ACS Chem Neurosci 2017 12 22;8(12):2648-2654. Epub 2017 Sep 22.
Department of Pharmacology, Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University , Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140, United States.
Mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC)) (MEPH) is a new psychoactive substance (NPS) of the synthetic cathinone class. MEPH has a chiral center and exists as two enantiomers (R-,S-MEPH), yet stereospecific effects of MEPH have not been extensively investigated in preclinical assays. Because significant behavioral and neurochemical differences can exist between enantiomers, probing effects of stereochemistry on biological activity enables separation of adverse and therapeutic effects. Our prior work showed that R-MEPH, relative to S-MEPH, produced greater locomotor activation, place preference, and facilitation of brain reward thresholds in rodents. The present study sought to determine if MEPH enantiomers display stereospecific reward and reinforcement in rat self-administration assays. In Experiment 1, rats were trained to self-administer racemic MEPH (0.50 mg/kg/inf), and dose substitution effects of R-MEPH (0.50 mg/kg/inf) and S-MEPH (0.25, 0.50, 2.00 mg/kg/inf) were examined. In Experiment 2, separate rats were trained to self-administer R-MEPH (0.25, 0.50, 2.00 mg/kg/inf) or S-MEPH (0.25, 0.50, 2.00 mg/kg/inf) and were thereafter evaluated under progressive-ratio access conditions. Within this cohort, 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) were recorded to measure potential differences in subjective positive affect associated with MEPH enantiomer self-administration. We identified enantiomer- and dose-dependent effects on infusions earned during self-administration following acquisition of racemic MEPH, with greatest infusions under low-effort, fixed-ratio 1 access conditions from low-dose S-MEPH self-administration. When taxed with progressive-ratio access conditions, rats trained to self-administer R-MEPH showed higher break points than those of rats trained to self-administer S-MEPH. Additionally, R-MEPH elicited greatest rates of 50 kHz USVs compared to S-MEPH. Taken together, these data suggest that the R-enantiomer of MEPH is primarily responsible for the rewarding, reinforcing, and motivational properties of racemic MEPH, which increases our understanding of stereospecific preferences pertaining to MEPH abuse.