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Radioligand binding evidence implicates the brain 5-HT2 receptor as a site of action for LSD and phenylisopropylamine hallucinogens


Alterations in brain serotonergic function have been implicated in the mechanism of action of LSD, mescaline, and other similarly acting hallucinogenic drugs of abuse such as STP (2,5-dimethoxyphenylisopropylamine; DOM). In order to test the hypothesis that the mechanism of action of LSD and phenylisopropylamine hallucinogens is through stimulation of a specific brain serotonin receptor sub-type, the affinities of these compounds for radiolabelled 5-HT2, 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, and 5-HT1C receptors have been determined using recently developed in vitro radioligand binding methodologies. The 5-HT2 receptor was labelled with the agonist/hallucinogen radioligand 3H-DOB (4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenylisopropylamine). The 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, and 5-HT1C receptors were labelled with 3H-OH-DPAT, 3H-5-HT, and 3H-mesulergine, respectively. In general, the phenylisopropylamines displayed 10–100 fold higher affinities for the 5-HT2 receptor than for the 5-HT1C receptor and 100–1000 fold higher affinities for the 5-HT2 receptor than for the 5-HT1A or 5-HT1B receptor. There was a strong correlation between hallucinogenic potencies and 5-HT2 receptor affinities of the phenylisopropylamines (r=0.90); the correlation coefficients for the 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, and 5-HT1C were 0.73, 0.85, and 0.78, respectively. Because there is no evidence that 5-HT1A-selective or 5-HT1B-selective agonists are hallucinogenic and because the phenylisopropylamines are potent hallucinogens, a 5-HT2 receptor interaction is implicated and supports our previous suggestions to this effect. A secondary role for 5-HT1C receptors cannot be discounted at this time. These results, when integrated with other receptor pharmacological information, indicate that an important component of the mechanism of action of LSD and the phenylisopropylamine hallucinogens is through stimulation of brain 5-HT2 receptors.

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Titeler, M., Lyon, R.A. & Glennon, R.A. Radioligand binding evidence implicates the brain 5-HT2 receptor as a site of action for LSD and phenylisopropylamine hallucinogens. Psychopharmacology 94, 213–216 (1988).

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Key words

  • 5-HT2 receptor
  • LSD
  • Phenylisopropylamines
  • Hallucinogens