Dopamine transporter binding without cocaine-like behavioral effects: Synthesis and evaluation of benztropine analogs alone and in combination with cocaine in rodents

J. L. Katz, G. E. Agoston, K. L. Alling, R. H. Kline, M. J. Forster, W. L. Woolverton, T. A. Kopajtic, A. H. Newman

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Rationale: Previous SAR studies demonstrated that small halogen substitutions on the diphenylether system of benztropine (BZT), such as a para-Cl group, retained high affinity at the cocaine binding site on the dopamine transporter. Despite this high affinity, the compounds generally had behavioral effects different from those of cocaine. However, compounds with meta-Cl substitutions had effects more similar to those of cocaine. Objectives: A series of phenylring analogs of benztropine (BZT) substituted with 3′-, 4′-, 3′,4″- and 4′,4″-position Cl-groups were synthesized and their pharmacology was evaluated in order to assess more fully the contributions to pharmacological activity of substituents in these positions. Methods: Compounds were synthesized and their pharmacological activity was assessed by examining radioligand binding and behavioral techniques. Results: All of the compounds displaced [3H]WIN 35,428 binding with affinities ranging from 20 to 32.5 nM. Affinities at norepinephrine ([3H]nisoxetine) and serotonin ([3H]citalopram) transporters, respectively, ranged from 259 to 5120 and 451 to 2980 nM. Each of the compounds also inhibited [3H]pirenzepine binding to muscarinic M1 receptors, with affinities ranging from 0.98 to 47.9 nM. Cocaine and the BZT analogs produced dose-related increases in locomotor activity in mice. However, maximal effects of the BZT analogs were uniformly less than those produced by cocaine, and were obtained 2-3 h after injection compared to the relatively rapid onset (within 30 min) of cocaine effects. In rats trained to discriminate IP saline from 29 μmol/kg cocaine (10 mg/kg), cocaine produced a dose-related increase in responding on the cocaine lever, reaching 100% at the training dose; however, none of the BZT analogs fully substituted for cocaine, with maximum cocaine responding from 20 to 69%. Despite their reduced efficacy compared to cocaine in cocaine discrimination, none of the analogs antagonized the effects of cocaine. As has been reported previously for 4′-Cl-BZT, the cocaine discriminative-stimulus effects were shifted leftward by co-administration of the present BZT analogs. Conclusions: The present results indicate that although the BZT analogs bind with relatively high affinity and selectivity at the dopamine transporter, their behavioral profile is distinct from that of cocaine. The present results suggest that analogs of BZT may be useful as treatments for cocaine abuse in situations in which an agonist treatment is indicated. These compounds possess features such as reduced efficacy compared to cocaine and a long duration of action that may render them particularly useful leads for the development of therapeutics for cocaine abusers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-374
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Benztropine analogs
  • Cocaine
  • Discriminative stimulus effect
  • Dopamine transporter
  • Stimulant effect


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