GZ-11608, a vesicular monoamine transporter-2 inhibitor, decreases the neurochemical and behavioral effects of methamphetamine

Na Ra Lee, Guangrong Zheng, Markos Leggas, Venumadhav Janganati, Justin R. Nickell, Peter A. Crooks, Michael T. Bardo, Linda P. Dwoskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Despite escalating methamphetamine use and high relapse rates, pharmacotherapeutics for methamphetamine use disorders are not available. Our iterative drug discovery program had found that R-N-(1,2-dihydroxypropyl)-2,6-cis-di-(4-methoxyphenethyl)piperidine hydrochloride (GZ-793A), a selective vesicular monoamine transporter-2 (VMAT2) inhibitor, specifically decreased methamphetamine’s behavioral effects. However, GZ-793A inhibited human-ether-a-go-go-related gene (hERG) channels, suggesting cardiotoxicity and prohibiting clinical development. The current study determined if replacement of GZ-793A’s piperidine ring with a phenylalkyl group to yield S-3-(4-methoxyphenyl)-N-(1-phenylpropan-2-yl)propan-1-amine (GZ-11608) diminished hERG interaction while retaining pharmacological efficacy. VMAT2 inhibition, target selectivity, and mechanism of GZ-11608-induced inhibition of methamphetamine-evoked vesicular dopamine release were determined. We used GZ-11608 doses that decreased methamphetamine-sensitized activity to evaluate the potential exacerbation of methamphetamine-induced dopaminergic neurotoxicity. GZ-11608-induced decreases in methamphetamine reinforcement and abuse liability were determined using self-administration, reinstatement, and substitution assays. Results show that GZ-11608 exhibited high affinity (Ki 5 25 nM) and selectivity (92–1180-fold) for VMAT2 over nicotinic receptors, dopamine transporter, and hERG, suggesting low side-effects. GZ-11608 (EC50 5 620 nM) released vesicular dopamine 25-fold less potently than it inhibited VMAT2 dopamine uptake. GZ-11608 competitively inhibited methamphetamine-evoked vesicular dopamine release (Schild regression slope 5 0.9 6 0.13). GZ-11608 decreased methamphetamine sensitization without altering striatal dopamine content or exacerbating methamphetamine-induced dopamine depletion, revealing efficacy without neurotoxicity. GZ-11608 exhibited linear pharmacokinetics and rapid brain penetration. GZ-11608 decreased methamphetamine self-administration, and this effect was not surmounted by increasing methamphetamine unit doses. GZ-11608 reduced cue- and methamphetamine-induced reinstatement, suggesting potential to prevent relapse. GZ-11608 neither served as a reinforcer nor substituted for methamphetamine, suggesting low abuse liability. Thus, GZ-11608, a potent and selective VMAT2 inhibitor, shows promise as a therapeutic for methamphetamine use disorder. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT GZ-11608 is a potent and selective vesicular monoamine transporter-2 inhibitor that decreases methamphetamine-induced dopamine release from isolated synaptic vesicles from brain dopaminergic neurons. Results from behavioral studies show that GZ-11608 specifically decreases methamphetamine-sensitized locomotor activity, methamphetamine self-administration, and reinstatement of methamphetamine-seeking behavior, without exhibiting abuse liability. Tolerance does not develop to the efficacy of GZ-11608 to decrease the behavioral effects of methamphetamine. In conclusion, GZ-11608 is an outstanding lead in our search for a therapeutic to treat methamphetamine use disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-543
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported with funding from the National Institutes of Health Grants U01 DA013519, U01 DA043908, and UL1 TR001998. https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.119.258699. s This article has supplemental material available at jpet.aspetjournals.org.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapy. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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