Background: This is the first report of the pharmacodynamic (PD) effects of the selective, potent and brain-penetrant P2X7 receptor (P2X7R) antagonist JNJ-54175446. Activation of the P2X7R, an adenosine triphosphate-gated ion channel, leads to the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which have been linked to neuroinflammation and play a role in the pathogenesis of mood disorders. Previous clinical studies with JNJ-54175446 demonstrated peripheral target engagement of JNJ-54175446 by assessing ex vivo lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated cytokine production. Blood-brain barrier penetration and a clear dose-receptor occupancy relationship was demonstrated using positron emission tomography.
Aims: The objectives of this double-blind, placebo-controlled, translational study were to assess the safety and tolerability of administering multiple doses of JNJ-54175446 and to explore its PD effects using a dexamphetamine challenge.
Methods: Subjects (N = 64) were randomised to either JNJ-54175446 (50-450 mg; n = 48) or placebo (n = 16) and underwent a baseline oral 20 mg dexamphetamine challenge followed by 11 consecutive days q.d. dosing with JNJ-54175446/placebo and a randomised crossover dexamphetamine/placebo challenge.
Results: At all doses tested, JNJ-54175446 was well tolerated and suppressed the ex vivo LPS-induced release of cytokines. At doses ⩾100 mg, JNJ-54175446 attenuated dexamphetamine-induced increases in locomotion and enhanced the mood-elevating effects of dexamphetamine, suggesting that a dose that is approximately twice as high is needed to obtain a central PD response compared to the dose needed for maximum peripheral occupancy.
Conclusion: Overall, the observed pharmacological profile of JNJ-54175446 in the dexamphetamine challenge paradigm is compatible with a potential mood-modulating effect.
Keywords: P2X7; inflammation; major depressive disorder.