Dopamine (DA), the most abundant human brain catecholaminergic neurotransmitter, modulates key behavioral and neurological processes in young and senescent brains, including motricity, sleep, attention, emotion, learning and memory, and social and reward-seeking behaviors. The DA transporter (DAT) regulates transsynaptic DA levels, influencing all
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Dopamine (DA), the most abundant human brain catecholaminergic neurotransmitter, modulates key behavioral and neurological processes in young and senescent brains, including motricity, sleep, attention, emotion, learning and memory, and social and reward-seeking behaviors. The DA transporter (DAT) regulates transsynaptic DA levels, influencing all these processes. Compounds targeting DAT (e.g., cocaine and amphetamines) were historically used to shape mood and cognition, but these substances typically lead to severe negative side effects (tolerance, abuse, addiction, and dependence). DA/DAT signaling dysfunctions are associated with neuropsychiatric and progressive brain disorders, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer diseases, drug addiction and dementia, resulting in devastating personal and familial concerns and high socioeconomic costs worldwide. The development of low-side-effect, new/selective medicaments with reduced abuse-liability and which ameliorate DA/DAT-related dysfunctions is therefore crucial in the fields of medicine and healthcare. Using the rat as experimental animal model, the present work describes the synthesis and pharmacological profile of (S
)-MK-26, a new modafinil analogue with markedly improved potency and selectivity for DAT over parent drug. Ex vivo electrophysiology revealed significantly augmented hippocampal long-term synaptic potentiation upon acute, intraperitoneally delivered (S
)-MK-26 treatment, whereas in vivo experiments in the hole-board test showed only lesser effects on reference memory performance in aged rats. However, in effort-related FR5/chow and PROG/chow feeding choice experiments, (S
)-MK-26 treatment reversed the depression-like behavior induced by the dopamine-depleting drug tetrabenazine (TBZ) and increased the selection of high-effort alternatives. Moreover, in in vivo microdialysis experiments, (S
)-MK-26 significantly increased extracellular DA levels in the prefrontal cortex and in nucleus accumbens core and shell. These studies highlight (S
)-MK-26 as a potent enhancer of transsynaptic DA and promoter of synaptic plasticity, with predominant beneficial effects on effort-related behaviors, thus proposing therapeutic potentials for (S
)-MK-26 in the treatment of low-effort exertion and motivational dysfunctions characteristic of depression and aging-related disorders.