Synthetic cathinone derivatives are a new class of psychoactive substances (NPS), also known as “bath salts” designed to exert psychostimulant effects resembling those of well-known psychostimulants, such as cocaine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “ecstasy”). As major constituents of bath salts, the cathinone derivatives 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone), have received considerable media attention. MDPV and mephedrone interfere with the function of the high affinity transporters for dopamine (DAT), norepinephrine (NET) and serotonin (SERT), resulting in increased extracellular levels of these monoamines, though their mechanism of action differs. MDPV acts as a non-transported inhibitor of DAT, NET and SERT, whereas mephedrone promotes transporter-mediated release in an amphetamine-like fashion. MDPV and mephedrone are often taken together, creating a conundrum in as much as non-transported inhibitors, like MDPV, prevent mephedrone-induced reverse transport via DAT, NET and SERT. Here we provide evidence supporting a role for organic cation transporter 3 (OCT3) in the actions of mephedrone, which may account for its ability to enhance effects of MDPV. We show that mephedrone can induce substrate efflux via OCT3 in the presence of MDPV. Real-time recordings of the fluorescent OCT3 substrate (4-(4-dimethylamino)styryl)-N-methylpyridinium (ASP+) and radiotracer-flux studies using [3H]1-methyl-4-phenyl-pyridinium (MPP+), demonstrated that OCT3 is MDPV-insensitive when expressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK293) cells. Ex vivo experiments performed in cultured superior cervical ganglia (SCG) cells, rich in NET and OCT3, revealed that mephedrone induces [3H]MPP+ release in an OCT3-dependent manner when NET is fully occupied with MDPV. These results extend our recent findings that OCT3 is key in the mechanism of action of amphetamine-induced substrate release. OCT3 likewise appears to be a mechanism through which mephedrone can induce release of monoamines, thereby accounting for the paradoxically more potent psychostimulant effects of MDPV taken together with mephedrone, and greater risk for deleterious side effects.
- Dopamine transporter
- Organic cation transporter 3
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology