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Structural aspects of high affinity ligands for the alpha 4 beta 2 neuronal nicotinic receptor

Structural aspects of high affinity ligands for the alpha 4 beta 2 neuronal nicotinic receptor

Pharmaceutica Acta Helvetiae 74(2-3): 115-123

ISSN/ISBN: 0031-6865

PMID: 10812947

DOI: 10.1016/s0031-6865(99)00023-0

Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are a heterogeneous family of related ion channels that are widely distributed throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. They all share a common architecture of five subunit proteins that combine at the cell surface to create a ligand-gated cation permeable pore. Significant effort is currently being expended by medicinal chemistry teams to synthesize ligands that exhibit selectivity for central over peripheral nAChR subtypes. Within the CNS, multiple nAChR subtypes are recognized, and the discovery of ligands exhibiting selectivity among these subtypes offers an opportunity for the development of novel therapeutic agents. The alpha 4 beta 2 subtype is one of the most abundant nAChR subtypes within the CNS, and has been the primary focus of high affinity ligand design. Nicotine (1), and more recently, epibatidine (2) have served as structural templates for the design of the majority of active compounds. Although the diversity of nAChR ligands is growing, the structural requirements necessary for high affinity binding with the alpha 4 beta 2 receptor remain poorly understood. The putative pharmacophoric elements common to all potent alpha 4 beta 2 ligands include (1) a basic or quaternized nitrogen atom, and (2) a less basic nitrogen or a carbonyl oxygen that presumably interact with electron rich and electron deficient sites on the receptor, respectively. The family of currently known high affinity analogs consists of a diverse array of azacycles containing a basic amine. Several additional basic amine fragments have been identified, including the pyrrolizidine nucleus (exemplified by 8) and the 2-azabicyclo[2.2.1]heptane skeleton (exemplified by 9). In addition, we have found that the furo[2,3-b]pyridine heterocycle (compound 10) serves as useful bioisosteric replacement for the pyridyl substituent of nicotine. A preliminary pharmacophore model is proposed in which a reasonable superposition of the putative pharmacophoric elements of the diverse array of high affinity ligands for the alpha 4 beta 2 nAChR reported herein may be accommodated.

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