Structure–Activity Relationship Analysis of Psychedelics in a Rat Model of Asthma Reveals the Anti-Inflammatory Pharmacophore

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ACS pharmacology and translational science


Psychedelic drugs can exert potent anti-inflammatory effects. However, anti-inflammatory effects do not appear to correlate with behavioral activity, suggesting different underlying mechanisms. We hypothesized that the distinct structural features of psychedelics underlie functionally selective mechanisms at the target 5-HT2A receptor to elicit maximal anti-inflammatory effects. In order to test this hypothesis, we developed a new rat-based screening platform for allergic asthma. Next, we investigated 21 agonists at the 5-HT2A receptor from the three primary chemotypes (phenylalkylamine, ergoline, and tryptamine) for their ability to prevent airways hyperresponsiveness as a measure of pulmonary inflammation. Furthermore, we assessed each drug for in vitro activation of the canonical signaling pathway, calcium mobilization, from the 5-HT2A receptor. We find that the drug 2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine (2C-H) represents the pharmacophore for anti-inflammatory activity and identify structural modifications that are either permissive or detrimental to anti-inflammatory activity. Additionally, there is no correlation between the ability of a particular psychedelic to activate intracellular calcium mobilization and to prevent the symptoms of asthma or with behavioral potencies. Our results support the notions that specific structural features mediate functional selectivity underlying anti-inflammatory activity and that relevant receptor activated pathways necessary for anti-inflammatory activity are different from canonical signaling pathways. Our results inform on the nature of interactions between ligands at the 5-HT2A receptor as they relate to anti-inflammatory activity and are crucial for the development of new 5-HT2A receptor agonists for anti-inflammatory therapeutics in the clinic that may be devoid of behavioral activity.

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