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Novel, non-nitrocatechol catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors modulate dopamine neurotransmission in the frontal cortex and improve cognitive flexibility

Cognitive impairment is a primary feature of many neuropsychiatric disorders and there is a need for new therapeutic options. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors modulate cortical dopaminergic function and have been proposed as potential cognitive enhancers. Unfortunately, currently available COMT inhibitors are not good candidates due to either poor blood-brain barrier penetration or severe toxicity.

To address the need for safe, brain-penetrant COMT inhibitors, we tested multiple novel compounds in a set of preclinical in vivo efficacy assays in rats to determine their ability to inhibit COMT function and viability as potential clinical candidates.

We measured the change in concentration of dopamine (DA) metabolites in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the cisterna magna and extracellular fluid (ECF) from the frontal cortex produced by our novel compounds. Additionally, we tested the
effects of our brain-penetrant COMT inhibitors in an attentional set-shifting assay (ASST). We benchmarked the performance of the novel COMT inhibitors to the effects produced by the known COMT inhibitor tolcapone.

We found that multiple COMT inhibitors, exemplified by LIBD-1 and LIBD-3, significantly modulated dopaminergic function measured as decreases in homovanillic acid (HVA) and increases in 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), two DA metabolites, in CSF and the frontal cortex. Additionally, we found that LIBD-1 significantly improved cognitive flexibility in the ASST, an effect previously reported following tolcapone administration.

These results demonstrate that LIBD-1 is a novel COMT inhibitor with promising in vivo activity and the potential to serve as a new therapy for cognitive impairment.

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Helen L. Rowley & Rajiv S. Kulkarni & Lucy Pinder & Sharon C. Cheetham

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