Discriminative stimulus effects of 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and structurally related synthetic cathinones

Robert W. Seaman, Michelle R. Doyle, Agnieszka Sulima, Kenner C. Rice, Gregory T. Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), and other structurally related synthetic cathinones, are popular alternatives to prototypical illicit psychostimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. These drugs are often referred to as 'bath salts' and function either as cocaine-like inhibitors of monoamine uptake, or amphetamine-like substrates for dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin transporters. These studies used male Sprague-Dawley rats trained to discriminate MDPV from saline to evaluate the substitution profiles of structurally related synthetic cathinones, cocaine, and other direct-acting dopamine and noradrenergic receptor agonists in order to characterize the relative contributions of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin to the discriminative stimulus effects of MDPV. As expected, each of the cathinones and cocaine dose-dependently increased MDPV-appropriate responding, with a rank-order potency that was positively correlated with their potency to inhibit dopamine and norepinephrine, but not serotonin, a relationship that is consistent with the rank order to maintain self-administration. The dopamine D2/3 receptor-preferring agonist quinpirole produced a modest increase in MDPV-appropriate responding, whereas the dopamine D1/5 receptor agonist, SKF 82958, nonselective dopamine receptor agonist, apomorphine, as well as the α-1, and α-2 adrenergic receptor agonists, phenylephrine and clonidine, respectively, failed to increase MDPV-appropriate responding at doses smaller than those that suppressed responding altogether. Although these studies do not support a role for serotonergic or adrenergic systems in mediating/modulating the discriminative stimulus effects of MDPV, convergent evidence is provided to suggest that the discriminative stimulus effects of MDPV are primarily mediated by its capacity to inhibit dopamine uptake, and the subsequent activation of dopamine D2 or D3 receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-367
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone
  • drug discrimination
  • structure activity relationship
  • synthetic cathinones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology


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