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Concept: Receptor theory


Angiotensin-(1-7) [Ang-(1-7)] is a biologically active heptapeptide that may counterbalance the physiological actions of angiotensin II (Ang II) within the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). Here, we evaluated whether activation of the Mas receptor with the oral agonist, AVE 0991, would have renoprotective effects in a model of adriamycin (ADR)-induced nephropathy. We also evaluated whether the Mas receptor contributed for the protective effects of treatment with AT1 receptor blockers. ADR (10 mg/kg) induced significant renal injury and dysfunction that was maximal at day 14 after injection. Treatment with the Mas receptor agonist AVE 0991 improved renal function parameters, reduced urinary protein loss and attenuated histological changes. Renoprotection was associated with reduction in urinary levels of TGF-β. Similar renoprotection was observed after treatment with the AT1 receptor antagonist, Losartan. AT1 and Mas receptor mRNA levels dropped after ADR administration and treatment with losartan reestablished the expression of Mas receptor and increased the expression of ACE2. ADR-induced nephropathy was similar in wild type (Mas(+/+) ) and Mas knockout (Mas (-/-)) mice, suggesting there was no endogenous role for Mas receptor activation. However, treatment with Losartan was able to reduce renal injury only in Mas(+/+) , but not in Mas (-/-) mice. Therefore, these findings suggest that exogenous activation of the Mas receptor protects from ADR-induced nephropathy and contributes to the beneficial effects of AT1 receptor blockade. Medications which target specifically the ACE2/Ang-(1-7)/Mas axis may offer new therapeutic opportunities to treat human nephropathies.

Concepts: Physiology, Receptor antagonist, Agonist, Angiotensin, Renin-angiotensin system, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory, Angiotensin receptor


Although spinal neurons expressing BB2 bombesin receptors are suggested to be involved in itch transmission, their role in pathological itch remains unknown. Because itch is often observed in patients with herpes zoster, we examined the role of BB2 receptor-expressing spinal neurons in herpes-associated itch in mice. Transdermal inoculation of human herpes virus 1 on the midflank produced herpes zoster-like skin lesions and caused the mice to scratch (itch-related behavior) and lick (pain-related behavior) the affected skin. Ablation of BB2 receptor-expressing spinal neurons by intrathecal treatment with a bombesin-saporin conjugate decreased the scratching but not the licking. Intrathecal administration of the BB2 receptor antagonist Leu-ψ-(CH2NH)Leu-bombesin decreased BB2 receptor agonist GRP18-27-induced scratching in naive mice but not herpes-associated scratching. The present results suggest that BB2 receptor-expressing spinal neurons transmit herpes-associated itch by BB2 receptor-independent signaling.

Concepts: Receptor, Ligand, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory, Buprenorphine


The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) is a relay in the descending pain modulatory system and an important site of endocannabinoid modulation of pain. Endocannabinoids inhibit GABA release in the RVM but it is not known if this effect persists in chronic pain states. In the present studies, persistent inflammation induced by complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) increased GABAergic miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs). Endocannabinoid activation of cannabinoid (CB1) receptors known to inhibit presynaptic GABA release was significantly reduced in the RVM of CFA-treated rats compared to naïve rats. The reduction in CFA-treated rats correlated with decreased CB1 receptor protein expression and function in the RVM. Paradoxically, the non-selective CB1/CB2 receptor agonist WIN55,212 inhibited GABAergic mIPSCs in both naïve and CFA-treated rats. However, WIN55,212 inhibition was reversed by the CB1 receptor antagonist rimonabant in naïve rats but not in CFA-treated rats. WIN55,212-mediated inhibition in CFA-treated rats was blocked by the CB2 receptor-selective antagonist SR144528 indicating that CB2 receptor function in the RVM is increased during persistent inflammation. Consistent with these results, CB2 receptor agonists, AM1241 and GW405833 inhibited GABAergic mIPSC frequency only in CFA-treated rats and the inhibition was reversed with SR144258. When administered alone, SR144528 and another CB2 receptor-selective antagonist AM630 increased mIPSC frequency in the RVM of CFA-treated rats indicating that CB2 receptors are tonically activated by endocannabinoids. Our data provide evidence that CB2 receptor function emerges in the RVM in persistent inflammation and that selective CB2 receptor agonists may be useful for treatment of persistent inflammatory pain.

