Backround & Aims: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one of the most prescribed classes of psychotropics. Even though the SSRI class consists of 6 molecules (citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine and sertraline), only fluoxetine was intensively studied for endocrine disruptive effects, while the other SSRIs received less attention. This study was designed to evaluate the estrogenic/antiestrogenic effect of fluoxetine, sertraline and paroxetine.

Materials and methods: The in vitro (anti)estrogenic activity was assessed using a firefly luciferase reporter construct in the T47D-KBluc breast cancer cell line. These cells express nuclear estrogen receptors that can activate the transcription of the luciferase reporter gene upon binding of estrogen receptor agonists.  

Results: All three compounds were found to interact with the estrogen receptor. Fluoxetine had dual properties, weak estrogenic at lower concentrations and antiestrogenic effect at higher concentrations. Sertraline shared the same properties with fluoxetine, but also increased the estradiol-mediated transcriptional activity. Paroxetine presented only one type of effect, the ability to increase the estradiol-mediated transcriptional activity.

 Conclusions: Overall, our results indicate a possible interaction of SSRIs with the estrogen receptor. As SSRIs are being used by all categories of population, including pregnant women or children, establishing whether they can affect the endocrine mediated mechanisms should be a priority.


fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, luciferase assay