Addiction to cocaine and methamphetamine, highly addictive psychostimulants, is associated with substantial neuropsychiatric co-morbidity, and also enhances transmission of HIV-1, hepatitis B and C and thus causes massive public health costs. There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for psychostimulant addiction. Growing evidence shows that that ? opioid (KOP) receptors (and their endogenous high-efficacy agonist neuropeptides, the dynorphins) are involved in the modulation of major abuse-related effects of psychostimulants, and particularly relapse. The plant-derived hallucinogen, salvinorin A (a neoclerodane), from the mint Salvia divinorum, is a structurally unique KOP-agonist. Reference KOP-r agonists and salvinorin A can decrease certain psychostimulant-induced effects, but these desirable actions are accompanied by undesirable effects, including the aforementioned hallucinations, sedation and dysphoria/aversion. Selected novel semi-synthetic neoclerodanes from the previous period of this Project have potential as lead pharmacotherapeutic agents for psychostimulant addiction, as shown by their in vitro and in vivo profiles in translational models, including a reduced burden of undesirable behavioral effects. The central hypothesis of this proposal is that iterative structural modification of these neoclerodane leads will generate novel opioid receptor ligands with the potential to treat psychostimulant addiction, relapse, and co-morbid neuropsychiatric disorders.
The Specific Aims of this proposal are (1) optimize the activity of novel neoclerodanes, including innovative synthetic trans-decalin analogs, at KOP receptors; (2) determine and optimize the in vivo activity of novel neoclerodanes as KOPr ligands in mice, and for their ability to decrease cocaine-induced effects; and (3) determine and optimize the activity of novel neoclerodanes prioritized from Aims 1 and 2, in translational non- human primate models. The proposed research is innovative because neoclerodanes are a unique class of opioid receptor ligands. The design, synthesis, evaluation of these molecules will have a broad impact on development of new pharmacologic probes that are designed to interact with opioid receptors. This information is expected to facilitate the identification of clinically useful KOP-r targeted medications for the treatment of drug addiction.

Public Health Relevance

This project seeks develop neoclerodane-derived ? opioid (KOP) receptor ligands with pharmacotherapeutic potential in psychostimulant addiction and relapse, as well as neuropsychiatric disorders (including anxiety, depression and stress-related disorders such as PTSD). The design, synthesis, and evaluation of these molecules will have a broad impact on development of new pharmacologic probes that are designed to interact with opioid receptors. This information is expected to facilitate the identification of clinically usefu opioid- targeted drugs for the treatment of drug addiction and major neuropsychiatric disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Hillery, Paul
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University of Kansas Lawrence
Schools of Pharmacy
United States
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