Anticonvulsant and proconvulsant effects of tramadol, its enantiomers and its M1 metabolite in the rat kindling model of epilepsy
Potschka H, Friderichs E, Loscher W
Department of Pharmacology,
Toxicology and Pharmacy,
School of Veterinary Medicine,
Hannover, Germany.
Department of Pharmacology,
Grunenthal GmbH,
Aachen, Germany.
Br J Pharmacol 2000 Sep 2; 131(2):203-212


The centrally acting analgesic tramadol has recently been reported to cause seizures at re-commended dosages in patients, whereas animal experiments had indicated that seizures only occur in high, toxic doses. Tramadol has a dual mechanism of action that includes weak agonistic effects at the mu-opioid receptor as well as inhibition of monoamine (serotonin, norepinephrine) re-uptake. Its major (M1) metabolite mono-O:-desmethyltramadol, which is rapidly formed in vivo, has a markedly higher affinity for mu receptors and may thus contribute to the effects of the parent compound. Furthermore, the pharmacological effects of tramadol appear to be related to the different, but complementary and interactive pharmacologies of its enantiomers. In the present study, we evaluated (+/-)-tramadol, its enantiomers, and its M1 metabolite ((+)-enantiomer) in the amygdala kindling model of epilepsy in rats. Adverse effects determined in kindled rats were compared to those in nonkindled rats. At doses within the analgesic range, (+/-)-tramadol and its enantiomers induced anticonvulsant effects in kindled rats. However, at only slightly higher doses seizures occurred. With (+/-)-tramadol, generalized seizures were observed at 30 mg kg(-1) in most kindled but not in nonkindled rats. The (-)-enantiomer induced myoclonic seizures at 30 mg kg(-1) in most kindled but not in nonkindled rats, although myoclonic seizure activity was observed in some nonkindled rats at 10 or 20 mg kg(-1). Seizures were also observed after the (+)-enantiomer and the (+)-enantiomer of the M1 metabolite, but experiments with higher doses of these compounds were limited by marked respiratory depression. The data demonstrate that kindling enhances the susceptibility of rats to convulsant adverse effects of tramadol and its enantiomers, indicating that a preexisting lowered seizure threshold increases the risk of tramadol-induced seizures.
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