Atomoxetine, a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, reduces seizure-induced respiratory arrest

Publication date: August 2017Source:Epilepsy & Behavior, Volume 73
Author(s): Honghai Zhang, Haiting Zhao, Hua-Jun Feng
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is a devastating epilepsy complication, and no effective preventive strategies are currently available for this fatal disorder. Clinical and animal studies of SUDEP demonstrate that seizure-induced respiratory arrest (S-IRA) is the primary event leading to death after generalized seizures in many cases. Enhancing brain levels of serotonin reduces S-IRA in animal models relevant to SUDEP, including the DBA/1 mouse. Given that serotonin in the brain plays an important role in modulating respiration and arousal, these findings suggest that deficits in respiration and/or arousal may contribute to S-IRA. It is well known that norepinephrine is an important neurotransmitter that modulates respiration and arousal in the brain as well. Therefore, we hypothesized that enhancing noradrenergic neurotransmission suppresses S-IRA. To test this hypothesis, we examined the effect of atomoxetine, a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NRI), on S-IRA evoked by either acoustic stimulation or pentylenetetrazole in DBA/1 mice. We report the original observation that atomoxetine specifically suppresses S-IRA without altering the susceptibility to seizures evoked by acoustic stimulation, and atomoxetine also reduces S-IRA evoked by pentylenetetrazole in DBA/1 mice. Our data suggest that the noradrenergic signaling is importantly involved in S-IRA, and that atomoxetine, a medication widely used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is potentially useful to prevent SUDEP.