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1.  “Deconstruction” of the Abused Synthetic Cathinone Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and an Examination of Effects at the Human Dopamine Transporter 
ACS Chemical Neuroscience  2013;4(12):1524-1529.
Synthetic cathinones, β-keto analogues of amphetamine (or, more correctly, of phenylalkylamines), represent a new and growing class of abused substances. Several such analogues have been demonstrated to act as dopamine (DA) releasing agents. Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) was the first synthetic cathinone shown to act as a cocaine-like DA reuptake inhibitor. MDPV and seven deconstructed analogues were examined to determine which of MDPV’s structural features account(s) for uptake inhibition. In voltage-clamped (−60 mV) Xenopus oocytes transfected with the human DA transporter (hDAT), all analogues elicited inhibitor-like behavior shown as hDAT-mediated outward currents. Using hDAT-expressing mammalian cells we determined the affinities of MDPV and its analogues to inhibit uptake of [3H]DA by hDAT that varied over a broad range (IC50 values ca. 135 to >25 000 nM). The methylenedioxy group of MDPV made a minimal contribution to affinity, the carbonyl group and a tertiary amine are more important, and the extended α-alkyl group seems most important. Either a tertiary amine, or the extended α-alkyl group (but not both), are required for the potent nature of MDPV as an hDAT inhibitor.
PMCID: PMC3867964  PMID: 24116392
bk-Amphetamines; β-keto amphetamines; β-ketophenylalkylamines; hDAT; electrophysiology; “bath salts”; drug abuse
2.  Mephedrone and Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), Major Constituents of Bath Salts, Produce Opposite Effects at the Human Dopamine Transporter* 
Psychopharmacology  2013;227(3):10.1007/s00213-013-2967-2.
Psychoactive ‘bath salts’ represents a relatively new drug of abuse combination that was placed in Schedule I in October 2011. Two common ingredients of ‘bath salts’ include the cathinone analogs: mephedrone and methylenedioxy-pyrovalerone (MDPV). The mechanism of action of these synthetic cathinone analogs has not been well investigated.
Materials and methods
Because cathinone and methcathinone are known to act as releasing agents at the human dopamine transporter (hDAT), mephedrone and MDPV were investigated at hDAT expressed in Xenopus oocytes.
Whereas mephedrone was found to have the signature of a dopamine releasing agent similar to methamphetamine or methcathinone, MDPV behaved as a cocaine-like reuptake inhibitor of dopamine.
Mephedrone and MDPV produce opposite electrophysiological signatures through hDAT expressed in oocytes. Implications are that the combination (as found in ‘bath salts’) might produce effects similar to a combination of methamphetamine and cocaine.
PMCID: PMC3881434  PMID: 23371489
Synthetic cathinones; Cocaine; Dopamine transporter; hDAT; Mephedrone; Methamphetamine; Methcathinone; Methylenedioxypyrovalerone; Drug abuse
3.  Pharmacological Properties and Discriminative Stimulus Effects of a Novel and Selective 5-HT2 Receptor Agonist AL-38022A [(S)-2-(8,9-dihydro-7H-pyrano[2,3-g]indazol-1-yl)-1-methylethylamine] 
AL-38022A is a novel synthetic serotonergic (5-HT) ligand that exhibited high affinity for each of the 5-HT2 receptor subtypes (Ki ≤ 2.2 nM), but a significantly lower (>100-fold less) affinity for other 5-HT receptors. In addition, AL-38022A displayed a very low affinity for a broad array of other receptors, neurotransmitter transport sites, ion channels, and second messenger elements, making it a relatively selective agent. AL-38022A potently stimulated functional responses via native and cloned rat (EC50 range: 1.9 – 22.5 nM) and human (EC50 range: 0.5 – 2.2 nM) 5-HT2 receptor subtypes including [Ca2+]i mobilization and tissue contractions with apparently similar potencies and intrinsic activities and was a full agonist at all 5-HT2 receptor subtypes. The CNS activity of AL-38022A was assessed by evaluating its discriminative stimulus effects in both a rat and a monkey drug discrimination paradigm using DOM as the training drug. AL-38022A fully generalized to the DOM stimulus in each of these studies; in monkeys MDL 100907 antagonized both DOM and AL-38022A. The pharmacological profile of AL-38022A suggests that it could be a useful tool in defining 5-HT2 receptor signaling and receptor characterization where 5-HT may function as a neurotransmitter.
