Endogenous dopamine release in the human brain as a pharmacodynamic biomarker: evaluation of the new GPR139 agonist TAK-041 with [11C]PHNO PET

Eugenii A. Rabiner*, Tolga Uz, Ayla Mansur, Terry Brown, Grace Chen, Jingtao Wu, Joy Atienza, Adam J. Schwarz, Wei Yin, Yvonne Lewis, Graham E. Searle, Jeremy M.T.J. Dennison, Jan Passchier, Roger N. Gunn, Johannes Tauscher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The use of positron emission tomography (PET) in early-phase development of novel drugs targeting the central nervous system, is well established for the evaluation of brain penetration and target engagement. However, when novel targets are involved a suitable PET ligand is not always available. We demonstrate an alternative approach that evaluates the attenuation of amphetamine-induced synaptic dopamine release by a novel agonist of the orphan G-protein-coupled receptor GPR139 (TAK-041). GPR139 agonism is a novel candidate mechanism for the treatment of schizophrenia and other disorders associated with social and cognitive dysfunction. Ten healthy volunteers underwent [11C]PHNO PET at baseline, and twice after receiving an oral dose of d-amphetamine (0.5 mg/kg). One of the post-d-amphetamine scans for each subject was preceded by a single oral dose of TAK-041 (20 mg in five; 40 mg in the other five participants). D-amphetamine induced a significant decrease in [11C]PHNO binding potential relative to the non-displaceable component (BPND) in all regions examined (16–28%), consistent with increased synaptic dopamine release. Pre-treatment with TAK-041 significantly attenuated the d-amphetamine-induced reduction in BPND in the a priori defined regions (putamen and ventral striatum: 26% and 18%, respectively). The reduction in BPND was generally higher after the 40 mg than the 20 mg TAK-041 dose, with the difference between doses reaching statistical significance in the putamen. Our findings suggest that TAK-041 enters the human brain and interacts with GPR139 to affect endogenous dopamine release. [11C]PHNO PET is a practical method to detect the effects of novel drugs on the brain dopaminergic system in healthy volunteers, in the early stages of drug development.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date21 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Oct 2021


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