Graduate Student University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
Christian Cabanlong (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)| Jyoti Gogoi (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)| William Fantegrossi (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)| Paul Prather (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)
Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) are a large group of abused psychoactive compounds that elicit numerous toxic effects not observed with marijuana, including death. SCs are abused worldwide and metabolites of these drugs are often detected as a means of drug identification. SC metabolites resulting from Phase I metabolism have been shown to retain affinity and activity at cannabinoid receptors. However, whether these active compounds contribute to toxicity of SCs is unknown. 5-Fluoro-ADB (5F-ADB), also known as 5-Fluoro-MDMB-PINACA, is a commonly abused third-generation synthetic cannabinoid agonist based on an indazole-structure. Significantly, over 40 recent fatalities have been attributed to 5F-ADB overdose. A potential mechanism underlying 5F-ADB-induced mortality is drug-related dysrhythmia resulting in sudden death. Analysis of postmortem central and peripheral blood samples have revealed abnormally high concentrations of an ester-hydrolysis Phase I metabolite of 5F-ADB, identified as metabolite 7 (5F-ADB-M7). We propose that high concentrations of potent and efficacious active metabolites, such as 5F-ADB-M7 and others, accumulate with the parent drug 5F-ADB and produce additive and/or synergistic effects that possibly contribute to fatal intoxication following overdose. As a first step to test this hypothesis, in vitro studies were conducted to compare the affinity and activity of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; the primary psychoactive component in marijuana), 5F-ADB, 5F-ADB-M7 and a second major metabolite, 5F-ADB-M2 at cannabinoid type-1 (CB1) receptors. Competition receptor binding studies, using mouse brain membranes, showed that all four cannabinoids bound with high affinity to CB1 receptors with a rank order of affinity (Ki values) of 5F-ADB > 5F-ADB-M2 > THC > 5F-ADB-M7. Furthermore, functional experiments examining modulation of G-protein activity demonstrated that 5F-ADB and both Phase I metabolites acted as full agonists at CB1 receptors, relative to partial agonist effects produced by THC. Subsequently, in vivo studies were conducted utilizing the cannabinoid tetrad in mice to compare the effects of THC with those of 5F-ADB-M2. Both 5F-ADB-M2 and THC produced CB1-mediated dose-dependent hypothermia, analgesia, and locomotor suppression, within 30 minutes of injection; however, catalepsy was not elicited by the metabolite. Consistent with higher CB1 affinity determined from in vitro studies, 5F-ADB-M2 produced tetrad effects with higher potency compared to THC. Future studies are planned to examine in vivo effects of 5F-ADB-M7 compared to THC. If 5F-ADB metabolites exhibit in vivo activity similar to that predicted from the in vitro studies presented here, this suggests that the enhanced, often fatal, effects of 5F-ADB may be due to an accumulation of the parent and active, high affinity metabolites acting at CB1 receptors.