DREADD Agonist 21 is an effective agonist for muscarinic-based DREADDs in vitro and in vivo

Karen J. Thompson, Elham Khajehali, Sophie J. Bradley, Jovana S. Navarrete, Xi Ping Huang, Samuel Slocum, Jian Jin, Jing Liu, Yan Xiong, Reid H.J. Olsen, Jeffrey F. Diberto, Kristen M. Boyt, Melanie M. Pina, Dipanwita Pati, Colin Molloy, Christoffer Bundgaard, Patrick M. Sexton, Thomas L. Kash, Michael J. Krashes, Arthur ChristopoulosBryan L. Roth, Andrew B. Tobin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Chemogenetic tools such as designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) are routinely used to modulate neuronal and non-neuronal signaling and activity in a relatively noninvasive manner. The first generation of DREADDs were templated from the human muscarinic acetylcholine receptor family and are relatively insensitive to the endogenous agonist acetylcholine but instead are activated by clozapine-N-oxide (CNO). Despite the undisputed success of CNO as an activator of muscarinic DREADDs, it has been known for some time that CNO is subject to a low rate of metabolic conversion to clozapine, raising the need for alternative chemical actuators of muscarinic-based DREADDs. Here we show that DREADD agonist 21 (C21) (11-(1-piperazinyl)-5H-dibenzo[b,e][1,4]diazepine) is a potent and selective agonist at both excitatory (hM3Dq) and inhibitory (hM4Di) DREADDs and has excellent bioavailability, pharmacokinetic properties, and brain penetrability. We also show that C21-induced activation of hM3Dq and hM4Di in vivo can modulate bidirectional feeding in defined circuits in mice. These results indicate that C21 represents an alternative to CNO for in vivo studies where metabolic conversion of CNO to clozapine is a concern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-72
Number of pages12
JournalACS Pharmacology & Translational Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2018


  • clozapine
  • clozapine- N-oxide
  • designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs
  • muscarinic acetylcholine receptors

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