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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Apr;37(5):1092-103. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.226. Epub 2011 Oct 12.

Long-lasting effects of a PEGylated mutant cocaine esterase (CocE) on the reinforcing and discriminative stimulus effects of cocaine in rats.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Recent mutagenesis studies have identified a mutant G4C/S10C/T172R/G173Q cocaine esterase (CCRQ CocE) with an in vitro duration of action of >40 days. Although the in vivo duration of CCRQ CocE's action was <24 h, modification of this enzyme with polyethylene glycol (PEG) polymers resulted in a CocE (PEG-CCRQ CocE) capable of preventing cocaine-induced lethality for up to 72 h. The current studies were aimed at providing a detailed characterization of the effectiveness, selectivity, and duration of PEG-CCRQ CocE's actions in cocaine self-administration and discrimination assays in rats. Pretreatment with PEG-CCRQ CocE produced dose-dependent rightward shifts in the dose-response curves for cocaine self-administration and discrimination, with the highest dose of PEG-CCRQ CocE capable of producing an initial shift of cocaine's reinforcing and interoceptive effects of >30-fold to the right, with significant inhibition of these effects observed for up to 72 h. Although PEG-CCRQ CocE also produced slight reductions in the rates of methylphenidate- and food-reinforced responding, these effects were short-lived, lasting <24 h. Finally, when taken together with the finding that PEG-CCRQ CocE failed to alter the cocaine-like interoceptive effects of either methylphenidate or d-amphetamine, these results suggest that PEG-CCRQ CocE possesses a high degree of pharmacologic specificity for cocaine and a prolonged in vivo duration of action. In conclusion, these studies provide strong evidence to support the further development of long-lasting, highly efficient CocEs, such as PEG-CCRQ CocE, as a potential therapeutic option for the treatment of cocaine abuse in humans.

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