The use of novel psychoactive substances (NPSs) has dramatically increased worldwide, and among them, synthetic opioids are one of the fastest growing groups, where cinnamylpiperazines and 2-benzylbenzimidazoles represent two of the most relevant subclasses. However, the data on their toxicity and metabolism are still limited. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the toxicity and metabolic pathways of some compounds belonging to these families, namely, AP-237, 2-methyl AP-237, isotonitazene, flunitazene, etodesnitazene, metonitazene, metodesnitazene, N-pyrrolidino etonitazene, and butonitazene. The study was performed using a zebrafish early life stages model. In fact, zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos and larvae have recently been recognized as a suitable animal model in alternative to mammals, because they require less time and resources and do not need complex procedures for ethics approval. The cellular toxicity after a single administration was assessed at the fourth day post-fertilization with acridine orange staining. Possible morphological defects were evaluated with a light microscope after 24 h of exposure to 1 mu mol/L concentration of each drug. Subsequently, the larvae were euthanized and underwent analysis of drug metabolites using UPLC coupled to an Orbitrap high-resolution mass spectrometer. High rates of morphological defects, as well as of cellular death, were detected, but no significant difference in mortality between treatment and control groups was observed. In addition, several metabolites, mainly produced through monohydroxylation, N-dealkylation, and O-dealkylation, were identified in the larvae extracts.In this study, the toxicological effects of a panel of nine different new synthetic opioids were assessed, in vivo, using the zebrafish embryo. All the tested compounds were found to cause toxic effects. High rates of morphological abnormalities and an increase in cell death were observed in larvae treated with the studied compounds. The metabolic study showed that the studied drugs are metabolized when exposed to zebrafish embryos by similar pathways to those in humans. image
Murari, Matilde;Pesavento, Sara;Greco, Francesca;Vettori, Andrea;Tagliaro, Franco;Gottardo, Rossella
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