N-Substituted-3-alkoxy-derivatives of dextromethorphan are functional NMDA receptor antagonists in vivo: Evidence from an NMDA-induced seizure model in rats

Jeffrey M. Witkin, Rok Cerne, Amy H. Newman, Sari Izenwasser, Jodi L. Smith, Frank C. Tortella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interest in developing NMDA receptor antagonists with reduced side-effects for neurological and psychiatric disorders has been re-energized by the recent introduction of esketamine into clinical practice for treatment-resistant depression. Structural analogs of dextromethorphan bind with low affinity to the NMDA receptor ion channel, have functional effects in vivo, and generally display a lower propensity for side-effects than that of ketamine and other higher affinity antagonists. As such, the aim of the present study was to determine whether a series of N-substituted-3-alkoxy-substituted dextromethorphan analogs produce their anticonvulsant effects through NMDA receptor blockade. Compounds were studied against NMDA-induced seizures in rats. Compounds were administered intracerebroventricularly in order to mitigate confounds of drug metabolism that arise from systemic administration. Comparison of the anticonvulsant potencies to their affinities for NMDA, σ1, and σ2 binding sites were made in order to evaluate the contribution of these receptors to anticonvulsant efficacy. The potencies to block convulsions were positively associated with their affinities to bind to the NMDA receptor ion channel ([3H]-TCP binding) (r = 0.71, p < 0.05) but not to σ1 receptors ([3H]-SKF 10047 binding) (r = −0.31, p = 0.46) or to σ2 receptors ([3H]-DTG binding) (p = −0.38, p = 0.36). This is the first report demonstrating that these dextromethorphan analogs are functional NMDA receptor antagonists in vivo. Given their potential therapeutic utility and favorable side-effect profiles, such low affinity NMDA receptor antagonists could be considered for further development in neurological (e.g., anticonvulsant) and psychiatric (e.g., antidepressant) disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173154
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Dextromethorphan analogs
  • NMDA receptors
  • NMDA seizures
  • Sigma receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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