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Journal article Open Access

Effects of bioisosteric fluorine in synthetic cannabinoid designer drugs JWH-018, AM-2201, UR-144, XLR-11, PB-22, 5F-PB-22, APICA, and STS-135.

Banister, Samuel D; Stuart, Jordyn; Kevin, Richard C; Edington, Amelia; Longworth, Mitchell; Wilkinson, Shane M; Beinat, Corinne; Buchanan, Alexandra S; Hibbs, David E; Glass, Michelle; Connor, Mark; McGregor, Iain S; Kassiou, Michael

Synthetic cannabinoid (SC) designer drugs featuring bioisosteric fluorine substitution are identified by forensic chemists and toxicologists with increasing frequency. Although terminal fluorination of N-pentyl indole SCs is sometimes known to improve cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptor binding affinity, little is known of the effects of fluorination on functional activity of SCs. This study explores the in vitro functional activities of SC designer drugs JWH-018, UR-144, PB-22, and APICA, and their respective terminally fluorinated analogues AM-2201, XLR-11, 5F-PB-22, and STS-135 at human CB1 and CB2 receptors using a FLIPR membrane potential assay. All compounds demonstrated agonist activity at CB1 (EC50 = 2.8–1959 nM) and CB2 (EC50 = 6.5–206 nM) receptors, with the fluorinated analogues generally showing increased CB1 receptor potency (∼2–5 times). Additionally, the cannabimimetic activities and relative potencies of JWH-018, AM-2201, UR-144, XLR-11, PB-22, 5F-PB-22, APICA, and STS-135 in vivo were evaluated in rats using biotelemetry. All SCs dose-dependently induced hypothermia and reduced heart rate at doses of 0.3–10 mg/kg. There was no consistent trend for increased potency of fluorinated SCs over the corresponding des-fluoro SCs in vivo. Based on magnitude and duration of hypothermia, the SCs were ranked for potency (PB-22 > 5F-PB-22 = JWH-018 > AM-2201 > APICA = STS-135 = XLR-11 > UR-144).

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