Neuropsychopharmacology of emerging drugs of abuse: meta- and para-halogen-ring-substituted alpha-PVP ("flakka") derivatives

Núria Nadal-Gratacos, Esther Lleixà, Mónica Gibert-Serramià, Roger Estrada-Tejedor, Xavier Berzosa, Xavier Batllori, David Pubill, Jordi Camarasa, Elena Escubedo, Raúl López-Arnau

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in the molecular structure of synthetic cathinones has led to an increase in the number of novel emerging drugs in the illicit drug market at an unprecedented rate. Unfortunately, little is known about the neuropsychopharmacology of recently emerged halogen-substituted alpha-PVP derivatives. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate the role of para- and meta-halogen (F-, Cl-, and Br-) substitutions on the in vitro, in silico, and in vivo effects of alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP) derivatives. HEK293 cells expressing the human dopamine or serotonin transporter (hDAT and hSERT) were used for the uptake inhibition and transporter affinity assays. Molecular docking was used to model the interaction mechanism against DAT. Swiss CD-1 mice were used for the horizontal locomotor activity, open field test, and conditioned place preference paradigm. All compounds demonstrated potent DA uptake inhibition and higher DAT selectivity than cocaine. Meta-substituted cathinones showed higher DAT/SERT ratios than their para- analogs, which correlates with an increased psychostimulant effect in vivo and with different meta- and para-in silico interactions at DAT. Moreover, all compounds induced rewarding and acute anxiogenic effects in mice. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates the role of meta- and para-halogen substitutions in the mechanism of action and provides the first evidence of the rewarding and anxiety-like properties of halogenated alpha-PVP derivatives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2226
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2022


  • Anxiety
  • New psychoactive substances
  • Psychostimulant
  • Reward
  • Structure-activity relationship
  • Synthethic cathinones
  • α-PVP
  • alpha-PVP


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