Despite their well-established efficacy, indications for monoamine oxidase inhibitors are currently very limited, due to their significant potential for adverse effects, many interactions, and the availability of newer and safer (although not necessarily more efficacious) antidepressants. Tranylcypromine is indicated primarily for the treatment of major depressive disorder, and can also be used in the management of various mood and anxiety disorders, typically as a last resort after conventional antidepressants have been tried without success.
Tranylcypromine is typically considered to have fewer side effects than the hydrazines, such as phenelzine (Nardil).
At least one case of the abuse of tranylcypromine has been noted. Sequelae included the periodic elimination of REM sleep and substantially elevated nocturnal muscle tone. Attempts to discontinue the medication resulted in nightmares accompanied by prompt and grossly excessive nocturnal REM sleep, and narcolepsy.
Tranylcypromine has also been shown to inhibit the histone demethylase, BHC110/LSD1. Tranylcypromine inhibits this enzyme with an IC50 < 2 µM, thus acting as a small molecule inhibitor of histone demethylation with an effect to derepress the transcriptional activity of BHC110/LSD1 target genes.
Tranylcypromine was originally developed as an analog of amphetamine. Although it was first synthesized in 1948, its MAOI action was not discovered until 1959. Precisely because tranylcypromine was not, like isoniazid and iproniazid, a hydrazine derivative, its clinical interest increased enormously, as it was thought it might have a more acceptable therapeutic index than previous MAOIs.
The drug was introduced by Smith, Kline and French in the United Kingdom in 1960, and approved in the United States in 1961. It was withdrawn from the market in February 1964 due to a number of patient deaths involving hypertensive crises with intracranial bleeding. However, it was reintroduced later that year with more limited indications and specific warnings of the risks.
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