Professor Susanna Hourani
My research is in the field of adenosine and adenine nucleotides: their receptors, their effects and their physiological and pathological roles. They are important in platelet function, the control of the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems and in the brain. My research has been funded by The Wellcome Trust, The British Heart Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline.
I teach pharmacology to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, focussing mainly on the effects of drugs outside the central nervous system.
Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society
Fellow of the Society of Biology
Member of the Biochemical Society
There is mounting evidence that the neuropeptide oxytocin is a possible candidate for the treatment of drug addiction. Oxytocin was shown to reduce methamphetamine self-administration, conditioned place-preference, hyperactivity and reinstatement in rodents, highlighting its potential for the management of methamphetamine addiction. Thus, we hypothesised that the central endogenous oxytocinergic system is dysregulated following chronic methamphetamine administration. We tested this hypothesis by examining the effect of chronic methamphetamine administration on oxytocin receptor density in mice brains with the use of quantitative receptor autoradiographic binding. Saline (4 ml/kg/day, i.p.) or methamphetamine (1 mg/kg/day, i.p.) was administered daily for 10 days to male, CD1 mice. Quantitative autoradiographic mapping of oxytocin receptors was carried out with the use of [I]-vasotocin in brain sections of these animals. Chronic methamphetamine administration induced a region specific upregulation of oxytocin receptor density in the amygdala and hypothalamus, but not in the nucleus accumbens and caudate putamen. As there is evidence suggesting an involvement of central adenosine A receptors on central endogenous oxytocinergic function, we investigated whether these methamphetamine-induced oxytocinergic neuroadaptations are mediated via an A receptor-dependent mechanism. To test this hypothesis, autoradiographic oxytocin receptor binding was carried out in brain sections of male CD1 mice lacking A receptors which were chronically treated with methamphetamine (1 mg/kg/day, i.p. for 10 days) or saline. Similar to wild-type animals, chronic methamphetamine administration induced a region-specific upregulation of oxytocin receptor binding in the amygdala and hypothalamus of A receptor knockout mice and no genotype effect was observed. These results indicate that chronic methamphetamine use can induce profound neuroadaptations of the oxytocinergic receptor system in brain regions associated with stress, emotionality and social bonding and that these neuroadaptations are independent on the presence of A receptors. These results may at least partly explain some of the behavioural consequences of chronic methamphetamine use. © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Considerable evidence indicates that adenosine A2A receptors (A2ARs) modulate cholinergic neurotransmission, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) function, and nicotine-induced behavioural effects. To explore the interaction between A2A and nAChRs, we examined if the complete genetic deletion of adenosine A2ARs in mice induces compensatory alterations in the binding of different nAChR subtypes, and whether the long-term effects of nicotine on nAChR regulation are altered in the absence of the A2AR gene. Quantitative autoradiography was used to measure cytisine-sensitive [(125)I]epibatidine and [(125)I]α-bungarotoxin binding to α4β2* and α7 nAChRs, respectively, in brain sections of drug-naïve (n = 6) or nicotine treated (n = 5-7), wild-type and adenosine A2AR knockout mice. Saline or nicotine (7.8 mg/kg/day; free-base weight) were administered to male CD1 mice via subcutaneous osmotic minipumps for a period of 14 days. Blood plasma levels of nicotine and cotinine were measured at the end of treatment. There were no compensatory developmental alterations in nAChR subtype distribution or density in drug-naïve A2AR knockout mice. In nicotine treated wild-type mice, both α4β2* and α7 nAChR binding sites were increased compared with saline treated controls. The genetic ablation of adenosine A2ARs prevented nicotine-induced upregulation of α7 nAChRs, without affecting α4β2* receptor upregulation. This selective effect was observed at plasma levels of nicotine that were within the range reported for smokers (10-50 ng ml(-1)). Our data highlight the involvement of adenosine A2ARs in the mechanisms of nicotine-induced α7 nAChR upregulation, and identify A2ARs as novel pharmacological targets for modulating the long-term effects of nicotine on α7 receptors.
