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Journal: ACS chemical neuroscience


Chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment, known also as ‘chemobrain’, is a medical complication of cancer treatment that is characterized by a general decline in cognition affecting visual and verbal memory, attention, complex problem solving skills, and motor function. It is estimated that one-third of patients who undergo chemotherapy treatment will experience cognitive impairment. Alterations in the release and uptake of dopamine and serotonin, central nervous system neurotransmitters that play important roles in cognition, could potentially contribute to impaired intellectual performance in those impacted by chemobrain. To investigate how chemotherapy treatment affects these systems, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) at carbon-fiber microelectrodes was used to measure dopamine and serotonin release and uptake in coronal brain slices containing the striatum and dorsal raphe nucleus, respectively. Measurements were taken from rats treated weekly with selected doses of carboplatin and from control rats treated with saline. Modeling the stimulated dopamine release plots revealed an impairment of dopamine release per stimulus pulse (80% of saline control at 5 mg/kg and 58% at 20 mg/kg) after four weeks of carboplatin treatment. Moreover, Vmax, the maximum uptake rate of dopamine, was also decreased (55% of saline control at 5 mg/kg and 57% at 20 mg/kg). Nevertheless, overall dopamine content, measured in striatal brain lysates by high performance liquid chromatography, and reserve pool dopamine, measured by FSCV after pharmacological manipulation, did not significantly change, suggesting that chemotherapy treatment selectively impairs the dopamine release and uptake processes. Similarly, serotonin release upon electrical stimulation was impaired (45% of saline control at 20 mg/kg). Measurements of spatial learning discrimination were taken throughout the treatment period and carboplatin was found to alter cognition. These studies support the need for additional neurochemical and behavioral analyses to identify the underlying mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced cognitive disorders.

Concepts: Nervous system, Psychology, Brain, Chemotherapy, Serotonin, Problem solving, Dopamine, Raphe nuclei


We previously reported the discovery of VU0364572 and VU0357017 as M(1)-selective agonists that appear to activate M(1) through actions at an allosteric site. Previous studies have revealed that chemical scaffolds for many allosteric modulators contain molecular switches that allow discovery of allosteric antagonists and allosteric agonists or positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) based on a single chemical scaffold. Based on this, we initiated a series of studies to develop selective M(1) allosteric antagonists based on the VU0364572 scaffold. Interestingly, two lead antagonists identified in this series, VU0409774 and VU0409775, inhibited ACh-induced Ca(2+) responses at rat M(1-5) receptor subtypes, suggesting they are nonselective muscarinic antagonists. VU0409774 and VU0409775 also completely displaced binding of the nonselective radioligand [(3)H]-NMS at M(1) and M(3) mAChRs with affinities similar to their functional IC(50) values. Finally, Schild analysis revealed that these compounds inhibit M(1) responses through a fully competitive interaction at the orthosteric binding site. This surprising finding prompted further studies to determine whether agonist activity of VU0364572 and VU0357017 may also engage in previously unappreciated actions at the orthosteric site on M(1). Surprisingly, both VU0364572 and VU0357017 completely displaced [(3)H]-NMS binding to the orthosteric site of M(1)-M(5) receptors at high concentrations. Furthermore, evaluation of agonist activity in systems with varying levels of receptor reserve and Furchgott analysis using a cell line expressing M(1) under control of an inducible promotor was consistent with an action of these compounds as weak orthosteric partial agonists of M(1). However, consistent with previous studies suggesting actions at a site that is distinct from the orthosteric binding site, VU0364572 or VU0357017 slowed the rate of [(3)H]-NMS dissociation from CHO-rM(1) membranes. Together, these results suggest that VU0364572 and VU0357017 act as bitopic ligands and that novel antagonists in this series act as competitive orthosteric site antagonists.

Concepts: Allosteric regulation, Pharmacology, Ligand, Receptor antagonist, Agonist, Inverse agonist, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor, Functional selectivity


Imaging mass spectrometry is an emerging technique of great potential for investigating the chemical architecture in biological matrices. Although the potential for studying neurobiological systems is evident, the relevance of the technique for application in neuroscience is still in its infancy. In the present review, a principal overview of the different approaches, including matrix assisted laser desorption ionization and secondary ion mass spectrometry are provided with particular focus on their strength and limitations for studying different neurochemical species in situ and in vitro. The potential of the various approaches is discussed based on both fundamental and biomedical neuroscience research. This review aims to serve as a general guide to familiarize the neuroscience community and other biomedical researchers with the technique, highlighting its great potential and suitability for comprehensive and specific chemical imaging.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Mass spectrometry, Biology, In vitro, Physical chemistry, Ion source, In situ, Secondary ion mass spectrometry


