Monoamine transporter proteins are targets for many psychoactive compounds, including therapeutic and abused stimulant drugs. This paper reviews recent work from our laboratory investigating the interaction of stimulants with transporters in brain tissue. We illustrate how determining the precise mechanism of stimulant drug action (uptake inhibitor vs. substrate) can provide unique opportunities for medication discovery. An important lesson learned from this work is that drugs which display equipotent substrate activity at dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) transporters have minimal abuse liability and few stimulant side-effects, yet are able to suppress ongoing drug-seeking behavior. As a specific example, we describe the development of PAL-287 (α-methylnapthylethylamine), a dual DA/5-HT releasing agent that suppresses cocaine self-administration in rhesus monkeys, without the adverse effects associated with older phenylethylamine 5-HT releasers (e.g., fenfluramine) and DA releasers (e.g., amphetamine). Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of developing non-amphetamine releasing agents as potential treatments for substance abuse disorders and other psychiatric conditions.
Keywords: Transporters, dopamine, serotonin, release, amphetamine, PAL-287
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