Adenosine, acting on A(2A) adenosine receptors, regulates addictive processes induced by drugs of abuse. The present study investigates the role of A(2A) adenosine receptors in neurochemical and behavioural responses to an acute cocaine challenge. Changes in the extracellular levels of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens of mice lacking A(2A) adenosine receptors and wild type littermates after an acute cocaine (20mg/kg) administration were evaluated by in vivo microdialysis studies. Locomotor effects induced by cocaine were measured during the microdialysis procedure. Cocaine-evoked increases in extracellular dopamine were not sustained in mice lacking A(2A) receptors in comparison to wild-type mice (P
Paracetamol is an effective analgesic but its mechanism of action is unclear. We investigated the effect of paracetamol and the analgesic adjuvant caffeine on the activity of NO synthase in mouse spinal cord and cerebellar slices in vitro, by measuring the conversion of [3H]arginine to [3H]citrulline. Paracetamol (100 μM) had no effect on NO synthase activity in cerebellum, but in the spinal cord both paracetamol (100 μM) and caffeine (30 μM) attenuated glutamate (5 mM)-induced [3H]citrulline production and in combination they abolished it. In conclusion paracetamol inhibits spinal cord NO synthesis and this may be related to its analgesic effects.
Knockout mice lacking the adenosine A(2A) receptor are less sensitive to nociceptive stimuli, and this may be due to the presence of pronociceptive A(2A) receptors on sensory nerves. In support of this hypothesis, we have recently shown that in A(2A) receptor knockout mice there are marked reductions in the changes of two markers of spinal cord neuronal activity, [(3)H]MK801 binding to NMDA receptors and uptake of [(14)C]-2-deoxyglucose, in response to formalin injection. We now report that following a more prolonged inflammatory stimulus, consisting of intraplantar injections of PGE(2) and paw pressure, there was in contrast an increase in [(3)H]MK801 binding and [(14)C]-2-deoxyglucose uptake in the spinal cords of the A(2A) receptor knockout mice which was much greater than in the wild-type mice. This increase suggests that when there is a pronounced inflammatory component to the stimulus, loss of inhibitory A(2A) receptors on inflammatory cells outweighs the loss of pronociceptive A(2A) receptors on peripheral nerves so that overall there is an increase in nociceptive signalling. This implies that although A(2A) antagonists have antinociceptive effects they may have only limited use as analgesics in chronic inflammatory pain.
This study investigated the involvement of adenosine receptors in the interaction between paracetamol and caffeine in mice, using the adenosine A2A receptor antagonist 5-amino-7-(2-phenylethyl)-2-(2-furyl)pyrazolo[4,3-e]-1,2,4-triazolo[1,5-c]pyrimidine (SCH58261) and the adenosine A2B receptor antagonist 1-propyl-8-p-sulfophenylxanthine (PSB1115), in the tail immersion and hot-plate tests. Paracetamol (10–200 mg/kg) was antinociceptive in both tests, but, in contrast to previous studies, caffeine (10 mg/kg) was pronociceptive in the tail immersion test, and reduced the effects of paracetamol in both tests. SCH58261 (3 mg/kg) was antinociceptive in both tests and in its presence paracetamol (50 mg/kg) had no further effect. PSB1115 (10 mg/kg) had little effect alone but potentiated the effect of paracetamol (50 mg/kg) in the hot-plate test and abolished it in the tail immersion test. These results suggest that adenosine A2B receptors may be involved in the action of paracetamol in a pathway-dependent manner, and also support the existence of pronociceptive adenosine A2A receptors
Addiction to psychostimulants is a major public health problem with no available treatment. Adenosine A2A receptors (A2A R) co-localize with metabotropic glutamate 5 receptors (mGlu5 R) in the striatum and functionally interact to modulate behaviours induced by addictive substances, such as alcohol. Using genetic and pharmacological antagonism of A2A R in mice, we investigated whether A2A R-mGlu5 R interaction can regulate the locomotor, stereotypic and drug-seeking effect of methamphetamine and cocaine, two drugs that exhibit distinct mechanism of action. Genetic deletion of A2A R, as well as combined administration of sub-threshold doses of the selective A2A R antagonist (SCH 58261, 0.01 mg/kg, i.p.) with the mGlu5 R antagonist, 3-((2-methyl-4-thiazolyl)ethynyl)pyridine (0.01 mg/kg, i.p.), prevented methamphetamine- but not cocaine-induced hyperactivity and stereotypic rearing behaviour. This drug combination also prevented methamphetamine-rewarding effects in a conditioned-place preference paradigm. Moreover, mGlu5 R binding was reduced in the nucleus accumbens core of A2A R knockout (KO) mice supporting an interaction between these receptors in a brain region crucial in mediating addiction processes. Chronic methamphetamine, but not cocaine administration, resulted in a significant increase in striatal mGlu5 R binding in wild-type mice, which was absent in the A2A R KO mice. These data are in support of a critical role of striatal A2A R-mGlu5 R functional interaction in mediating the ambulatory, stereotypic and reinforcing effects of methamphetamine but not cocaine-induced hyperlocomotion or stereotypy. The present study highlights a distinct and selective mechanistic role for this receptor interaction in regulating methamphetamine-induced behaviours and suggests that combined antagonism of A2A R and mGlu5 R may represent a novel therapy for methamphetamine addiction.
Background and purpose. Purinergic system through the A2A adenosine receptor regulates addiction induced by different drugs of abuse. The aim of the present study was to investigate the specific role of A2A adenosine receptors in behavioral and neurochemical morphine responses related to its addictive properties. Experimental approach. Mice lacking A2A adenosine receptors and wild type littermates were used to evaluate behavioral responses induced by morphine. Antinociception was assessed using the tail-immersion and the hot-plate tests. Place conditioning paradigms were used to evaluate the rewarding effects of morphine and the dysphoric responses of morphine withdrawal. Microdialysis studies were carried out to evaluate changes in the extracellular levels of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens of A2A knockout mice after morphine administration. Key results. The acute administration of morphine induced a similar enhancement of locomotor activity and antinociceptive responses in both genotypes. However, the rewarding effects induced by morphine were completely blocked in A2A knockout mice. Besides, naloxone did not induce place aversion in animals lacking the A2A adenosine receptors. Conclusions and implications. Our findings demonstrate the relevant role played by A2A adenosine receptors in the addictive properties of morphine. Both, rewarding and aversive effects associated to abstinence were abolished in A2A knockout mice, supporting a differential role of the A2A adenosine receptor in somatic and motivational effects of morphine addiction. This study provides evidence about the role of A2A adenosine receptor as a general modulator of the addictive phenomenon.
1 The aim of this study was to characterize the adenosine receptor mediating vasodilation in the microvasculature of the hamster cheek pouch in vivo. A range of adenosine agonists was used including N6-cyclopentyladenosine (CPA) (A1 agonist), 5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (NECA) (non-selective), 2-chloroadenosine (2CADO) (non-selective), 2-p-(2-carboxyethyl)-phenethylamino-5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (CGS 21680) (A2A agonist), N6-(3-iodobenzyl)-adenosine-5'-N-methyluronamide (IBMECA) (A3 agonist) and adenosine, as well as the adenosine antagonists 8-sulphophenyltheophylline (8-SPT) (A1/A2 antagonist), 1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine (DPCPX) (A1 antagonist) and 4-(2-[7-amino-2-(2-furyl)[1,2,4]-triazolo[2,3-a][1,3,5]triazin-5-ylamino]ethyl)phenol (ZM 241385) (A2A antagonist). 2 All the adenosine analogues used induced vasodilation at concentrations between 10 nm and 1 microm, and the potency order was NECA > CGS 21680 > 2CADO > CPA=IBMECA > adenosine, indicating an action at A2A receptors. 8-SPT (50 microm) antagonized vasodilator responses to NECA with an apparent pKB of 5.4, consistent with an action at A1 or A2 receptors and confirming that A3 receptors are not involved in this response. 3 DPCPX (10 nm) had no effect on vasodilation evoked by NECA, suggesting that this response was not mediated via A1 receptors, while ZM 241385 (10 nm) antagonized dilator responses to NECA with an apparent pKB of 8.9 consistent with an action via A2A receptors. 4 Overall these results suggest that adenosine A2A receptors mediate vasodilation in the hamster cheek pouch in vivo.
