Neuroimaging of histamine H1-receptor occupancy in human brain by positron emission tomography (PET): A comparative study of ebastine, a second-generation antihistamine, and (+)-chlorpheniramine, a classical antihistamine


Kazuhiko Yanai, Department of Pharmacology, Tohoku University School of Medicine, 2–1 Seiryo-cho, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980–8575, Japan. Fax: + 81-22-717-8208; E-mail:


Aims  Sedation induced by antihistamines is widely recognized to be caused by their penetration through the blood–brain-barrier and the consequent occupation of brain histamine H1-receptors. We previously studied the mechanism of sedation caused by antihistamines using positron emission tomography (PET). Recently, we revealed the nonsedative characteristic of ebastine, a second-generation antihistamine, with cognitive performance tests. In the present study, H1-receptor occupation by ebastine was examined in the human brain using PET.

Methods  Ebastine 10 mg and (+)-chlorpheniramine 2 or 6 mg were orally given to healthy male volunteers. PET scans with [11C]-doxepin, a potent H1-receptor antagonist, were conducted near tmax of respective drugs. Other volunteers in the control group also received PET scans. The binding potential of doxepin (BP=Bmax/Kd) for available brain H1-receptors was imaged on a voxel-by-voxel basis through graphical analysis. By setting regions of interest, the H1-receptor occupancy of drugs was calculated in several H1-receptor rich regions.

Results  Brain distribution of radioactivity after ebastine treatment was similar to that without any drugs. However, after the oral administration of 2 mg (+)-chlorpheniramine, the level was lower than after ebastine and nondrug treatments. Graphical analysis followed by statistical parametric mapping (SPM96) revealed that H1-receptor rich regions such as cortices, cingulate gyrus and thalamus were regions where the BPs after ebastine were significantly higher than after (+)-chlorpheniramine (2 mg). H1-receptor occupancies in cortex were approximately 10% by ebastine and ≥50% by either dose of (+)-chlorpheniramine (95% confidence interval for difference in the mean receptor occupancies: 27%, 54% for 2 mg and 35%, 62% for 6 mg vs ebastine, respectively). Receptor occupancies increased with increasing plasma concentration of (+)-chlorpheniramine, but not with concentration of carebastine, an active metabolite of ebastine.

Conclusions  Ebastine (10 mg orally) causes brain histamine H1-receptor occupation of approximately 10%, consistent with its lower incidence of sedative effect, whereas (+)-chlorpheniramine occupied about 50% of brain H1-receptors even at a low but sedative dose of 2 mg; occupancy of (+)-chlorpheniramine was correlated with plasma (+)-chlorpheniramine concentration.