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Sunifiram (DM-235) is an AMPAkine drug (acting via AMPA receptors) that exerts anti-amnesiac properties. With similar actions as nefiracetam, it holds promise as a cognitive enhancer but is relatively understudied currently.

Our evidence-based analysis on sunifiram features 10 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
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Research Breakdown on Sunifiram

1Sources and Structure


Sunifiram (DM-235) is a nootropic drug that is commonly associated with the racetam drugs (although it itself is not a racetam) as it is a pyrrolidone derivative.[1] Sunifiram is structurally related to both unifiram (DM-232) and sapunifiram (MN-19),[2] as all three molecules are piperazine alkaloids.

Sunifiram is reported to be four orders of magnitude more potent than Piracetam[3] in regards to antiamnesiac potential.[4] Injections of 0.1mg/kg appear to have cognitive enhancing properties comparable to 30mg/kg piracetam in otherwise normal adult rats.[4]

Sunifiram is a synthetic analogue of Piracetam that, due to opening the pyrrolidinone ring (pentagon with a nitrogen) is no longer classified as a racetam compound. It still retains cognitive enhancing properties


Sunifiram is a piperazine alkaloid (referring to the hexagon with two nitrogen groups) that is derived from Piracetam. Using the related structure unifiram as an example, the sidechain of piracetam is fused into a piperazine structure by reconnecting it to the pyrrolidine backbone, and then sunifiram sees an opening of the pyrrolidine backbone (not observed in unifiram) which is known to not be vital for the cognitive enhancing properties of piracetam-like drugs.[5]

Sunifiram is, essentially, a molecule that closed the sidechain of piracetam into a piperazine ring structure and then eliminated the typical pentagon backbone


2.1Glutaminergic Neurotransmission

10-100nM of sunifiram has been noted to enhance NMDA-dependent signalling via an increase in PKCα phosphorylation, dependent on the glycine binding site and acting antagonistically to glycine (300μM).[6] This receptor activation actiates Src, and inhibiting Src inhibits the increase in long term potentiation.[6] NMDA-depedent long-term potentiation has been confirmed in vivo with 0.01-1mg/kg oral intake of sunifiram for 7-12 days.[1]

While signalling via the NDMA receptor exhibited a bell-curve response peaking at 10nM it was able to cause concentration-dependent enhancement of neuronal signalling up to 1,000nM due to an increase in AMPA receptor phosphorylation.[6] Increases in AMPA receptor activation was associated with an increase in (NMDA receptor dependent) CAMKII phosphorylation and PKCα[6] both of which have been confirmed in vivo with 0.01-1mg/kg sunifiram oral ingestion and are blocked by a glycine-site NMDA antagonist.[1] AMPA receptor activation has been noted elsewhere to be associated with the anti-amnesiac effects of sunifiram.[7]

Sunifiram appears to act on the glycine binding site of NMDA receptors, which enhances signalling and activates some intracellular proteins (CAMKII and PKCα) which then positively regulate the AMPA receptors. These mechanisms are highly similar to that seen with nefiracetam

2.2Cholinergic Neurotransmission

Sunifiram injections at 0.01mg/kg are able to facilitate acetylcholine release in the prefrontal cortex of rats, with no apparent efficacy at 1mg/kg.[4] The magnitude was around 200% of baseline within an hour of injection.[4]

Although only one study has been conducted, it appears that sunifiram may enhance acetylcholine secretion in the prefrontal cortex

2.3Learning and Memory

Although CAMKII and PKCα (intracellular proteins downstream of NDMA receptor activation) have been confirmed to be activated in vitro[6] and in vivo,[1] CaMKIV and ERK are unaffected.[1]

Sunifiram is known to enhance long-term potentiation (LTP) in vitro (10-1000nM)[6] and in vivo (0.01-1mg/kg for 7-12 days oral intake)[1] in a manner that is initially dependent on the NMDA receptor (particularly, the glycine binding site) but then positively influences the activity of AMPA receptors.

In olfactory bulbectomized mice with hippocampal dependent memory impairments, sunifiram at 1mg/kg is able to abolish the reductions seen when given after training sessions.[1] LTP in these mice (normally impaired and causes memory dysfunction[8]) was also normalized to control levels.[1]

Amnesia induced by scopolamine, baclofen, diphenhydramine, and clonidine have all been noted to be reduced with sunifiram with injected doses as low as 0.001mg/kg[4][9] and oral doses as low as 0.01mg/kg.[9]

Appears to promote long term potentiation in the hippocampus with oral ingestion, which should result in an improvement in memory in animals that have otherwise impaired memory

One study (social learning paradigm) in otherwise normal adult rats noted that 0.1mg/kg injections of piracetam were as effective in promoting cognition as 30mg/kg piracetam as reference drug.[4]

Limited evidence supports cognitive enhancement in otherwise healthy rodents


Depressive effects seen in olfactory bulbectomized mice are not affected by 0.1-1mg/kg of sunifiram,[1] which may be due to the depressive effects in this research model being associated with reduced ERK activation[10] and sunifiram not affecting ERK.[1]

No observable anti-depressive effects

3Safety and Toxicity


A study noting efficacy of sunifiram (0.001mg/kg denoted minimum effective dose) failed to find any overt toxic symptoms with a 1000-fold higher dose injected (1mg/kg).[4]

Currently no known toxicity associated with Sunifiram


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Moriguchi S, et al. Novel nootropic drug sunifiram improves cognitive deficits via CaM kinase II and protein kinase C activation in olfactory bulbectomized mice. Behav Brain Res. (2013)
  2. ^ Martini E, et al. Design, synthesis and nootropic activity of new analogues of sunifiram and sapunifiram, two potent cognition-enhancers. Bioorg Med Chem. (2009)
  3. ^ Martini E, et al. Design, synthesis and preliminary pharmacological evaluation of new piperidine and piperazine derivatives as cognition-enhancers. Bioorg Med Chem. (2008)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Manetti D, et al. Molecular simplification of 1,4-diazabicyclo{4.3.0}nonan-9-ones gives piperazine derivatives that maintain high nootropic activity. J Med Chem. (2000)
  5. ^ Scapecchi S, et al. 2-pyrrolidinone moiety is not critical for the cognition-enhancing activity of piracetam-like drugs. Farmaco. (2003)
  6. ^ a b c d e f Moriguchi S, et al. Novel nootropic drug sunifiram enhances hippocampal synaptic efficacy via glycine binding site of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. Hippocampus. (2013)
  7. ^ Galeotti N, et al. AMPA-receptor activation is involved in the antiamnesic effect of DM 232 (unifiram) and DM 235 (sunifiram). Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. (2003)
  8. ^ Moriguchi S, et al. CaM kinase II and protein kinase C activations mediate enhancement of long-term potentiation by nefiracetam in the rat hippocampal CA1 region. J Neurochem. (2008)
  9. ^ a b Ghelardini C, et al. DM235 (sunifiram): a novel nootropic with potential as a cognitive enhancer. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. (2002)
  10. ^ Shioda N, et al. A novel cognitive enhancer, ZSET1446/ST101, promotes hippocampal neurogenesis and ameliorates depressive behavior in olfactory bulbectomized mice. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. (2010)