Interest in cannabinoid pharmacology increased dramatically upon the identification of the first cannabinoid receptor (CB1) in 1998 and continues to expand as additional endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors are discovered. Using CB1 receptor (CB1R) systems, medicinal chemistry programs began screening libraries searching for cannabinoid ligands, ultimately leading to the discovery of the first potent cannabinoid receptor antagonist, SR141716A (Rimonabant). Its demonstrated efficacy in treating obesity and facilitating smoking cessation, among other impressive pharmacological activities, has furthered the interest in cannabinoid receptor antagonists as therapeutics, such that the number of patents and publications covering this class of compounds continues to grow at an impressive rate. At this time, medicinal chemistry approaches including combinatorial chemistry, conformational constraint, and scaffold hopping are continuing to generate a large number of cannabinoid antagonists. These molecules provide an opportunity to gain insight into the 3-dimensional structure-activity relationships that appear crucial for CB1R-ligand interaction. In particular, studies in which conformational constraints have been imposed on the various pyrazole ring substituents of SR141716A provide a direct opportunity to characterize changes in conformation/conformational freedom within a single class of compounds. While relatively few conformationally constrained molecules have been synthesized to date, the structure-activity information is often more readily interpreted than in studies where entire substituents are replaced. Thus, it is the focus of this mini-review to examine the structural properties of SR141716A, and to use conformationally constrained molecules to illustrate the importance of conformation and conformational freedom to CB1R affinity, selectivity, and efficacy.
Keywords: cannabinoid receptor, CB1, antagonists, SR141716A, structure-activity relationships, conformational analysis, molecular modeling