Inhibition of N-type calcium ion channels by tricyclic antidepressants – experimental and theoretical justification for their use for neuropathic pain†
A number of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are commonly prescribed off-label for the treatment of neuropathic pain. The blockade of neuronal calcium ion channels is often invoked to partially explain the analgesic activity of TCAs, but there has been very limited experimental or theoretical evidence reported to support this assertion. The N-type calcium ion channel (CaV2.2) is a well-established target for the treatment of neuropathic pain and in this study a series of eleven TCAs and two closely related drugs were shown to be moderately effective inhibitors of this channel when endogenously expressed in the SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell line. A homology model of the channel, which matches closely a recently reported Cryo-EM structure, was used to investigate via docking and molecular dynamics experiments the possible mode of inhibition of CaV2.2 channels by TCAs. Two closely related binding modes, that occur in the channel cavity that exists between the selectivity filter and the internal gate, were identified. The TCAs are predicted to position themselves such that their ammonium side chains interfere with the selectivity filter, with some, such as amitriptyline, also appearing to hinder the channel's ability to open. This study provides the most comprehensive evidence to date that supports the notion that the blockade of neuronal calcium ion channels by TCAs is at least partially responsible for their analgesic effect.