The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Research Article

Norepinephrine transporter occupancy in the human brain after oral administration of quetiapine XR

Svante Nyberga1a2 c1, Aurelija Jucaitea1, Akihiro Takanoa2, Matts Kågedala1, Zsolt Cselényia1, Christer Halldina2 and Lars Fardea1a2

a1 AstraZeneca R&D, Södertälje, Sweden

a2 Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


Quetiapine, originally developed as an antipsychotic, demonstrates efficacy in clinical studies of schizophrenia, bipolar mania and depression, major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. This broad spectrum of efficacy was not predicted from the preclinical pharmacology of quetiapine. Binding studies in vitro show that quetiapine and its major active human metabolite, norquetiapine, have moderate to high affinity for dopamine D2 and serotonin 5-HT2A receptors, while norquetiapine alone has high affinity for the norepinephrine transporter (NET). This positron emission tomography (PET) study measured NET occupancy in human subjects treated with extended-release quetiapine (quetiapine XR) at doses relevant in the treatment of depression. PET measurements using the specific NET radioligand (S,S)-[18F]FMeNER-D2 were performed before and after quetiapine XR treatment at 150 and 300 mg/d for 6–8 d in nine healthy males (aged 21–33 yr). Regions of interest were defined for the thalamus, using the caudate as reference region. NET occupancy was calculated using a target:reference region ratio method. Plasma concentrations of quetiapine and norquetiapine were monitored during PET measurements. Following quetiapine XR treatment, the mean NET occupancy in the thalamus was 19 and 35%, respectively, at quetiapine XR doses of 150 and 300 mg/d. The estimated plasma concentration of norquetiapine corresponding to 50% NET occupancy was 161 ng/ml. This is the first demonstration of NET occupancy by an antipsychotic in the human brain. NET inhibition is accepted as a mechanism of antidepressant activity. NET occupancy may therefore contribute to the broad spectrum of efficacy of quetiapine.

(Received March 20 2013)

(Reviewed April 15 2013)

(Revised May 15 2013)

(Accepted May 20 2013)

(Online publication July 01 2013)

Key words

  • Norepinephrine transporter;
  • norquetiapine;
  • PET;
  • quetiapine


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr S. Nyberg, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Tel.: +46 732 67 07 14 Fax: +46 (8) 5177 17 53 Email: