Impaired dopamine activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is thought to contribute to cognitive deficits in diseases such as schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and traumatic brain injury. Catechol-O-methyltransfease (COMT) metabolizes dopamine and is an important regulator of dopamine signaling in the DLPFC. In mammalian species, two isoforms of COMT protein, membrane-bound COMT (MB-COMT) and soluble COMT (S-COMT), are encoded by one COMT gene and expressed widely. While S-COMT is thought to play a dominant role in the peripheral tissues, MB-COMT is suggested to have a greater role in dopamine metabolism in the brain. However, whether a selective inhibitor for MB-COMT may effectively block dopamine metabolism remains unknown. We generated a knockout of MB-COMT in PC12 cells using CRISPR-cas9 technology to evaluate the effect of both MB and S-COMT on dopamine metabolism. Deletion of MB-COMT in PC12 cells significantly decreased homovanillic acid (HVA), completely depleted 3-methyoxytyramine (3-MT), and significantly increased 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) levels. Comparison of the effect of a MB-COMT selective inhibitor LI-1141 on dopamine metabolism in wild type and MB-COMT knockout PC12 cells allowed us to confirm the selectivity of LI-1141 with respect to MB-COMT in cells. Under conditions in which LI-1141 was shown to inhibit only MB-COMT but not S-COMT, it effectively changed dopamine metabolites similar to the effect induced by tolcapone, a non-selective COMT inhibitor, suggesting that selective inhibition of MB-COMT will be effective in blocking dopamine metabolism, providing an attractive therapeutic approach in improving cognition for patients.
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