Tetrabenazine inhibition of monoamine uptake and methamphetamine behavioral effects: Locomotor activity, drug discrimination and self-administration

A. C. Meyer, D. B. Horton, N. M. Neugebauer, T. E. Wooters, J. R. Nickell, L. P. Dwoskin, M. T. Bardo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Tetrabenazine (TBZ), a benzoquinolizine derivative, binds with high affinity to the vesicular monoamine transporter-2 (VMAT2), inhibiting uptake of cytosolic monoamines. The current study aimed to provide preclinical evidence supporting the potential use of TBZ as a treatment for methamphetamine abuse. Effects of TBZ on function of the dopamine transporter (DAT) and serotonin transporter (SERT) in striatal and hippocampal synaptosomes, respectively, and on VMAT2 function in isolated striatal synaptic vesicles were determined. Effect of TBZ (acute, 0.1-3.0 mg/kg, s.c.; repeated, 1.0 mg/kg for 7 days) on locomotor activity in methamphetamine-sensitized rats was assessed. Ability of TBZ (0.1-3.0 mg/kg; s.c.) or vehicle to decrease the discriminative effect of methamphetamine also was determined. Ability of TBZ (acute, 0.1-1.0 mg/kg, s.c.; repeated, 0.1 or 1.0 mg/kg for 7 days) to specifically decrease methamphetamine self-administration was determined; for comparison, a separate group of rats was assessed for effects of TBZ on food-maintained responding. Results show that TBZ was 11-fold more potent inhibiting DAT than SERT, and 2.5-fold more potent inhibiting VMAT2 than DAT. Results from behavioral studies showed that the lowest dose of TBZ transiently increased methamphetamine self-administration, whereas higher TBZ doses decreased methamphetamine self-administration. Also, TBZ at high doses decreased methamphetamine locomotor sensitization and discriminative stimulus effects, as well as food-maintained responding. Thus, despite acting as a potent VMAT2 inhibitor, these preclinical results indicate that TBZ lacks behavioral specificity as an inhibitor of methamphetamine-induced reinforcement, diminishing its viability as a suitable treatment for methamphetamine abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-856
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Discriminative stimulus
  • Locomotor activity
  • Methamphetamine
  • Self-administration
  • Tetrabenazine
  • Vesicular monoamine transporter 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology


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