18 April 2011
Two decades of investigations have failed to unequivocally clarify the functions and the molecular nature of imidazoline-2 receptors (I2R). However, there is robust pharmacological evidence for the functional modulation of monoamino oxidase (MAO) and other important enzyme activities by I2 site ligands. Some compounds of this class proved to be active experimental tools in preventing both experimental pain and opioid tolerance and dependence. Unfortunately, even though these compounds bind with high potency to central I2 sites, they fail to represent a valid clinical opportunity due to their pharmacokinetic, selectivity or side-effects profile. This paper presents the preclinical profile of a novel I2 ligand (2-phenyl-6-(1H-imidazol-1yl) quinazoline; [CR4056]) that selectively inhibits the activity of human recombinant MAO-A in a concentration-dependent manner. A sub-chronic four day oral treatment of CR4056 increased norepinephrine (NE) tissue levels both in the rat cerebral cortex (63.1% ±4.2%; P < 0.05) and lumbar spinal cord (51.3% ± 6.7%; P < 0.05). In the complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) rat model of inflammatory pain, CR4056 was found to be orally active (ED50 = 5.8 mg/kg, by mouth [p.o.]). In the acute capsaicin model, CR4056 completely blocked mechanical hyperalgesia in the injured hind paw (ED50 = 4.1 mg/kg, p.o.; ED100 = 17.9 mg/kg, p.o.). This effect was dose-dependently antagonized by the non-selective imidazoline I2/α2 antagonist idazoxan. In rat models of neuropathic pain, oral administration of CR4056 significantly attenuated mechanical hyperalgesia and allodynia. In summary, the present study suggests a novel pharmacological opportunity for inflammatory and/or neuropathic pain treatment based on selective interaction with central imidazoline-2 receptors.