Effects of Sarizotan in Animal Models of ADHD: Challenging Pharmacokinetic–Pharmacodynamic Relationships

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Sarizotan 1-[(2R)-3,4-dihydro-2H-chromen-2-yl]-N-[[5-(4-fluorophenyl) pyridin-3-yl]methyl] methenamine, showed an in vivo pharmaco-EEG profile resembling that of methylphenidate which is used in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In turn, we tested sarizotan against impulsivity in juvenile rats measuring the choice for large delayed vs. a small immediate reward in a T-maze and obtained encouraging results starting at 0.03 mg/kg (plasma levels of ~11 nM). Results from rats treated neonatally with 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), also supported anti-ADHD activity although starting at 0.3 mg/kg. However, microdialysis studies revealed that free brain concentration of sarizotan at active doses were below its affinity for 5-HT1A receptors, the assumed primary target. In contrast, electrophysiological experiments in mid-brain Raphé serotonergic cells paralleled by plasma sampling showed that there was ~60 % inhibition of firing rate—indicating significant activation of 5-HT1A receptors—at a plasma concentration of 76 nM. In line with this, we observed that sarizotan concentrations in brain homogenates were similar to total blood levels but over 500 fold higher than free extracellular fluid (ECF) concentrations as measured using brain microdialysis. These data suggest that sarizotan may have potential anti-ADHD effects at low doses free of the previously reported side-effects. Moreover, in this case a classical pharmacokinetic–pharmacodynamic relationship based on free brain concentrations seems to be less appropriate than target engagement pharmacodynamic readouts.