, Volume 170, Issue 2, pp 215–224

Evaluation of the phencyclidine-like discriminative stimulus effects of novel NMDA channel blockers in rats

Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-003-1527-6

Cite this article as:
Nicholson, K.L. & Balster, R.L. Psychopharmacology (2003) 170: 215. doi:10.1007/s00213-003-1527-6



Because of their potential therapeutic effects, N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists have been investigated for clinical use. Unfortunately, many channel-blocking antagonists have been associated with the production of side effects, including motor impairment and phencyclidine (PCP)-like subjective effects.


This study investigated the relationship between NMDA receptor channel blockade and production of PCP-like side effects by evaluating a variety of NMDA channel blockers with different binding characteristics for the production of PCP-like discriminative stimulus effects.


The NMDA channel blockers were tested in rats trained to discriminate 2 mg/kg PCP, i.p., from saline using a standard two-lever drug discrimination procedure with responding under a fixed ratio (FR) 32 schedule of food reinforcement.


The high-affinity channel blockers PD 138289, PD 137889 and FR 115427, produced full, dose-dependent substitution for PCP. Of the moderate-affinity channel blockers, MRZ 2/579 fully substituted for PCP while 1-(4-methoxyphenyl)-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroisoquinoline, 8-(2-methoxyphenyl)-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroisoquinoline and alaproclate produced partial substitution. Drugs with the lowest affinity for the channel site and/or higher affinity for non-NMDA CNS sites, antazoline, idazoxan, 1-phenyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroisoquinoline, α-benzyl-N-methylphenethylamine and orphenadrine, failed to substitute for PCP.


The results demonstrate that the cellular actions of the individual channel-blocking NMDA antagonists, in particular affinity for the channel site and NMDA receptor specificity, are important determinants of their discriminative stimulus effects. While higher affinity channel blockers show a correlation between affinity and PCP-like discriminative stimulus effects, behavioral disruption through action at non-NMDA receptors probably prevents achieving sufficient concentrations of the lower affinity compounds at NMDA receptors to produce PCP-like discriminative stimulus effects.


PhencyclidineNMDA receptor antagonistsDrug discriminationSide effectsRats

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and ToxicologyMedical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA