Pharmacology of novel psychoactive substances

Rickli, Anna. Pharmacology of novel psychoactive substances. 2016, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Science.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_11747

Downloads: Statistics Overview


This PhD work consists of an in vitro and in vivo part. In the in vivo part, we investigated the role of dopamine in the acute clinical effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “ecstasy”) in healthy human subjects. The role of dopamine in the addictive effects of drug of abuse is well established, but whether it contributes to the acute psychotropic effects of MDMA is unclear.
In this pharmacological interaction study, we used the dopamine and weak norepinephrine transporter inhibitor bupropion (Stahl et al. 2004) as a pharmacological tool to block the MDMA-induced dopamine release and to study the role of dopamine in the effects of MDMA. We hypothesized that bupropion would decrease the subjective effects of MDMA to the extent that they depend on MDMA-induced release of dopamine.
We included 16 healthy human subjects in this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Bupropion pretreatment slightly increased MDMA plasma concentration and prolonged but not reduced the subjective effects contrary to our hypothesis. Additionally, bupropion reduced the MDMA-induced elevations in plasma norepinephrine concentrations and the heart rate response to MDMA.
These findings support a role for norepinephrine in the MDMA-induced cardiostimulant effects but no role for MDMA-induced transporter-mediated dopamine release in the elevated mood effects after MDMA administration. Possibly, most of the acute psychotropic effects of MDMA are mediated via transporter-mediated release of serotonin and norepinephrine as previously shown (Hysek et al. 2011, Hysek et al. 2012).
In the second and main part of this work we characterized the pharmacological profiles of novel psychoactive substances (NPS). Specifically, we studied whether and how potently NPS interacted with the human transporters for norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, stably expressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK293) cells. Additionally, we assessed binding affinity to the serotonin 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A, 5-HT2C-receptors and the activation potency and activation efficacy at 5-HT2A and 5-HT2B receptors. Furthermore, binding to alpha1A/2A-adrenergic, dopamine D1-3, histamine H1 receptors, as well as trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1) was also assessed.
The NPS studied in this project included para-4-halogenated amphetamine derivatives, which were shown to be relatively more serotonergic than their non-4-halogenated counterparts and pyrovaleronering-substituted cathinones, which were highly potent dopamine transporter inhibitors with a high risk for abuse.
Para-halogenated drugs (4-fluoroephedrine, 4-fluoroamphetamine, 4-fluoromethamphetamine, 4-fluoromethcathinone, and 4-bromomethcathinone) also released monoamines, similar to MDMA, whereas pyrovalerones were found to be pure uptake inhibitors. Most benzofurans were similar to MDMA but slightly more serotoninergic than MDMA and additionally activated the serotonin 5-HT2B receptor.
The last big group of NPS studied in this project, were novel hallucinogens, which predominantly interacted with the 5-HT2A receptor. This serotonin receptor subtype mediates the hallucinogenic and hallucinogenic-like visual effects of classic serotonergic hallucinogens (Vollenweider et al. 1998, Nichols 2004, Halberstadt et al. 2013, Halberstadt et al. 2014, Halberstadt 2015).
Compounds tested in this project included the benzodifuran 8-Bromo-2,3,6,7-benzo-dihydro-difuran-ethylamine (2C-B-FLY), 2C-drugs with their highly potent N-(2-methoxy)benzyl (NBOMe)-derivatives, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Interestingly, NBOMe derivatives displayed higher affinities at the 5-HT2A receptor than LSD, together with a high selectivity for 5-HT2A over the 5-HT1A receptor, contrary to LSD. NBOMes were partial 5-HT2A receptor agonists, similar to LSD. These novel drugs likely carry a high hallucinogenic potential when used recreationally by humans and the high binding to α1A-receptor (Ki < 1µM) may result in additional vasocontrictive and cardiovascular stimulant effects.
Taken together, this PhD contributed to the understanding of the role of dopamine in the effects of MDMA, an important recreational substances. Additionally, we characterized the in vitro pharmacology of many novel designer drugs, which will be helpful in the prediction of the clinical toxicological effects of these newly used recreational drugs.
Advisors:Krähenbühl, Stephan and Liechti, Matthias Emanuel and Huwyler, Jörg
Faculties and Departments:03 Faculty of Medicine > Bereich Medizinische Fächer (Klinik) > Klinische Pharmakologie > Klinische Pharmakologie (Krähenbühl)
03 Faculty of Medicine > Departement Klinische Forschung > Bereich Medizinische Fächer (Klinik) > Klinische Pharmakologie > Klinische Pharmakologie (Krähenbühl)
UniBasel Contributors:Krähenbühl, Stephan and Liechti, Matthias Emanuel and Huwyler, Jörg
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:11747
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:1 Online-Ressource (105 Seiten)
Identification Number:
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:22 Apr 2018 04:32
Deposited On:26 Aug 2016 08:23

Repository Staff Only: item control page