Researchers Begin to Decipher Metabolism of Sexual Assault Drug

Nov 19, 2009 By Jennifer Donovan
Initial steps in metabolism of 4-HB.

(PhysOrg.com) -- It’s a naturally occurring brain chemical with an unwieldy name: 4-hydroxybutyrate (4-HB). Taken by mouth, it can be abused or used as a date-rape drug.

Now, a team of Ohio and Michigan scientists have determined new routes by which 4-HB is metabolized by the body. “This is new and important information,” said K. Michael Gibson, professor and chair of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University and a member of the research team. “It may provide new clues on how to counteract the drug’s effects, or to enhance its metabolism and decrease toxicity for chronic abusers or victims of sexual assault.”

Gibson is co-author with Guo-Fang Zhang and others in the laboratory of Prof. Henri Brunengraber from the Department of Nutrition at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine of a paper published online today by the . Their findings will appear in as “paper of the week” in the the print edition of the weekly journal on Nov. 27, 2009. The journal is published by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

4-HB is a derivative of a major brain in humans and other species. . It occurs naturally in small amounts in the brains of most animals and humans. In a rare genetic metabolic disorder, 4-HB accumulates in extremely high levels, causing significant developmental delays and seizures.

But 4-HB—also called gamma hydroxybutyrate or GHB—is best known and most feared when it is taken orally, because it is a drug that impairs the capacity to exercise judgment, like rohypnol and ketamine hydrochloride. For that reason, it can be used to facilitate acquaintance sexual assault, commonly called date rape.

Analyzing the chemicals produced by the breakdown of 4-HB in mice and rats, Zhang, Gibson and colleagues used very sophisticated approaches to identify previously unknown enzymes and pathways that appear to act on 4-HB and other similarly structured compounds. They discovered that 4-HB is metabolized by two different chemical mechanisms or pathways. Their discovery of those pathways should open the door for future studies that can identify the enzymes involved in the following steps of the breakdown of 4-HB.

“This work may help to develop new antidotes and treatments for people who have ingested 4-HB, as well as treatment for children with the rare genetic disorder that causes the compound to accumulate in high levels,” Gibson said. (For more information on genetic disorders of 4-HB, see www.pndassoc.org).

The 4-HB research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Cleveland Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation.

Provided by Michigan Technological University (news : web)

Explore further: Pterostilbene, a molecule similar to resveratrol, as a potential treatment for obesity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genetic signature predicts outcome of pediatric liver cancer

Dec 08, 2008

Scientists have identified a genetic signature that is remarkably effective at predicting the prognosis of an aggressive liver cancer in children. The research, published by Cell Press in the December issue of the journal ...

Anticancer drugs might be of benefit to sickle-cell patients

Dec 06, 2007

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited blood disorder caused by a genetic mutation that leads to the generation of a mutant form of the beta-globin chain of hemoglobin (Hb). Red blood cells containing Hb with this mutant ...

Removing user fees does not improve health outcomes in Ghana

Jan 06, 2009

Removing user fees for primary health care changed health utilization behaviour but did not improve health outcomes among households with children under the age of five in Ghana, says a new study published in the open access ...

Recommended for you

Why plants don't get sunburn

Oct 29, 2014

Plants rely on sunlight to make their food, but they also need protection from its harmful rays, just like humans do. Recently, scientists discovered a group of molecules in plants that shields them from ...

Viral switches share a shape

Oct 27, 2014

A hinge in the RNA genome of the virus that causes hepatitis C works like a switch that can be flipped to prevent it from replicating in infected cells. Scientists have discovered that this shape is shared by several other ...

'Sticky' ends start synthetic collagen growth

Oct 27, 2014

Rice University researchers have delivered a scientific one-two punch with a pair of papers that detail how synthetic collagen fibers self-assemble via their sticky ends.

Cell membranes self-assemble

Oct 27, 2014

A self-driven reaction can assemble phospholipid membranes like those that enclose cells, a team of chemists at the University of California, San Diego, reports in Angewandte Chemie.

Emergent behavior lets bubbles 'sense' environment

Oct 27, 2014

Tiny, soapy bubbles can reorganize their membranes to let material flow in and out in response to the surrounding environment, according to new work carried out in an international collaboration by biomedical ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.