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The CRFI Antagonist Verucerfont in Anxious Alcohol-Dependent Women: Translation of Neuroendocrine, But not of Anti-Craving Effects
Linköping University, Center for Social and Affective Neuroscience (CSAN). NIAAA, MD USA.
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2016 (English)In: Neuropsychopharmacology, ISSN 0893-133X, E-ISSN 1740-634X, Vol. 41, no 12, 2818-2829 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Blockade of corticotropin-releasing factor receptor I (CRFI) suppresses stress-induced alcohol seeking in rodents, but clinical translation remains. Here, we first showed that the CRFI antagonist verucerfont potently blocks hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis activation in adrenalectomized rats. We then evaluated verucerfont for its ability to block HPA axis activation and reduce stress-induced alcohol craving in alcohol-dependent patients. Anxious, alcohol-dependent women (age 21-65 years, n = 39) were admitted to the NIH Clinical Center and completed withdrawal treatment before enrollment if needed. One-week single-blind placebo was followed by randomized double-blind verucerfont (350 mg per day) or placebo for 3 weeks. Verucerfont effects on the HPA axis were evaluated using the dexamethasone-CRF test Craving was evaluated using two established protocols, one that combines a social stressor with physical alcohol cue exposure, and one that uses guided imagery to present personalized stress, alcohol, or neutral stimuli. An fMRI session examined brain responses to negative affective stimuli and alcohol cues. In contrast to our recent observations with another CRFI antagonist, pexacerfont, verucerfont potently blocked the HPA axis response to the dexamethasone-CRF test, but left alcohol craving unaffected. Right amygdala responses to negative affective stimuli were significantly attenuated by verucerfont, but responses to alcohol-associated stimuli were increased in some brain regions, including left insula. Discontinuation rates were significantly higher in the verucerfont group. Our findings provide the first translational evidence that CRFI antagonists with slow receptor dissociation kinetics may have increased efficacy to dampen HPA axis responses. The findings do not support a clinical efficacy of CRFI blockade in stress-induced alcohol craving and relapse.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Nature Publishing Group, 2016. Vol. 41, no 12, 2818-2829 p.
National Category
Pharmacology and Toxicology
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-132467DOI: 10.1038/npp.2016.61ISI: 000385212700004PubMedID: 27109623OAI: diva2:1046282

Funding Agencies|NIAAA DICBR

Available from: 2016-11-13 Created: 2016-11-12 Last updated: 2016-11-15

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Cortes, Carlos R.Heilig, Markus
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Center for Social and Affective Neuroscience (CSAN)Division of Neuro and Inflammation ScienceFaculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
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