PMCID: PMC3763814  PMID: 18718483
Drug discrimination; 5-HT2 receptor; R-DOI; DOM; MDL 100907; rat; monkey
4.  Synthesis of desformylflustrabromine and its evaluation as an α4β2 and α7 nACh receptor modulator 
Desformylflustrabromine (dFBr; 1) and desformylflustrabromine-B (dFBr-B; 2) have been previously isolated from natural sources, and the former has been demonstrated to be a novel and selective positive allosteric modulator of α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine (nACh) receptors. The present study describes the synthesis of water-soluble salts of 1 and 2, and confirms and further investigates the actions of 1 and 2 using two-electrode voltage clamp recordings.
PMCID: PMC3633077  PMID: 17604168
Nicotinic cholinergic receptors; Allosteric modulators
5.  Deconstruction of the α4β2 Nicotinic Acetylchloine (nACh) Receptor Positive Allosteric Modulator des-Formylflustrabromine (dFBr) 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(20):7259-7267.
des -Formylflustrabromine (dFBr; 1), perhaps the first selective positive allosteric modulator of α4β2 neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine (nACh) receptors, was deconstructed to determine which structural features contribute to its actions on receptors expressed in Xenopus ooycytes using 2-electrode voltage clamp techniques. Although the intact structure of 1 was found optimal, several deconstructed analogs retained activity. Neither the 6-bromo substituent nor the entire 2-position chain is required for activity. In particular, reduction of the olefinic side chain of 1, as seen with 6, not only resulted in retention of activity/potency but in enhanced selectivity for α4β2 versus α7 nACh receptors. Pharmacophoric features for the allosteric modulation of α4β2 nACh receptors by 1 were identified.
PMCID: PMC3200116  PMID: 21905680
6.  Effect of 8-Hydroxy-2-(N,N-di-n-propylamino)tetralin and MDMA on the Discriminative Stimulus Effects of the Classical Hallucinogen DOM in Rats 
Co-administration of the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor agonist (±)8-hydroxy-2-(N,N-di-n-propylamino) tetralin [(±)8-OH DPAT] enhances the discriminative stimulus effects of the classical hallucinogen 1-(2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylphenyl)-2-aminopropane (DOM) in rats. In the present investigation, using Sprague-Dawley rats trained to discriminate DOM (1.0 mg/kg) from saline vehicle under a VI-15s schedule of reinforcement, it was shown that the stimulus-enhancing actions of 8-OH DPAT are related more to its R(+)-isomer than to its S(−)-enantiomer, and that the (±)- and R(+)8-OH DPAT-induced effects are antagonized by the 5-HT1A receptor antagonist NAN-190. (±)8-OH DPAT and its isomers substitute in rats trained to discriminate the designer drug N-methyl-1-(3,4-methylenedioxyphenyl)-2-aminopropane (MDMA; methylenedioxymethamphetamine) from vehicle indicating some similarity of effect. On this basis, it was hypothesized that MDMA might be capable of enhancing the DOM stimulus. Co-administration of MDMA with low (i.e., 0.1 and 0.3 mg/kg) doses of DOM resulted in greater DOM-appropriate responding than engendered by administration of DOM alone. As such, the present findings are the first to demonstrate an MDMA-induced enhancing effect on the discriminative stimulus actions of a classical hallucinogen. The results also suggest that a 5-HT1A serotonin receptor mechanism might contribute to this phenomenon.
PMCID: PMC3236028  PMID: 18778728
DOM; MDMA; (±)8-OH DPAT; R(+)8-OH DPAT; S(−)8-OH DPAT; NAN-190; Methylenedioxymethamphetamine; Hallucinogens; Drug discrimination
7.  Potential Modes of Interaction of 9-Aminomethyl-9,10-dihydroanthracene (AMDA) Derivatives with the 5-HT2A Receptor: A Ligand Structure-Affinity Relationship, Receptor Mutagenesis and Receptor Modeling Investigation⊕ 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(21):6808-6828.
