Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Anthony DeCaprio

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kenneth Furton

Third Advisor's Name

Bruce McCord

Fourth Advisor's Name

Alexander Mebel

Fifth Advisor's Name

Berrin Serdar


protein adducts, metabolism, cytochrome P450, in vitro assay, drug of abuse, biomarker of exposure, reactive metabolite, cocaine, methamphetamine, morphine

Date of Defense



Recreational abuse of the drugs cocaine, methamphetamine, and morphine continues to be prevalent in the United States of America and around the world. While numerous methods of detection exist for each drug, they are generally limited by the lifetime of the parent drug and its metabolites in the body. However, the covalent modification of endogenous proteins by these drugs of abuse may act as biomarkers of exposure and allow for extension of detection windows for these drugs beyond the lifetime of parent molecules or metabolites in the free fraction. Additionally, existence of covalently bound molecules arising from drug ingestion can offer insight into downstream toxicities associated with each of these drugs.

This research investigated the metabolism of cocaine, methamphetamine, and morphine in common in vitro assay systems, specifically focusing on the generation of reactive intermediates and metabolites that have the potential to form covalent protein adducts. Results demonstrated the formation of covalent adduction products between biological cysteine thiols and reactive moieties on cocaine and morphine metabolites. Rigorous mass spectrometric analysis in conjunction with in vitro metabolic activation, pharmacogenetic reaction phenotyping, and computational modeling were utilized to characterize structures and mechanisms of formation for each resultant thiol adduction product. For cocaine, data collected demonstrated the formation of adduction products from a reactive arene epoxide intermediate, designating a novel metabolic pathway for cocaine. In the case of morphine, data expanded on known adduct-forming pathways using sensitive and selective analysis techniques, following the known reactive metabolite, morphinone, and a proposed novel metabolite, morphine quinone methide. Data collected in this study describe novel metabolic events for multiple important drugs of abuse, culminating in detection methods and mechanistic descriptors useful to both medical and forensic investigators when examining the toxicology associated with cocaine, methamphetamine, and morphine.





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