hypoactive (skeletal unloading) phenotype they induce. The aim of this study was to investigate the contribution of physical inactivity to the skeletal effects of psychotropic drugs by studying bone changes in cage control and tail suspended mice treated with either vehicle, SSRI, TCA or lithium. Tail suspension was used to control for drug differences on physical activity levels by normalizing skeletal loading between groups. The psychotropic drugs were found to have contrasting skeletal effects which were independent of drug effects on animal physical activity levels. The latter was evident by an absence of statistical interactions between the activity and drug groups. Pharmacological inhibition of the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) transporter (5-HTT) using a SSRI reduced in vivo gains in lower extremity BMD, and negatively altered ex vivo measures of femoral and spinal bone density, architecture and mechanical properties. These effects were mediated by a decrease in bone formation without a change in bone resorption suggesting that the SSRI had anti-anabolic skeletal effects. In contrast, glycogen synthase kinase-3[beta] (GSK-3[beta]) inhibition using lithium had anabolic effects improving in vivo gains in BMD via an increase in bone formation, while TCA-mediated inhibition of the norepinephrine transporter had minimal skeletal effect. The observed negative skeletal effect of 5-HTT inhibition, combined with recent findings of direct and indirect effects of 5-HT on bone formation, are of interest given the frequent prescription of SSRIs for the treatment of depression and other affective disorders. Likewise, the anabolic effect of GSK-3[beta] inhibition using lithium reconfirms the importance of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling in the skeleton and it's targeting by recent drug discovery efforts. In conclusion, the current study demonstrates that different psychotropic drugs with differing underlying mechanisms of action have contrasting skeletal effects and that these effects do not result indirectly via the generation of animal physical inactivity.


  • Warden, Stuart J
  • Hassett, Sean M
  • Bond, Julie L
  • Rydberg, Johanna
  • Grogg, Jamie D
  • Hilles, Erin L
  • Bogenschutz, Elizabeth D
  • Smith, Heather D
  • Fuchs, Robyn K
  • Bliziotes, M Michael
  • Turner, Charles H

publication date

  • April 2010

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