Atypical dopamine transporter inhibitors R-modafinil and JHW 007 differentially affect D2 autoreceptor neurotransmission and the firing rate of midbrain dopamine neurons

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Abuse of psychostimulants like cocaine that inhibit dopamine (DA) reuptake through the dopamine transporter (DAT) represents a major public health issue, however FDA-approved pharmacotherapies have yet to be developed. Recently a class of ligands termed “atypical DAT inhibitors” has gained attention due to their range of effectiveness in increasing extracellular DA levels without demonstrating significant abuse liability. These compounds not only hold promise as therapeutic agents to treat stimulant use disorders but also as experimental tools to improve our understanding of DAT function. Here we used patch clamp electrophysiology in mouse brain slices to explore the effects of two atypical DAT inhibitors (R-modafinil and JHW 007) on the physiology of single DA neurons in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area. Despite their commonalities of being DAT inhibitors that lack cocaine-like behavioral profiles, these compounds exhibited surprisingly divergent cellular effects. Similar to cocaine, R-modafinil slowed DA neuron firing in a D2 receptor-dependent manner and rapidly enhanced the amplitude and duration of D2 receptor-mediated currents in the midbrain. In contrast, JHW 007 exhibited little effect on firing, slow DAT blockade, and an unexpected inhibition of D2 receptor-mediated currents that may be due to direct D2 receptor antagonism. Furthermore, pretreatment with JHW 007 blunted the cellular effects of cocaine, suggesting that it may be valuable to investigate similar DAT inhibitors as potential therapeutic agents. Further exploration of these and other atypical DAT inhibitors may reveal important cellular effects of compounds that will have potential as pharmacotherapies for treating cocaine use disorders.

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