The molecular chaperone, heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70), is an emerging drug target for treating multiple diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. We recently found that one promising Hsp70 inhibitor, MKT-077, reduces tau levels in cellular models, suggesting its potential for use in treating neurodegenerative diseases that involve aberrant tau accumulation. However, MKT-077 does not penetrate the blood-brain barrier (BBB), limiting its use as either a clinical candidate or probe for exploring Hsp70 as a drug target in the central nervous system (CNS). We hypothesized that replacing the cationic pyridinium moiety in MKT-077 with a neutral pyridine might improve its clogP and enhance its BBB penetrance. To test this idea, we designed and synthesized YM-08, a neutral analog of MKT-077. Like the parent compound, YM-08 bound to Hsp70 in vitro and reduced phosphorylated tau levels in cultured brain slices. Pharmacokinetic evaluation in CD1 mice showed that YM-08 crossed the BBB and maintained a B/P value of ~0.25 for at least 18 hours. Together, these studies suggest that YM-08 is a promising scaffold for the development of Hsp70 inhibitors suitable for use in the CNS.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Brain, Neuroscience, Neurology, Chaperone, Proteasome, Heat shock protein


Ruthenium diimine complexes have previously been used to facilitate light-activated electron transfer in the study of redox metalloproteins. Excitation at 488 nm leads to a photoexcited state, in which the complex can either accept or donate an electron, respectively, in the presence of a soluble sacrificial reductant or oxidant. Here, we describe a novel application of these complexes in mediating light-induced changes in cellular electrical activity. We demonstrate that RubpyC17 ([Ru(bpy)(2)(bpy-C17)](2+), where bpy is 2,2'-bipyridine and bpy-C17 is 2,2'-4-heptadecyl-4'-methyl-bipyridine), readily incorporates into the plasma membrane of cells, as evidenced by membrane-confined luminescence. Excitable cells incubated in RubpyC17 and then illuminated at 488 nm in the presence of the reductant ascorbate undergo membrane depolarization leading to firing of action potentials. In contrast, the same experiment performed with the oxidant ferricyanide, instead of ascorbate, leads to hyperpolarization. These experiments suggest that illumination of membrane-associated RubpyC17 in the presence of ascorbate alters the cell membrane potential by increasing the negative charge on the outer face of the cell membrane capacitor, effectively depolarizing the cell membrane. We rule out two alternative explanations for light-induced membrane potential changes, using patch clamp experiments: (1) light-induced direct interaction of RubpyC17 with ion channels and (2) light-induced membrane perforation. We show that incorporation of RubpyC17 into the plasma membrane of neuroendocrine cells enables light-induced secretion as monitored by amperometry. While the present work is focused on ruthenium diimine complexes, the findings point more generally to broader application of other transition metal complexes to mediate light-induced biological changes.

Concepts: Cell, Electric charge, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Redox, Action potential, Ion channel, Membrane potential


The light emission chemistry of firefly luciferase can be harnessed to reveal otherwise invisible biological processes occurring in the brains of live animals. Though powerful, the need for the luciferase substrate D-luciferin to traverse the blood-brain barrier poses limitations on the sensitivity and interpretation of these experiments. In this Viewpoint, we discuss bioluminescent imaging probes for the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and the broader implications for optical imaging and drug delivery in the brain.

Concepts: Brain, Enzyme, Optics, Light, Hydrolysis, Firefly, Bioluminescence, Luciferase


α-Pyrrolidinovalerophenone (α-PVP; 7) is an illegal synthetic stimulant that is being sold on the clandestine market as “flakka” and “gravel”. The potent pharmacological effects of α-PVP are presumably mediated by inhibition of dopamine uptake at the dopamine transporter (DAT). However, little is known about how structural modification of α-PVP influences activity at DAT. Eleven analogs of α-PVP were synthesized and examined for their ability to inhibit uptake of [3H]dopamine in rat brain synaptosomes. All of the analogs behaved as DAT reuptake inhibitors, but potencies varied over a >1,500-fold range. Potency was primarily associated with the nature of the α-substituent, with the more bulky substituents imparting the highest potency. Expansion of the pyrrolidine ring to a piperidine reduced potency up to 10-fold, whereas conformational constraint in the form of an aminotetralone resulted in the least potent compound. Our study provides the first systematic and comparative structure-activity investigation on the ability of α-PVP analogs to act as inhibitors of DAT.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Enzyme inhibitor, Morphine, Inhibitor, Xanthine oxidase inhibitor, Dopamine, Dopamine transporter, ClanDestine