The effects of 3-position substitution of 9-aminomethyl-9,10-dihydroanthracene (AMDA) on 5-HT2A receptor affinity were determined and compared to a parallel series of DOB-like 1-(2,5-dimethoxyphenyl)-2-aminopropanes substituted at the 4-position. The results were interpreted within the context of 5-HT2A receptor models that suggest that members of the DOB-like series can bind to the receptor in two distinct modes that correlate with the compounds’ functional activity. Automated ligand docking and molecular dynamics suggest that all of the AMDA derivatives, the parent of which is a 5-HT2A antagonist, bind in a fashion analogous to that for the sterically demanding antagonist DOB-like compounds. The failure of the F3406.52L mutation to adversely affect the affinity of AMDA and the 3-bromo derivative is consistent with the proposed modes of orientation. Evaluation of ligand-receptor complex models suggest that a valine/threonine exchange between the 5-HT2A and D2 receptors may be the origin of selectivity for AMDA and two substituted derivatives.
PMCID: PMC3088499  PMID: 18847250
Serotonin receptors; 5-HT2A; 9-Aminomethyl-9; 10-dihydroanthracene; AMDA; Phenylethylamines; Homology Modeling; Structure-Affinity Relationship; Structure-Activity Relationship
8.  MDMA (N-methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine) and its Stereoisomers: Similarities and Differences in Behavioral Effects in an Automated Activity Apparatus in Mice 
Racemic MDMA (0.3 – 30 mg/kg), S(+)-MDMA (0.3 – 30 mg/kg), R(-)-MDMA (0.3 – 50 mg/kg) and saline vehicle (10 ml/kg) were comprehensively evaluated in fully automated and computer-integrated activity chambers, which were designed for mice, and provided a detailed analysis of the frequency, location, and/or duration of 18 different activities. The results indicated that MDMA and its isomers produced stimulation of motor actions, with S(+)-MDMA and (±)-MDMA usually being more potent than R(-)-MDMA in measures such as movement (time, distance, velocity), margin distance, rotation (clockwise and counterclockwise), and retraced activities. Interestingly, racemic MDMA appeared to exert a greater than expected potency and/or an enhanced effect on measures such as movement episodes, center actions (entries and distance), clockwise rotations, and jumps; actions that might be explained by additive or synergistic (i.e. potentiation) effects of the stereoisomers. In other measures, the enantiomers displayed different effects: S(+)-MDMA produced a preference to induce counterclockwise (versus clockwise) rotations, and each isomer exerted a different profile of effect on vertical activities and jumps. Furthermore, each isomer of MDMA appeared to attenuate the effect of its opposite enantiomer on some behaviors; antagonism effects that were surmised from a lack of expected activities by racemic MDMA. S(+)-MDMA (but not R(-)-MDMA), for example, produced an increase in vertical entries (rearing) and a preference to increase counterclockwise (versus clockwise) rotations; (±)-MDMA also should have induced such effects but did not. Apparently, R(-)-MDMA, when combined with S(+)-MDMA to form (±)-MDMA, prevented the appearance of those increases (from control) in activities. Similarly, R(-)-MDMA (but not S(+)-MDMA) produced increases in episodes (i.e. jumps) and vertical distance that racemic MDMA also should have, but were not, exhibited. Evidently, the presence of S(+)-MDMA in the racemic mixture inhibited the appearance of those increases (from control) in behavior. Taken together, the various and complex effects of MDMA and its stereoisomers are noted and a strategy is suggested for future studies that stresses the importance of steric effects and interplay, probable interaction(s) with various neurotransmitters, and interaction(s) with the particular behavioral or biological event (or action) being measured.
PMCID: PMC2994347  PMID: 17904622
Behavior; Designer drug; Drug abuse; Ecstasy; Enantiomers; MDMA; Optical isomers
9.  Predicting new molecular targets for known drugs 
Nature  2009;462(7270):175-181.
