Dissociable effects of the prodrug phendimetrazine and its metabolite phenmetrazine at dopamine transporters
Phendimetrazine (PDM) is a clinically available anorectic and a candidate pharmacotherapy for cocaine addiction. PDM has been hypothesized to function as a prodrug that requires metabolism to the amphetamine-like monoamine transporter substrate phenmetrazine (PM) to produce its pharmacological effects; however, whether PDM functions as an inactive prodrug or has pharmacological activity on its own remains unclear. The study aim was to determine PDM pharmacological mechanisms using electrophysiological, neurochemical, and behavioral procedures. PDM blocked the endogenous basal hDAT (human dopamine transporter) current in voltage-clamped (-60 mV) oocytes consistent with a DAT inhibitor profile, whereas its metabolite PM induced an inward hDAT current consistent with a DAT substrate profile. PDM also attenuated the PM-induced inward current during co-application, providing further evidence that PDM functions as a DAT inhibitor. PDM increased nucleus accumbens dopamine levels and facilitated electrical brain stimulation reinforcement within 10 min in rats, providing in vivo evidence supporting PDM pharmacological activity. These results demonstrate that PDM functions as a DAT inhibitor that may also interact with the pharmacological effects of its metabolite PM. Overall, these results suggest a novel mechanism for PDM therapeutic effects via initial PDM DAT inhibition followed by PM DAT substrate-induced dopamine release.