Metabolic activation of the antidepressant tianeptine. II. In vivo
covalent binding and toxicological studies at sublethal doses

Letteron P, Labbe G, Descatoire V, Degott C,
Loeper J, Tinel M, Larrey D, Pessayre D.
Unite de Recherches de Physiopathologie Hepatique (INSERM U 24),
Hopital Beaujon, Clichy, France.
Biochem Pharmacol. 1989 Oct 1;38(19):3247-51.


Administration of [14C]tianeptine (0.5 mmol/kg i.p.) to non-pretreated hamsters resulted in the in vivo covalent binding of [14C]tianeptine metabolites to liver, lung and kidney proteins; this very high dose (360-fold the human therapeutic dose) depleted hepatic glutathione by 60%, and increased SGPT activity 5-fold. Lower doses (0.25 and 0.125 mmol/kg) depleted hepatic glutathione to a lesser extent and did not increase SGPT activity. Pretreatment of hamsters with piperonyl butoxide decreased in vivo covalent binding to liver proteins, and prevented the increase in SGPT activity after administration of tianeptine (0.5 mmol/kg i.p.). In contrast, pretreatment of hamsters with dexamethasone increased in vivo covalent binding to liver proteins, and increased SGPT activity after administration of tianeptine (0.5 mmol/kg i.p.). Nevertheless, liver cell necrosis was histologically absent 24 hr after the administration of tianeptine (0.5 mmol/kg i.p.) to non-pretreated or dexamethasone-pretreated hamsters. In vivo covalent binding to liver proteins also occurred in mice and rats, being increased by 100% in dexamethasone-pretreated animals. In vivo covalent binding to liver proteins was similar in untreated female Dark Agouti rats and in female Sprague-Dawley rats. These results show that tianeptine is transformed in vivo by cytochrome P-450, including glucocorticoid-inducible isoenzymes, into chemically reactive metabolites that covalently bind to tissue proteins. The metabolites, however, exhibit no direct hepatotoxic potential in hamsters below the sublethal dose of 0.5 mmol/kg i.p. The predictive value of this study regarding possible idiosyncratic and immunoallergic reactions in humans remains unknown.
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