Methoxetamine (MXE) is a dissociative substance of the arylcyclohexylamine class that has been present on the designer drug market as a ketamine-substitute since 2010. We have previously shown that MXE (i) possesses ketamine-like discriminative and positive rewarding effects in rats, (ii) affects brain processing involved in cognition and emotional responses, (iii) causes long-lasting behavioral abnormalities and neurotoxicity in rats and (iv) induces neurological, sensorimotor and cardiorespiratory alterations in mice. To shed light on the mechanisms through which MXE exerts its effects, we conducted a multidisciplinary study to evaluate the various neurotransmitter systems presumably involved in its actions on the brain. In vivo microdialysis study first showed that a single administration of MXE (0.25 and 0.5 mg/kg, i.v.) is able to significantly alter serotonin levels in the rat medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and nucleus accumbens. Then, we observed that blockade of the serotonin 5-HT2 receptors through two selective antagonists, ketanserin (0.1 mg/kg, i.p.) and MDL 100907 (0.03 mg/kg, i.p.), at doses not affecting animals behavior per se, attenuated the facilitatory motor effect and the inhibition on visual sensory responses induced by MXE (3 mg/kg, i.p.) and ketamine (3 mg/kg, i.p.), and prevented MXE-induced reduction of the prepulse inhibition in rats, pointing to the 5-HT2 receptors as a key target for the recently described MXE-induced sensorimotor effects. Finally, in-vitro electrophysiological studies revealed that the GABAergic and glutamatergic systems are also likely involved in the mechanisms through which MXE exerts its central effects since MXE inhibits, in a concentration-dependent manner, NMDA-mediated field postsynaptic potentials and GABA-mediated spontaneous currents. Conversely, MXE failed to alter both the AMPA component of field potentials and presynaptic glutamate release, and seems not to interfere with the endocannabinoid-mediated effects on mPFC GABAergic synapses. Altogether, our results support the notion of MXE as a NMDA receptor antagonist and shed further lights into the central mechanisms of action of this ketamine-substitute by pointing to serotonin 5-HT2 receptors as crucial players in the expression of its sensorimotor altering effects and to the NMDA and GABA receptors as potential further important targets of action.
New insights into methoxetamine mechanisms of action: Focus on serotonergic 5-HT2 receptors in pharmacological and behavioral effects in the rat / Marti, M.; Talani, G.; Miliano, C.; Bilel, S.; Biggio, F.; Bratzu, J.; Diana, M.; De Luca, M. A.; Fattore, L.. - In: EXPERIMENTAL NEUROLOGY. - ISSN 0014-4886. - 345:(2021), p. 113836. [10.1016/j.expneurol.2021.113836]