Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)


Medical Sciences (Division of Physiology/Pharmacology)


Ram. K. Mishra


Henry Szechtman



Committee Member

Laurie Doering


Allosteric modulators are emerging as a new class of therapeutics for the treatment of complex disorders, including psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia. The disease is marked by hyperdopaminergic signaling in the striatum, which plays a role in the development of positive symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. Conventional antipsychotic drug therapy typically employs dopamine D2 receptor antagonists that compete with endogenous dopamine at the orthosteric, or dopamine-binding site, in an attempt to normalize these psychotic symptoms. However, they are often associated with adverse motor and metabolic side effects. Furthermore, only some antipsychotic drugs are able to treat the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, which include social withdrawal and anhedonia, and there is currently no treatment for the cognitive impairment associated with the disease.

Allosteric modulators are safer alternatives to conventional orthosteric therapeutics as they interact with their receptor at a novel binding site and their mechanism involves modulation of endogenous signaling. Therefore, levels of endogenous ligand limit the activity of an allosteric modulator. Our lab has synthesized and evaluated over 185 compounds for their activity at the dopamine D2 receptor. Of these compounds, PAOPA is the most potent allosteric modulator, and has been shown to be effective in treating the MK-801 induced preclinical animal model of schizophrenia without causing the adverse effects induced by currently prescribed antipsychotic drugs. The objective of this study was to evaluate PAOPA’s ability to treat behavioural abnormalities in an amphetamine-sensitized model of schizophrenia.

Four groups (n=10/group) of male Sprague Dawley rats received intraperitoneal injections three days per week on alternate days over three weeks. Group A received saline, group B received D-amphetamine (1mg/kg during week one, 2mg/kg during week two, 3mg/kg during week three), group C received PAOPA (1mg/kg), and group D received the same doses of amphetamine as group B with PAOPA (1mg/kg). Following a three-week withdrawal, each group was tested for prepulse inhibition, social interaction, and locomotor activity. Amphetamine-sensitized rats were subjected to the same tests following PAOPA administration (1mg/kg). To assess whether behavioural changes were associated with changes in brain chemistry, post-mortem dopamine levels were measured in the striatum, nucleus accumbens, and medial prefrontal cortex. Data were analyzed by one-way ANOVA or paired t test where appropriate.

Amphetamine sensitization induced schizophrenic-like behavioural abnormalities, including deficits in prepulse inhibition and social interaction, as well as increased locomotor activity and sensitivity to amphetamine challenge. Concurrent amphetamine and PAOPA treatment prevented all amphetamine- induced behavioural abnormalities. Furthermore, amphetamine-induced deficits in prepulse inhibition and social interaction were reversed one hour following PAOPA treatment. PAOPA treatment alone had no effect on behaviour or post-mortem striatal dopamine. Behavioural changes in amphetamine-sensitized rats were accompanied by a reduction in post-mortem striatal dopamine levels. In correlation with behavioural results, PAOPA administration during amphetamine sensitization prevented this biochemical change.

These results demonstrate that PAOPA can prevent and reverse behavioural and associated biochemical abnormalities in amphetamine-sensitized rats. PAOPA is a candidate for the development of treatments for schizophrenia.

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