Activation of μ-opioid receptors by MT-45 (1-cyclohexyl-4-(1,2-diphenylethyl)piperazine) and its fluorinated derivatives

Daniel T. Baptista-Hon, Mark Smith, Samuel Singleton, Lysbeth H. Antonides, Niamh Nic Daeid, Craig McKenzie, Tim G. Hales (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Background and Purpose: A fluorinated derivative (2F‐MT‐45) of the synthetic μ‐opioid receptor agonist MT‐45 (1‐cyclohexyl‐4‐(1,2‐diphenylethyl)piperazine) was recently identified in a seized illicit tablet. While MT‐45 is a Class A drug, banned in a number of countries, nothing is known about the pharmacology of 2F‐MT‐45. This study compares the pharmacology of MT‐45, its fluorinated derivatives and two of its metabolites.

Experimental Approach: We used a β‐arrestin2 recruitment assay in CHO cells stably expressing μ receptors to quantify the apparent potencies and efficacies of known (MT‐45, morphine, fentanyl and DAMGO) and potential agonists. In addition, the GloSensor protein was transiently expressed to quantify changes in cAMP levels. We measured Ca2+ to investigate whether MT‐45 and its metabolites have effects on GluN1/N2A NMDA receptors stably expressed in Ltk‐ cells.

Key Results: The fluorinated MT‐45 derivatives have higher apparent potencies (2F‐MT‐45: 42 nM) than MT‐45 (1.3 μM) for inhibition of cAMP accumulation and β‐arrestin2 recruitment (2F‐MT‐45: 196 nM; MT‐45: 23.1 μM). While MT‐45 and 2F‐MT‐45 are poor recruiters of β‐arrestin2, they have similar efficacies for reducing cAMP levels as DAMGO. Two MT‐45 metabolites displayed negligible potencies as μ receptor agonists, but one, 1,2‐diphenylethylpiperazine, inhibited the NMDA receptor with an IC50 of 29 μM.

Conclusion and Implications: Fluorinated derivatives of MT‐45 are potent μ receptor agonists and this may pose a danger to illicit opioid users. Inhibition of NMDA receptors by a metabolite of MT‐45 may contribute to the reported dissociative effects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3436-3448
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number15
Early online date4 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2020


  • Opioid crisis
  • analgesics
  • psychoactive substances
  • novel synthetic opioids
  • biased agonist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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