The interaction of imipramine with human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) results in a chemiluminescence (CL) response which has been attributed to the electronic excitation of the imipramine molecule resulting from a reaction of the drug with reactive oxygen species. In order to determine what portion of the tricyclic molecule is involved in this reaction, the interaction of other tricyclics with PMNs was monitored by chemiluminescence. It was observed that tricyclic antidepressants having a carbon atom at position 5 of the ring moiety (amitriptyline, for example) did not yield CL with either resting or zymosan-activated PMNs. In fact this group of compounds inhibited the zymosan-induced CL response. However, CL was observed, with both resting and metabolically-activated PMNs, from several tricyclics having a heterocyclic nitrogen at position 5. These included imipramine, desipramine, opipramol and iprindole. Chlorimipramine, which has a chlorine atom at position 3 of the ring system, failed to yield CL with resting or stimulated cells. Similarly, imipramine N-oxide failed to yield CL with resting cells, but enhanced CL was observed with zymosan-activated PMNs. On the basis of these observations it appears that some aspect of the ring moiety, other than just a heterocyclic nitrogen, facilitates a reaction between these molecules and reactive oxygen which culminates in the generation of CL.
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