Monoaminergic toxicity induced by cathinone phthalimide: An in vitro study

Susan M. Lantz, Hector Rosas-Hernandez, Elvis Cuevas, Bonnie Robinson, Kenner C. Rice, William E. Fantegrossi, Syed Z. Imam, Merle G. Paule, Syed F. Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bath salts, or synthetic cathinones, have cocaine-like or amphetamine-like properties and induce psychoactive effects via their capacity to modulate serotonin (5-HT) and dopamine (DA). Structurally distinct synthetic cathinones are continuously being generated to skirt existing drug laws. One example of these modified compounds is cathinone phthalimide (CP), which has already appeared on the global market. The lack of toxicological studies on the effects of CP on monoaminergic systems led to the development of the present study in order to generate an acute toxicity profile for CP, and to clarify whether it primarily affects both dopamine and serotonin, like the synthetic cathinones mephedrone and methylone, or primarily affects dopamine, like 3, 4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). For the first time, the toxicity profile of CP (10 μM–1000 μM) is reported. In pheochromocytoma cells, exposure to CP induced cell death, and altered mitochondrial function, as well as intracellular DA and 5-HT levels; at the same time, reduced glutathione (GSH) levels remained unaffected. This seems to indicate that CP functions like mephedrone or methylone. The role of CP metabolites, the effect of CP induced hyperthermia on neurotoxicity, and its ability to traverse the blood-brain barrier warrant further consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-81
Number of pages6
JournalNeuroscience Letters
StatePublished - Aug 10 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bath salt
  • Cathinone phthalimide
  • Dopamine
  • Mephedrone
  • Methylone
  • Serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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