Newswise — Cluster headaches, anxiety and depression can be debilitating for people living with these conditions. Psychedelic drugs have shown benefits as treatments for these conditions in clinical studies, but not for everyone. Now, in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, researchers report that one reason could be common genetic variations in one serotonin receptor. They found that seven variants uniquely and differentially impacted the receptor’s in vitro response to four psychedelic drugs — psilocin, LSD, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) and mescaline.

Recently, there’s been renewed interest and research in using psychedelic compounds that stimulate serotonin receptors in the brain because of several promising results from clinical trials. These receptors bind serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) and other similar amine-containing molecules, helping regulate people’s mood, perceptions, cognition and emotions, as well as their appetite. In particular, the serotonin receptor known as 5-HT2A is responsible for mediating the effects of psychedelic drugs. However, there are several naturally occurring, random genetic variations, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, that can impact the 5-HT2A receptor’s structure and function. So, Bryan Roth and colleagues wanted to explore how variations in the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor impact the in vitro activity of four psychedelic therapies.

The researchers used a series of assays to measure the effect that seven different SNPs had on in vitro binding and signaling of the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor when in the presence of psilocin, LSD, 5-MeO-DMT or mescaline. Their results indicated that some gene variations, even ones at a distance from the binding site, alter the way the receptor interacts with the psychedelic drugs. For example, the single nucleotide polymorphism Ala230Th had both increased and reduced responses to the drugs tested compared to the original version of the gene, whereas the His452Th mutation showed only reduced effects. Based on their results, the researchers expect that patients with different genetic variations would react differently to psychedelic-assisted treatments. They suggest that physicians consider the genetics of a patient’s serotonin receptors to identify which psychedelic compound is likely to be the most effective treatment.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

The paper’s abstract will be available on July 27 at 8 a.m. Eastern time here:

For more of the latest research news, register for our upcoming meeting, ACS Fall 2022. Journalists and public information officers are encouraged to apply for complimentary press registration by completing this form.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people. The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, its CAS division partners with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact [email protected].

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

Journal Link: ACS Chemical Neuroscience