ML314: A Biased Neurotensin Receptor Ligand for Methamphetamine Abuse
Pharmacological treatment for methamphetamine addiction will provide important societal benefits. Neurotensin receptor NTR1 and dopamine receptor distributions coincide in brain areas regulating methamphetamine-associated reward, and neurotensin peptides produce behaviors opposing psychostimulants. Therefore, undesirable methamphetamine-associated activities should be treatable with druggable NTR1 agonists, but no such FDA-approved therapeutics exist. We address this limitation with proof-of-concept data for ML314, a small-molecule, brain penetrant, beta-arrestin biased, NTR1 agonist. ML314 attenuates amphetamine-like hyperlocomotion in dopamine transporter knockout mice, and in C57BL/6J mice it attenuates methamphetamine-induced hyperlocomotion, potentiates the psychostimulant inhibitory effects of a ghrelin antagonist, and reduces methamphetamine-associated conditioned place preference. In rats, ML314 blocks methamphetamine self-administration. ML314 acts as an allosteric enhancer of endogenous neurotensin, unmasking stoichiometric numbers of hidden NTR1 binding sites in transfected-cell membranes or mouse striatal membranes, while additionally supporting NTR1 endocytosis in cells in the absence of NT peptide. These results indicate ML314 is a viable, preclinical lead for methamphetamine abuse treatment and support an allosteric model of G protein-coupled receptor signaling.