Synthesis and in vitro cytotoxicity profile of the R-enantiomer of 3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine (R-(-)-HHMA): comparison with related catecholamines

Chemical Research in Toxicology
Anne FelimMartine Largeron


(+/-)-3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, also known as "ecstasy") is a chiral drug that is essentially metabolized in humans through O-demethylenation into 3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine (HHMA). There has recently been a resurgence of interest in the possibility that MDMA metabolites, especially 5-(N-acetylcystein-S-yl)-N-methyl-alpha-methyldopamine (designated as 5-NAC-HHMA), might play a role in MDMA neurotoxicity. However, the chirality of MDMA was not considered in previously reported in vivo studies because HHMA, the precursor of the 5-NAC-HHMA metabolite, was used as the racemate. Since the stereochemistry of this chiral drug needs to be considered, the first total synthesis of R-(-)-HHMA is reported. Using L-DOPA as the chiral source, the preparation of R-(-)-HHMA is achieved through seven steps, in 30% overall yield and 99.5% enantiomeric excess. The cytotoxicity of R-(-)-HHMA and related catecholamines has been further determined by flow cytometric analysis of propidium iodide uptake in human dopaminergic neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells and by an Escherichia coli plate assay, specific for the detection of oxidative toxicity. The good correlation between the toxicities observed in both systems suggests that SH-SY5Y cell...Continue Reading


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