Foundations | The Genesis of Prozac

Fifty-plus years ago, Julius Axelrod and his colleagues discovered the phenomenona of neurotransmitter inactivation by reuptake into the nerve terminal, a finding that led to the development of antidepressant drugs. By increasing the neurotransmitter amount in the synaptic cleft, this allowed greater amounts of the neurotransmitter to act on postsynaptic receptors more intensely. "This is an example of basic important research that led to the rapid development of more effective drugs to treat depression," says Axelrod.

This graph, which Axelrod sketched in the 1960s, shows the action of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine (noradrenaline) acting on the ß adrenergic receptor on the pineal gland to stimulate the synthesis of melatonin.

Axelrod, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his work, is now 91; he stopped conducting research four years ago. "Yes, I miss it," he says.

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