Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs) possess high abuse liability and complex toxicological profiles, making them serious threats to public health. EG-018 is a SCRA that has been detected in both illicit products and human samples, but it has received little attention to date. The current studies investigated EG-018 at human CB1 and CB2 receptors expressed in HEK293 cells in [3H]CP55,940 competition binding, [35S]GTPγS binding and forskolin-stimulated cAMP production. EG-018 was also tested in vivo for its ability to produce cannabimimetic and abuse-related effects in the cannabinoid tetrad and THC drug discrimination, respectively. EG-018 exhibited high affinity at CB1 (21 nM) and at CB2 (7 nM), but in contrast to typical SCRAs, behaved as a weak partial agonist in [35S]GTPγS binding, exhibiting lower efficacy but greater potency, than that of THC at CB1 and similar potency and efficacy at CB2. EG-018 inhibited forskolin-stimulated cAMP with similar efficacy but lower potency, compared to THC, which was likely due to high receptor density facilitating saturation of this signaling pathway. In mice, EG-018 (100 mg/kg, 30 min) administered intraperitoneally (i.p.) did not produce effects in the tetrad or drug discrimination nor did it shift THC's ED50 value in drug discrimination when administered before THC, suggesting EG-018 has negligible occupancy of brain CB1 receptors following i.p. administration. Following intravenous (i.v.) administration, EG-018 (56 mg/kg) produced hypomotility, catalepsy, and hypothermia, but only catalepsy was blocked by the selective CB1 antagonist rimonabant (3 mg/kg, i.v.). Additional studies of EG-018 and its structural analogues could provide further insight into how cannabinoids exert efficacy through the cannabinoid receptors.
In vitro and in vivo pharmacological evaluation of the synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist EG-018
Gamage, T. F., Barrus, D. G., Kevin, R. C., Finlay, D. B., Lefever, T. W., Patel, P. R., Grabenauer, M. A., Glass, M., McGregor, I. S., Wiley, J. L., & Thomas, B. F. (2020). In vitro and in vivo pharmacological evaluation of the synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist EG-018. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 193, 172918. . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2020.172918