1 The aim of this study was to examine whether sodium nitroprusside (SNP)-induced relaxation of rat fundus longitudinal smooth muscle involves ryanodine-sensitive Ca2+ release. 2 SNP (300 nM-30 microM) elicited concentration-dependent relaxation of precontracted (1 microM carbachol) rat fundus, an effect almost abolished by the selective guanylyl cyclase inhibitor, 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo[4,3-a]quinoxaline-1-one (ODQ, 10 microM). 3 SNP-mediated relaxations were almost abolished by 10 microM ryanodine. 4 SNP-mediated relaxations were also reduced by either 1 microM apamin (a selective small conductance Ca(2+)-sensitive K+ channel, SKCa, inhibitor) or the selective L-type Ca2+ channel inhibitor, nicardipine (3 microM). 5 SNP-induced relaxations were insensitive to 1 mM tetraethylammonium chloride (an inhibitor of large-conductance Ca(2+)-sensitive K+ channels) and 1 microM glibenclamide (an ATP-sensitive K+ channel inhibitor). 6 These data suggest that SNP-mediated fundus relaxation occurs via a cGMP-mediated and ryanodine-sensitive mechanism which requires, at least in part, SKCa and L-type Ca2+ channel activity.
The main challenge in treating opioid addicts is to maintain abstinence due to the affective consequences associated with withdrawal which may trigger relapse. Emerging evidence suggests a role of the neurohypophysial peptide oxytocin (OT) in the modulation of mood disorders as well as drug addiction. However, its involvement in the emotional consequences of drug abstinence remains unclear. We investigated the effect of 7-day opioid abstinence on the oxytocinergic system and assessed the effect of the OT analogue carbetocin (CBT) on the emotional consequences of opioid abstinence, as well as relapse. Male C57BL/6J mice were treated with a chronic escalating-dose morphine regimen (20-100 mg/kg/day, i.p.). Seven days withdrawal from this administration paradigm induced a decrease of hypothalamic OT levels and a concomitant increase of oxytocin receptor (OTR) binding in the lateral septum and amygdala. Although no physical withdrawal symptoms or alterations in the plasma corticosterone levels were observed after 7 days of abstinence, mice exhibited increased anxiety-like and depressive-like behaviors and impaired sociability. CBT (6.4 mg/kg, i.p.) attenuated the observed negative emotional consequences of opioid withdrawal. Furthermore, in the conditioned place preference paradigm with 10 mg/kg morphine conditioning, CBT (6.4 mg/kg, i.p.) was able to prevent the stress-induced reinstatement to morphine-seeking following extinction. Overall, our results suggest that alterations of the oxytocinergic system contribute to the mechanisms underlying anxiety, depression, and social deficits observed during opioid abstinence. This study also highlights the oxytocinergic system as a target for developing pharmacotherapy for the treatment of emotional impairment associated with abstinence and thereby prevention of relapse.
G-protein coupled receptors interact to provide additional regulatory mechanisms for neurotransmitter signaling. Adenosine A(2A) receptors are expressed at a high density in striatal neurons, where they closely interact with dopamine D(2) receptors and modulate effects of dopamine and responses to psychostimulants. A(2A) receptors are expressed at much lower densities in other forebrain neurons but play a more prominent yet opposing role to striatal receptors in response to psychostimulants in mice. It is, therefore, possible that A(2A) receptors expressed at low levels elsewhere in the brain may also regulate neurotransmitter systems and modulate neuronal functions. Dopamine D(2) receptors play an important role in autoinhibition of neuronal firing in dopamine neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and dopamine release in other brain areas. Here, we examined the effect of A(2A) receptor deletion on D(2) receptor-mediated inhibition of neuronal firing in dopamine neurons in the VTA. Spontaneous activity of dopamine neurons was recorded in midbrain slices, and concentration-dependent effects of the dopamine D(2) receptor agonist, quinpirole, was compared between wild-type and A(2A) knockout mice. The potency of quinpirole applied in single concentrations and the expression of D(2) receptors were not altered in the VTA of the knockout mice. However, quinpirole applied in stepwise escalating concentrations caused significantly reduced maximal inhibition in A(2A) knockout mice, indicating an enhanced agonist-induced desensitization of D(2) receptors in the absence of A(2A) receptors. The A(2A) receptor agonist, CGS21680, did not exert any effect on dopamine neuron firing or response to quinpirole, revealing a novel non-pharmacological interaction between adenosine A(2A) receptors and dopaminergic neurotransmission in midbrain dopamine neurons. Altered D(2) receptor desensitization may result in changes in dopamine neuron firing rate and pattern and dopamine release in other brain areas in response to persistent dopamine release and administration of psychostimulants.