Whereas drugs are intended to be selective, at least some bind to several physiologic targets, explaining both side effects and efficacy. As many drug-target combinations exist, it would be useful to explore possible interactions computationally. Here, we compared 3,665 FDA-approved and investigational drugs against hundreds of targets, defining each target by its ligands. Chemical similarities between drugs and ligand sets predicted thousands of unanticipated associations. Thirty were tested experimentally, including the antagonism of the β1 receptor by the transporter inhibitor Prozac, the inhibition of the 5-HT transporter by the ion channel drug Vadilex, and antagonism of the histamine H4 receptor by the enzyme inhibitor Rescriptor. Overall, 23 new drug-target associations were confirmed, five of which were potent (< 100 nM). The physiological relevance of one such, the drug DMT on serotonergic receptors, was confirmed in a knock-out mouse. The chemical similarity approach is systematic and comprehensive, and may suggest side-effects and new indications for many drugs.
PMCID: PMC2784146  PMID: 19881490
10.  N-Methyl-1-(4-methoxyphenyl)-2-aminopropane (PMMA) and N-Methyl-1-(3,4-methylenedioxyphenyl)-2-aminopropane (MDMA) Produce Nonidentical Discriminative Stimuli in Rats 
N-Methyl-1-(3,4-methylenedioxyphenyl)-2-aminopropane (methylenedioxy- methamphetamine, MDMA, Ecstasy) and its structurally abbreviated congener N-methyl-1-(4-methoxyphenyl)-2-aminopropane (para-methoxymethamphetamine, PMMA) are chemically related designer drugs, and PMMA is sometimes sold on the clandestine market as a substitute for MDMA. Prior drug discrimination studies have found that MDMA and PMMA substitute for one another suggesting that they produce similar discriminative stimulus effects in rats. However, there also are some indications that the two agents produce distinct stimulus effects. In this study, further comparisons were made between the stimulus effects of these two agents. Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to discriminate either 1.25 mg/kg of PMMA or 1.5 mg/kg of MDMA from saline vehicle in a two-lever operant paradigm. A structure-activity comparison revealed that MDMA and PMMA behave similarly upon homologation of their terminal amine substituents. In contrast, the PMMA stimulus, unlike an MDMA stimulus, failed to generalize completely to the psychostimulant cocaine, 8-hydroxy-2-(N, N-di-n-propylamino)tetralin (8-OH DPAT), and R(−)-1-(3-methoxyphenyl)-2-aminopropane [R(−)MMA]. In an additional group of animals, a (+)amphetamine stimulus partially generalized to R(−)MMA. Taken together, the results argue and re-emphasize the conclusion that the stimulus effects produced by MDMA and PMMA are similar, but non-identical, and that PMMA is the less “stimulant-like” of the two.
PMCID: PMC2709734  PMID: 17307247
MDMA; PMMA; Cocaine; 8-OH DPAT; N-Ethyl PMA (PMEA); N-Propyl PMA (PMPA); R(−)MMA; S(+)MMA
11.  α -Ethyltryptamine (α-ET) As A Discriminative Stimulus in Rats† 
α-Ethyltryptamine (etryptamine, α-ET) is a drug of abuse that first appeared on the clandestine market in the mid 1980s. Its pharmacological actions are poorly understood. In this investigation, it is reported for the first time that α-ET serves as a training drug in drug discrimination studies. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to discriminate (30-min pretreatment time) 2.5 mg/kg of α-ET (ED50 = 1.3 mg/kg) from saline vehicle using a standard two-lever operant paradigm and a VI-15s schedule of reinforcement for appetitive reward. Once established, the α-ET stimulus was shown to have an onset to action of 30 min and a duration of effect of at least 4 hours. In tests of stimulus generalization (substitution), the α-ET stimulus generalized to S(−)α-ET (ED50 = 1.6 mg/kg) and R(+)α-ET (ED50 = 1.3 mg/kg). Tests of stimulus generalization were also conducted with prototypical phenylisopropylamines: (+)amphetamine, 1-(2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylphenyl)-2-aminopropane (DOM), and N-methyl-1-(4-methoxyphenyl)-2-aminopropane (PMMA). The α-ET stimulus generalized to DOM (ED50 = 0.4 mg/kg) and PMMA (ED50 = 0.7 mg/kg), but only partially generalized (ca. 40% maximal drug-appropriate responding) to (+)amphetamine. The results suggest that α-ET produces a complex stimulus.
PMCID: PMC2565776  PMID: 17112572
α-Ethyltryptamine; α-ET; (+)α-ET; (−)α-ET; DOM; PMMA; Amphetamine; Drug discrimination

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