Neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory activity of DAT inhibitor R-phenylpiracetam in experimental models of inflammation in male mice

Inflammopharmacology. 2020 Oct;28(5):1283-1292. doi: 10.1007/s10787-020-00705-7. Epub 2020 Apr 11.


R-phenylpiracetam (R-PhP, (4R)-2-(4-phenyl-2-oxopyrrolidin-1-yl)acetamide) is an optical isomer of phenotropil, a clinically-used nootropic drug that improves physical condition and cognition. Recently, R-PhP was shown to bind to the dopamine transporter (DAT). Since growing evidence suggests that dysfunction of the dopaminergic system is associated with persistent neuroinflammation, the aim of this study was to determine whether R-PhP, an inhibitor of DAT, has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects in male mice. The pharmacokinetic profiles of R-PhP in mouse plasma and its bioavailability in brain tissue were assessed. To study possible molecular mechanisms involved in the anti-inflammatory activity of R-PhP, target profiling was performed using radioligand binding and enzymatic activity assays. To clarify the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of R-PhP, we used a lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced endotoxaemia model characterized by reduced body temperature and overexpression of inflammatory genes in the brain. In addition, the antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of R-PhP were tested using carrageenan-induced paw oedema and formalin-induced paw-licking tests. R-PhP (50 mg/kg) reached the brain tissue 15 min after intraperitoneal (ip) and peroral (po) injections. The maximal concentration of R-PhP in the brain tissues was 28 µg/g and 18 µg/g tissue after ip and po administration, respectively. In radioligand binding assays, DAT was the only significant molecular target found for R-PhP. A single ip injection of R-PhP significantly attenuated the LPS-induced body temperature reduction and the overexpression of inflammatory genes, such as tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Seven-day po pretreatment with R-PhP dose-dependently reduced paw oedema and the antinociceptive response, as shown by the carrageenan-induced paw oedema test. In addition, R-PhP decreased the nociceptive response during the inflammatory phase in the formalin-induced paw-licking test. Our study showed that R-PhP possesses neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, demonstrating the potential of DAT inhibitors as effective therapeutics.

Keywords: Carrageenan-induced paw oedema; Formalin-induced paw-licking test; Inflammation; LPS-induced endotoxaemia model; R-phenylpiracetam.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biological Availability
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Piracetam / administration & dosage
  • Piracetam / analogs & derivatives*
  • Piracetam / pharmacokinetics
  • Piracetam / pharmacology
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • 4-phenylpiracetam
  • Piracetam