Concepts: Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Cannabinoid receptor, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory, Buprenorphine


We previously developed orthosteric M1 muscarinic agonists (e.g. AF102B, AF267B and AF292), which act as cognitive enhancers and potential disease modifiers. We now report on a novel compound, AF710B, a highly potent and selective allosteric M1 muscarinic and σ1 receptor agonist. AF710B exhibits an allosteric agonistic profile on the M1 muscarinic receptor; very low concentrations of AF710B significantly potentiated the binding and efficacy of carbachol on M1 receptors and their downstream effects (p-ERK1/2, p-CREB). AF710B (1-30 µg/kg, p.o.) was a potent and safe cognitive enhancer in rats treated with the M1 antagonist trihexyphenidyl (passive avoidance impairment). These effects of AF710B involve σ1 receptor activation. In agreement with its antiamnesic properties, AF710B (at 30 nM), via activation of M1 and a possible involvement of σ1 receptors, rescued mushroom synapse loss in PS1-KI and APP-KI neuronal cultures, while AF267B (1 µM) was less potent in PS1-KI and ineffective in APP-KI models, respectively. In female 3xTg-AD mice, AF710B (10 µg/kg, i.p./daily/2 months) (i) mitigated cognitive impairments in the Morris water maze; (ii) decreased BACE1, GSK3β activity, p25/CDK5, neuroinflammation, soluble and insoluble Aβ40, Aβ42, plaques and tau pathologies. AF710B differs from conventional σ1 and M1 muscarinic (orthosteric, allosteric or bitopic) agonists. These results highlight AF710B as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (e.g. improving cognitive deficits, synaptic loss, amyloid and tau pathologies, and neuroinflammation) with a superior profile over a plethora of other therapeutic strategies.

Concepts: Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor, Receptor theory, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor M1


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: To evaluate the ability of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) to reduce nausea and vomiting and enhance 5-HT(1A) receptor activation in animal models. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: We investigated the effect of CBDA on (i) lithium chloride (LiCl)-induced conditioned gaping to a flavour (nausea-induced behaviour) or a context (model of anticipatory nausea) in rats; (ii) saccharin palatability in rats; (iii) motion-, LiCl- or cisplatin-induced vomiting in house musk shrews (Suncus murinus); and (iv) rat brainstem 5-HT(1A) receptor activation by 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT) and mouse whole brain CB(1) receptor activation by CP55940, using [(35) S]GTPγS-binding assays. KEY RESULTS: In shrews, CBDA (0.1 and/or 0.5 mg·kg(-1) i.p.) reduced toxin- and motion-induced vomiting, and increased the onset latency of the first motion-induced emetic episode. In rats, CBDA (0.01 and 0.1 mg·kg(-1) i.p.) suppressed LiCl- and context-induced conditioned gaping, effects that were blocked by the 5-HT(1A) receptor antagonist, WAY100635 (0.1 mg·kg(-1) i.p.), and, at 0.01 mg·kg(-1) i.p., enhanced saccharin palatability. CBDA-induced suppression of LiCl-induced conditioned gaping was unaffected by the CB(1) receptor antagonist, SR141716A (1 mg·kg(-1) i.p.). In vitro, CBDA (0.1-100 nM) increased the E(max) of 8-OH-DPAT. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Compared with cannabidiol, CBDA displays significantly greater potency at inhibiting vomiting in shrews and nausea in rats, and at enhancing 5-HT(1A) receptor activation, an action that accounts for its ability to attenuate conditioned gaping in rats. Consequently, CBDA shows promise as a treatment for nausea and vomiting, including anticipatory nausea for which no specific therapy is currently available.

Concepts: Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Lithium, Receptor theory, Suncus


Eluxadoline is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of adults with irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D). Eluxadoline is a locally acting mixed μ- and κ-opioid receptor agonist and δ-opioid receptor antagonist. The abuse potential of eluxadoline was evaluated as part of the Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials assessing the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of the drug.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Constipation, Receptor antagonist, Agonist, Irritable bowel syndrome, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory, Buprenorphine


Cannabidiol (CBD) has been established to have both acute and long-lasting effects to reduce fear memory expression. The long-lasting impact might be mediated by an enhancement of memory extinction or an impairment of memory reconsolidation. Here, we directly compared the effects of i.p. injections of cannabidiol (10 mg/kg) with those of the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 (0.1 mg/kg) and partial agonist D-cycloserine (DCS; 15 mg/kg) in order to determine the mnemonic basis of long-term fear reduction. We showed that under conditions of strong fear conditioning, CBD reduced contextual fear memory expression both acutely during the extinction session as well as later at a fear retention test. The latter test reduction was replicated by DCS, but MK-801 instead elevated test freezing. In contrast, when initial conditioning was weaker, CBD and MK-801 had similar effects to increase freezing at the fear retention test relative to vehicle controls, whereas DCS had no observable impact. This pattern of results is consistent with CBD enhancing contextual fear memory extinction when the initial conditioning is strong, but impairing extinction when conditioning is weak. This bidirectional effect of CBD may be related to stress levels induced by conditioning and evoked at retrieval during extinction, rather than the strength of the memory per se.