Autism is a developmental disorder of the nervous system associated with impaired social communication and interactions as well excessive repetitive behaviors. There are no drug therapies that directly target the pathology of this disease. The retinioic acid receptor-related orphan receptor α (RORα) is a nuclear receptor that has been demonstrated to have reduced expression in many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Several genes that have been shown to be downregulated in individuals with ASD have also been identified as putative RORα target genes. Utilizing a synthetic RORα/γ agonist, SR1078, that we identified previously, we demonstrate that treatment of BTBR mice (a model of autism) with SR1078 results in reduced repetitive behavior. Furthermore, these mice display increased expression of ASD-associated RORα target genes in both the brains of the BTBR mice and in a human neuroblastoma cell line treated with SR1078. These data suggest that pharmacological activation of RORα may be a method for treatment of autism.

Concepts: Nervous system, Psychology, Pharmacology, Cell, Autism, Pervasive developmental disorder, Nuclear receptor, Autism spectrum


Oleocanthal, a phenolic component of extra-virgin olive oil, has been recently linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by accumulation of β-amyloid (Aβ) and tau proteins in the brain. However, the mechanism by which oleocanthal exerts its neuroprotective effect is still incompletely understood. Here, we provide in-vitro and in-vivo evidences for the potential of oleocanthal to enhance Aβ clearance from the brain via up-regulation of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and LDL lipoprotein receptor related protein-1 (LRP1), major Aβ transport proteins, at the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Results from in-vitro and in-vivo studies demonstrated similar and consistent pattern of oleocanthal in controlling Aβ levels. In cultured mice brain endothelial cells, oleocanthal treatment increased P-gp and LRP1 expression and activity. Brain efflux index (BEI%) studies of 125I-Aβ40 showed that administration of oleocanthal extracted from extra-virgin olive oil to C57BL/6 wild-type mice enhanced 125I-Aβ40 clearance from the brain and increased the BEI% from 62.0±3.0% for control mice to 79.9±1.6% for oleocanthal treated mice. Increased P-gp and LRP1 expression in the brain microvessels and inhibition studies confirmed the role of up-regulation of these proteins in enhancing 125I-Aβ40 clearance after oleocanthal treatment. Furthermore, our results demonstrated significant increase in 125I-Aβ40 degradation as a result of the up-regulation of Aβ degrading enzymes following oleocanthal treatment. In conclusion, these findings provide experimental support that potential reduced risk of AD associated with extra-virgin olive oil could be mediated by enhancement of Aβ clearance from the brain.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Gene, Brain, Atherosclerosis, Neurology, Neurodegenerative disorders, Olive oil, Tau protein


We present the dynamic mechanism of concerted motions in a full-length molecular model of the human dopamine transporter (hDAT), a member of the neurotransmitter:sodium symporter (NSS) family, involved in state-to-state transitions underlying function. The findings result from an analysis of unbiased atomistic molecular dynamics simulation trajectories (totaling >14μs) of the hDAT molecule immersed in lipid membrane environments with or without phosphatidylinositol 4,5-biphosphate (PIP2) lipids. The N-terminal region of hDAT (N-term) is shown to have an essential mechanistic role in correlated rearrangements of specific structural motifs relevant to state-to-state transitions in the hDAT. The mechanism involves PIP2-mediated electrostatic interactions between the N-term and the intracellular loops of the transporter molecule. Quantitative analyses of collective motions in the trajectories reveal that these interactions correlate with inward-opening dynamics of hDAT and are allosterically coupled to the known functional sites of the transporter. The observed large-scale motions are enabled by specific reconfiguration of the network of ionic interactions at the intracellular end of the protein. The isomerization to the inward-facing state in hDAT is accompanied by concomitant movements in the extracellular vestibule and results in release of Na+ ion from the Na2 site and destabilization of the substrate dopamine in the primary substrate binding S1 site. The dynamic mechanism emerging from the findings highlights the involvement of the PIP2-regulated interactions between the N-term and the intracellular loop 4 in the functionally relevant conformational transitions that are also similar to those found to underlie state-to-state transitions in the leucine transporter (LeuT), a prototypical bacterial homolog of the NSS.

Concepts: Protein, Cell membrane, Molecular dynamics, Matter, Atom, Ion, Lipid, Lipid bilayer