Preclinical development of moxidectin as a novel therapeutic for alcohol use disorder

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Current pharmacotherapies for alcohol used disorder (AUD) are few and relatively ineffective illustrating the need for the development of new, effective medications. Using a translational approach, our laboratory reported that ivermectin, an FDA-approved, human and animal anti-parasitic agent, can significantly reduce ethanol intake in male and female mice across different drinking paradigms. Extending this line of investigation, the current paper investigated the utility of moxidectin (MOX), an analogue of ivermectin, to reduce ethanol intake. Notably, MOX is widely held to have lower neurotoxicity potential and improved margin of safety compared to ivermectin. Using a 24-h-two-bottle choice paradigm, MOX significantly reduced ethanol intake in a dose dependent manner in both male and female C57BL/6J mice, respectively (1.25–7.5 mg/kg) and (1.25–10 mg/kg). Further, multi-day administration of MOX (2.5 mg/kg; intraperitoneal injection) for 5 consecutive days significantly reduced ethanol intake in both the 24-h-two-bottle choice and Drinking-in-the-Dark paradigms in female mice. No overt signs of behavioral toxicity were observed. Notably in both male and female mice, MOX significantly reduced ethanol intake starting approximately 4 h post-injection. Using a Xenopus oocyte expression system, we found that MOX significantly potentiated P2X4 receptor (P2X4R) function and antagonized the inhibitory effects of ethanol on ATP-gated currents in P2X4Rs. This latter finding represents the first report of MOX having activity on P2X4Rs. In addition, MOX potentiated GABAA receptors, but to a lesser degree as compared to ivermectin supporting the hypothesis that MOX would be advantageous (compared to ivermectin) with respect to reducing contraindications. Overall, the results illustrate the potential for development of MOX as a novel pharmacotherapy for the treatment of AUD.

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