Concepts: Amygdala, Memory, Receptor antagonist, NMDA receptor, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory, Buprenorphine


Several recent studies have suggested that brain CB2 cannabinoid receptors play a major role in alcohol reward. In fact, the implication of cannabinoid neurotransmission in the reinforcing effects of ethanol (EtOH) is becoming increasingly evident. The CB2 receptor agonist, β-Caryophyllene (BCP) was used to investigate the role of the CB2 receptors in mediating alcohol intake and ethanol-induced conditioned place preference (EtOH-CPP) and sensitivity in mice. The effect of BCP on alcohol intake was evaluated using the standard two-bottle choice drinking method. The mice were presented with increasing EtOH concentrations and its consumption was measured daily. Consumption of saccharin and quinine solutions was measured following the EtOH preference tests. Finally, the effect of BCP on alcohol reward and sensitivity was tested using an unbiased EtOH-CPP and loss of righting-reflex (LORR) procedures, respectively. BCP dose dependently decreased alcohol consumption and preference. Additionally, BCP-injected mice did not show any difference from vehicle mice in total fluid intake in a 24-hour paradigm nor in their intake of graded concentrations of saccharin or quinine, suggesting that the CB2 receptor activation did not alter taste function. More importantly, BCP inhibited EtOH-CPP acquisition and exacerbated LORR duration. Interestingly, these effects were abrogated when mice were pre-injected with a selective CB2 receptor antagonist, AM630. Overall, the CB2 receptor system appears to be involved in alcohol dependence and sensitivity and may represent a potential pharmacological target for the treatment of alcoholism.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Alcohol, Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Agonist, Cannabinoid receptor, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory


Recent evidence suggests that the cannabinoid receptor subtype 2 (CB2) is implicated in anxiety and depression disorders, although few systematic studies in laboratory animals have been reported. The aim of the current experiments was to test the effects of the CB2 receptor potent-selective agonist β-caryophyllene (BCP) in animals subjected to models of anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. Therefore effects of BCP (50mg/kg) on anxiety were assessed using the elevated plus maze (EPM), open field (OF), and marble burying test (MBT). However for depression, the novelty-suppressed feeding (NSF), tail suspension test (TST), and forced swim tests (FST) were used. Results indicated that adult mice receiving BCP showed amelioration of all the parameters observed in the EPM test. Also, BCP significantly increased the time spent in the center of the arena without altering the general motor activity in the OF test. This dose was also able to decrease the number of buried marbles and time spent digging in the MBT, suggesting an anti-compulsive-like effect. In addition, the systemic administration of BCP reduced immobility time in the TST and the FST. Finally, BCP treatment decreased feeding latency in the NSF test. Most importantly, pre-administration of the CB2 receptor antagonist AM630, fully abrogated the anxiolytic and the anti-depressant effects of BCP. Taken together, these preclinical results suggest that CB2 receptors may provide alternative therapeutic targets for the treatment of anxiety and depression. The possibility that BCP may ameliorate the symptoms of these mood disorders offers exciting prospects for future studies.

Concepts: Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Cannabinoid receptor, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory, Buprenorphine


Conformational selection and induced fit are two prevailing mechanisms to explain the molecular basis for ligand-based activation of receptors. G-protein-coupled receptors are the largest class of cell surface receptors and are important drug targets. A molecular understanding of their activation mechanism is critical for drug discovery and design. However, direct evidence that addresses how agonist binding leads to the formation of an active receptor state is scarce. Here we use (19)F nuclear magnetic resonance to quantify the conformational landscape occupied by the adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR), a prototypical class A G-protein-coupled receptor. We find an ensemble of four states in equilibrium: (1) two inactive states in millisecond exchange, consistent with a formed (state S1) and a broken (state S2) salt bridge (known as ‘ionic lock’) between transmembrane helices 3 and 6; and (2) two active states, S3 and S3', as identified by binding of a G-protein-derived peptide. In contrast to a recent study of the β2-adrenergic receptor, the present approach allowed identification of a second active state for A2AR. Addition of inverse agonist (ZM241385) increases the population of the inactive states, while full agonists (UK432097 or NECA) stabilize the active state, S3', in a manner consistent with conformational selection. In contrast, partial agonist (LUF5834) and an allosteric modulator (HMA) exclusively increase the population of the S3 state. Thus, partial agonism is achieved here by conformational selection of a distinct active state which we predict will have compromised coupling to the G protein. Direct observation of the conformational equilibria of ligand-dependent G-protein-coupled receptor and deduction of the underlying mechanisms of receptor activation will have wide-reaching implications for our understanding of the function of G-protein-coupled receptor in health and disease.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Signal transduction, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Receptor theory, Buprenorphine