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Neuropharmacology. 2003 Dec;45(7):895-906.

(-)-PHCCC, a positive allosteric modulator of mGluR4: characterization, mechanism of action, and neuroprotection.

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Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Neuroscience Disease Area, WKL-125.6.08, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland.


Group-III metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR4, -6, -7, and -8) modulate neurotoxicity of excitatory amino acids and beta-amyloid-peptide (betaAP), as well as epileptic convulsions, most likely via presynaptic inhibition of glutamatergic neurotransmission. Due to the lack of subtype-selective ligands for group-III receptors, we previously utilized knock-out mice to identify mGluR4 as the primary receptor mediating neuroprotection of unselective group-III agonists such as L-AP(4) or (+)-PPG, whereas mGluR7 is critical for anticonvulsive effects. In a recent effort to find group-III subtype-selective drugs we identified (+/-)-PHCCC as a positive allosteric modulator for mGluR4. This compound increases agonist potency and markedly enhances maximum efficacy and, at higher concentrations, directly activates mGluR4 with low efficacy. All the activity of (+/-)-PHCCC resides in the (-)-enantiomer, which is inactive at mGluR2, -3, -5a, -6, -7b and -8a, but shows partial antagonist activity at mGluR1b (30% maximum antagonist efficacy). Chimeric receptor studies showed that the binding site of (-)-PHCCC is localized in the transmembrane region.Finally, (-)-PHCCC showed neuroprotection against betaAP- and NMDA-toxicity in mixed cultures of mouse cortical neurons. This neuroprotection was additive to that induced by the highly efficacious mGluR1 antagonist CPCCOEt and was blocked by MSOP, a group-III mGluR antagonist. Our data provide evidence for a novel pharmacological site on mGluR4, which may be used as a target-site for therapeutics.

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