Trazodone (TRZ) is a commonly prescribed antidepressant with significant off-label use for insomnia. A recent drug screening revealed that TRZ interferes with sterol biosynthesis, causing elevated levels of sterol precursor 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC). Recognizing the well-documented, disruptive effect of 7-DHC on brain development, we designed a study to analyze TRZ effects during pregnancy. Utilizing an in vivo model and human biomaterial, our studies were designed to also account for drug interactions with maternal or offspring Dhcr7 genotype. In a maternal exposure model, we found that TRZ treatment increased 7-DHC and decreased desmosterol levels in brain tissue in newborn pups. We also observed interactions between Dhcr7 mutations and maternal TRZ exposure, giving rise to the most elevated toxic oxysterols in brains of Dhcr7+/− pups with maternal TRZ exposure, independently of the maternal Dhcr7 genotype. Therefore, TRZ use during pregnancy might be a risk factor for in utero development of a neurodevelopmental disorder, especially when the unborn child is of DHCR7+/− genotype. The effects of TRZ on 7-DHC was corroborated in human serum samples. We analyzed sterols and TRZ levels in individuals with TRZ prescriptions and found that circulating TRZ levels correlated highly with 7-DHC. The abundance of off-label use and high prescription rates of TRZ might represent a risk for the development of DHCR7 heterozygous fetuses. Thus, TRZ use during pregnancy is potentially a serious public health concern.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry