Ghrelin, an enteric peptide hormone linked to the pathophysiology of obesity has been a therapeutic target of great interest over the past decade. Many research efforts have focused on the antagonism of ghrelin’s endogenous receptor GHSR1a, which is found along ascending vagal afferent fibers, as well as in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus. Additionally, peptidic inhibitors against ghrelin O-acyltransferase, the enzyme responsible for the paracrine activation of ghrelin, have recently been studied. Our research has taken an alternative immunological approach, studying both active and passive vaccination as a means to sequester ghrelin in the periphery, with the original discovery in rat of decreased feed efficiency and adiposity, as well as increased metabolic activity. Using our previous hapten designs as a stepping-stone, three monoclonal antibodies (JG2, JG3, and JG4) were procured against ghrelin and tested in vivo. While mAb JG4 had the highest affinity for ghrelin, it failed to attenuate the orexigenic effects of food deprivation on energy metabolism or food intake in mice. However, animals that were administered a combination of JG3:JG4, (termed a doublet), or JG2:JG3:JG4, (termed a triplet), demonstrated higher heat dispersion and rate of respiration (higher CO2 emission and O2 consumption) during a 24-hr fast refeed. Mice administered the triplet cocktail of JG2:JG3:JG4 also demonstrated decreased food intake upon refeeding as compared to control animals. Recently, Lu and colleagues reported that a passive approach using a single, high affinity N-terminally directed monoclonal antibody did not abrogate the effects of endogenous ghrelin. Our current report corroborates this finding, yet, refutes that a monoclonal antibody approach cannot be efficacious. Rather, we find that a multiple monoclonal antibody (oligoclonal) approach can reproduce the underlying logic to previously reported efficacies using active vaccinations.
ghrelin; monoclonal antibodies; passive vaccination; active vaccination; metabolism; food intake
A novel hybrid melanocortin pharmacophore was designed based on the topographical similarities between the pharmacophores of Agouti related protein (AGRP) an endogenous melanocortin antagonist, and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH), an endogenous melanocortin agonist. When employed in two different 23-membered macrocyclic lactam peptide templates, the designed hybrid AGRP/MSH pharmacophore yielded non-competitive ligands with nanomolar range binding affinities. The topography-based pharmacophore hybridization strategy will prove useful in development of unique non-competitive melanocortin receptor modulators.
α-MSH; Agouti-related protein; human melanocortin receptors; hybrid pharmacophore; macrocyclic peptide
(+)-Methamphetamine (METH) use and addiction has grown at alarming rates over the past two decades, while no approved pharmacotherapy exists for its treatment. Immunopharmacotherapy has the potential to offer relief through producing highly specific antibodies that prevent drug penetration across the blood-brain barrier thus decreasing reinforcement of the behavior. Current immunotherapy efforts against methamphetamine have focused on a single hapten structure, namely linker attachment at the aromatic ring of the METH molecule. Hapten design is largely responsible for immune recognition as it affects presentation of the target antigen and thus the quality of the response. In the current paper we report the systematic generation of a series of haptens designed to target the most stable conformations of methamphetamine as determined by molecular modeling. Based on our previous studies with nicotine, we show that introduction of strategic molecular constrain is able to maximize immune recognition of the target structure as evidenced by higher antibody affinity. Vaccination of GIX+ mice with six unique METH immunoconjugates, resulted in high antibody titers for three particularly promising formulations (45–108 μg/mL, after second immunization) and high affinity (82, 130 and 169 nM for MH2, MH6 and MH7 hapten-based vaccines, respectively). These findings represent a unique approach to the design of new vaccines against methamphetamine abuse.
methamphetamine; active vaccination; immunopharmacotherapy; constrained hapten
Alkynyl- and azido-tagged 3-oxo-C12-acylhomoserine lactone probes have been synthesized to examine their potential utility as probes for discovering the mammalian protein target of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa autoinducer, 3-oxo-C12-acylhomoserine lactone. Although such substitutions are commonly believed to be quite conservative, from these studies, we have uncovered a drastic difference in activity between the alkynyl- and azido-modified compounds, and provide an example where such structural modification has proved to be much less than conservative.
Acylhomoserine lactones; Click chemistry; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; Quorum sensing
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are the etiological agents responsible for botulism, a disease characterized by peripheral neuromuscular blockade and a characteristic flaccid paralysis of humans. BoNT/A is the most toxic protein known to man and has been classified by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) as one of the six highest-risk threat agents for bioterrorism. Of particular concern is the apparent lack of clinical interventions that can reverse cellular intoxication. Efforts to uncover molecules that can act within an intoxicated cell so as to provide symptomatic relief to BoNT/A are paramount. Aminopyridines have shown clinical efficacy for multiple sclerosis treatment as well as BoNT/A intoxication; yet, aminopyridines for BoNT/A treatment has been abandoned because of blood brain barrier (BBB) penetration producing undesired neurotoxic side effects. Two aminopyridines, (5 and 11), exhibited inhibitory activity toward Shaker-IR voltage-gated potassium (KV1.x) channels with potencies similar to that of the previous “gold-standard”, 3,4-diaminopyridine (3,4-DAP), including reversal of symptoms from BoNT-induced paralysis in phrenic nerve-hemidiaphragm preparations. Importantly, pharmacokinetic experiments revealed a lack of BBB penetration of 5, which is a significant advancement toward resolving the neurotoxicity issues associated with prolonged 3,4-DAP treatments. Finally, 5 was found to be as effective as 3,4-DAP in rescuing BoNT-poisoned mice in the mouse lethality assay, signifying an optimized balance between the undesired permeability across the BBB, and the required permeability across lipid cellular membranes. The results demonstrate that 5 is the most promising small molecule K+ channel inhibitor discovered to date for the treatment of BoNT/A intoxication.
Botulinum Neurotoxin; aminopyridine; K+ channel inhibitors
A novel hybrid melanocortin pharmacophore was designed based on the pharmacophores of the Agouti signaling protein (ASIP), an endogenous melanocortin antagonist, and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH), an endogenous melanocortin agonist. The designed hybrid ASIP/MSH pharmacophore was explored in monomeric cyclic, and cyclodimeric templates. The monomeric cyclic disulfide series yielded peptides with hMC3R-selective non-competitive binding affinities. The direct on-resin peptide lactam cyclodimerization yielded nanomolar range (25-120 nM) hMC1R-selective full and partial agonists in the cyclodimeric lactam series which demonstrates an improvement over the previous attempts at hybridization of MSH and agouti protein sequences. The secondary structure-oriented pharmacophore hybridization strategy will prove useful in development of unique allosteric and orthosteric melanocortin receptor modulators. This report also illustrates the utility of peptide cyclodimerization for the development of novel GPCR peptide ligands.
Agouti-signalling protein; melanocortin receptors; cyclodimerization; C2-symmetry; macrocyclic peptide
A new series of melanotropin analogues with His or Arg residues in the core pharmacophores of MTII, SHU9119 and Ac-NDP-γ-MSH-NH2 replaced by Pro or trans-/cis- 4-guanidinyl-Pro derivatives were designed and synthesized to introduce selectivity toward the human melanocortin 4 receptor (hMC4R). Analogues 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 were found to be hMC4R selective. Second messenger studies have demonstrated that analogues 1 and 2 are insurmountable inhibitors of MTII agonist activity at the hMC4R. Molecular modeling studies suggest that the hMC4R selectivity is due to a β-turn shift induced by the Pro ring that makes the global minimum structures of these analogues resemble the NMR solution structure of the hASIP melanocortin receptor binding motif. Substitution of His in MTII also provided functional selectivity for the hMC3R or the hMC4R. These findings are important for a better understanding of the selectivity mechanism at the hMC3R/hMC4R, and the development of therapeutic ligands selectively targeting the hMC4R.
One approach to treating drug abuse uses anti-drug antibodies to immunize subjects against the illicit substance rather than administering therapeutics that target the specific CNS site of action. At present, passive vaccination has recognized efficacy in treating certain gross symptoms of drug misuse, namely motor activation, self-administration, and overdose. However, the potential for antibodies to prevent drug-induced changes involving finer cognitive processes, such as benzodiazepine-associated amnesia, remains unexplored. To address this concept, a flunitrazepam hapten was synthesized and employed in the generation of a panel of high affinity monoclonal antibodies. Anti-flunitrazepam mAb RCA3A3 (Kd,app= 200 nM) was tested in a mouse model of passive immunization and subsequent mole-equivalent challenge with flunitrazepam. Not only was flunitrazepam-induced sedation prevented, but immunization also conferred protection to memory consolidation as assessed through contextual and cued fear conditioning paradigms. These results provide evidence that immunopharmacotherapeutic blockade of drug intoxication also preserves complex cognitive function.
Flunitrazepam; Immunopharmacotherapy; Conditioned fear; Memory (Amnesia); Benzodiazepine; Antibody; Immunization
Penile erection is a complex physiologic event resulting from the interactions of the nervous system on a highly specialized vascular organ. Activation of central nervous system melanocortinergic (MC) receptors with either endogenous or synthetic melanotropic ligands may initiate and/or facilitate spontaneous penile erection.
While the CNS contains principally the MC3 and MC4 receptor subtypes, there is conflicting data as to which receptor mediates erection. Although the MC4R is emerging as the principle effector of MC induced erection, the role of the MC3R is poorly understood. Manipulation of each receptor subtype with newly synthesized receptor specific agonists and antagonists, as well as knockout mice, has elucidated their individual contributions. Novel data from our laboratories suggests that antagonism of forebrain MC3R may enhance melanocortin-induced erections. Furthermore, melanocortin agents may interact with better-studied systems such as oxytocinergic pathways at the hypothalamic, brainstem or spinal level.
Current therapies for erectile dysfunction target end organ vascular tissue. Manipulation of MC receptors may provide an alternative, centrally mediated therapeutic approach for erectile and other sexual dysfunctions. The non-specific “superpotent” MC agonist, PT-141, which is the carboxylate derivative of MT-II, has reached phase II human trials. Through their centrally mediated activity, melanocortin agonists have potential to treat erectile dysfunction as well as possible applications to the unmet medical needs of decreased sexual motivation and loss of libido.
A variety of dicarboxylic acid linkers introduced between the α-amino group of Pro6 and the ε-amino group of Lys10 of the cyclic lactam α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH)-derived Pro6-D-Phe7/D-Nal(2′)7-Arg8-Trp9-Lys10-NH2 pentapeptide template lead to nanomolar range and selective hMC3R agonists and antagonists. Replacement of the Pro6 residue and the dicarboxylic acid linker with 2,3-pyrazine-dicarboxylic acid furnished a highly selective nanomolar range hMC3R partial agonist (analogue 12, c[CO-2,3-pyrazine-CO-D-Phe-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2, EC50 = 27 nM, 70% max cAMP) and an hMC3R antagonist (analogue 13, c[CO-2,3-pyrazine-CO-D-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2, IC50 = 23 nM). Modeling experiments suggest that 2,3-pyrazinedicarboxylic acid stabilizes a β-turn-like structure with the D-Phe/D-Nal(2′) residues, which explains the high potency of the corresponding peptides. Placement of a Nle residue in position 6 produced a hMC3R/hMC5R antagonist (analogue 15, c[CO-(CH2)2-CO-Nle-D-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2, IC50 = 12 and 17 nM, respectively), similarly to the previously described cyclic γ-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (γ-MSH)-derived hMC3R/hMC5R antagonists. These newly developed melanotropins will serve as critical biochemical tools for elucidating the full spectrum of functions performed by the physiologically important melanocortin-3 receptor.
In search of new selective antagonists and/or agonists for the human melanocortin receptor subtypes hMC1R to hMC5R to elucidate the specific biological roles of each GPCR, we modified the structures of the superagonist MT-II (Ac-Nle-c[Asp-His-D-Phe-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2) and the hMC3R/hMC4R antagonist SHU9119 (Ac-Nle-c[Asp-His-D-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2) by replacing the His-D-Phe and His-D-Nal(2′) fragments in MT-II and SHU9119, respectively, with Aba-Xxx (4-amino-1,2,4,5-tetrahydro-2-benzazepin-3-one-Xxx) dipeptidomimetics (Xxx = D-Phe/pCl-D-Phe/D-Nal(2′)). Employment of the Aba mimetic yielded novel selective high affinity hMC3R and hMC3R/hMC5R antagonists.
Human melanocortin receptors; 4-Amino-1,2,4,5-tetrahydro-2-benzazepin-3-ones; Cyclic lactam analogues; Conformational restrictions; hMC3R/hMC5R antagonists
The processed products of the proopiomelanocortin gene (ACTH, α-MSH, β-MSH, γ-MSH, etc.) interact with five melanocortin receptors, the MC1R, MC2R, MC3R, MC4R, and MC5R to modulate and control many important biological functions crucial for good health both peripherally (as hormones) and centrally (as neurotransmitters). Pivotal biological functions include pigmentation, adrenal function, response to stress, fear/flight, energy homeostasis, feeding behavior, sexual function and motivation, pain, immune response, and many others, and are believed to be involved in many disease states including pigmentary disorders, adrenal disorders, obesity, anorexia, prolonged and neuropathic pain, inflammatory response, etc. The roeianocortin-3 receptor (MC3R) is found primarily in the brain and spinal cord and also in the periphery, and its biological functions are still not well understood. Here we review some of the biological functions attributed to the MC3R, and then examine in more detail efforts to design and synthesize ligands that are potent and selective for the MC3R, which might help resolve the many questions still remaining about its function. Though some progress has been made, there is still much to be done in this critical area.
The effects of the linker arm rigidity and size on melanocortin receptor selectivity were explored in a series of compounds using cyclic lactam α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone template. A variety of dicarboxylic acid linkers introduced between the α-amino group of His6 and the ɛ-amino group of Lys10 lead to high-affinity, selective human melanocortin receptor-1 and -5 (hMC1R and hMC5R) antagonists. The incorporation of hydrophilic functions into the linker arm was found to be unfavorable for both binding potency and receptor selectivity. Analogs 8 and 9 containing highly conformationally constrained hydrophobic linkers (m- and p-phthalic acids) were found to be selective nanomolar range hMC1R antagonists (IC50 = 7 and 4 nM, respectively), whereas the employment of a small conformationally constrained linker (maleic acid) resulted in a high-affinity (IC50 = 19 nM) and selective hMC5R antagonist (analog 12). These newly developed melanotropins will serve as critical biochemical tools for elucidating the full spectrum of functions performed by the physiologically important melanocortin-1 and -5 receptors.
α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone; antagonist; human melanocortin-1 receptor; human melanocortin-5 receptor; macrocyclic; melanocortin; peptide; All, allyl; Alloc, allyloxycarbonyl; Boc, tert-butyloxycarbonyl; Fmoc, fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl; CH3CN, acetonitrile; DCM, dichloromethane; DIPEA, diisopropylethylamine; DMF, N,N-dimethylformamide; DIC, diisopropyl carbodiimide; HBTU, 2-(1H-benzotriazole-1-yl)-1, 1, 3, 3-tetramethyluronium hexafluorophosphate; HOBt, N-hydroxybenzotriazole; hMCR, human melanocortin receptor; MSH, melanocyte-stimulating hormone; Nal(2′), 2′-naphthylalanine; Pbf, 2, 2, 4, 6, 7-pentamethyldihydrobenzofuran-5-sulfonyl; PyBOP, benzotriazol-1-yloxy-tris-pyrrolidinophosphonium hexafluorophosphate; TFA, trifluoroacetic acid; Trt, trityl; SPPS, solid-phase peptide synthesis; RP-HPLC, reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography; hMC1R, human melanocortin-1 receptor; α-MSH, Ac-Ser-Tyr-Ser-Met-Glu-His-Phe-Arg-Trp-Gly-Lys-Pro-Val-NH2; NDP-α-MSH, Ac-Ser-Tyr-Ser-Nle-Glu-His-D-Phe-Arg-Trp-Gly-Lys-Pro-Val-NH2
A new bicyclic template has been developed for the synthesis of peptide
mimetics. Straightforward synthetic steps, starting from amino acids, allow the
facile construction of a wide range of analogs. This system was designed to
target the melanocortin receptors (MCRs), with functional group selection based
on a known pharmacophore and guidance from molecular modeling to rationally
identify positional and stereochemical isomers likely to be active. The
functions of hMCRs are critical to myriad biological activities, including
pigmentation, steroidogenesis, energy homeostasis, erectile activity, and
inflammation. These G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are targets for drug
discovery in a number of areas, including cancer, pain, and obesity
therapeutics. All compounds from this series tested to date are antagonists
which bind with high affinity. Importantly, many are highly selective for a
particular MCR subtype, including some of the first completely hMC5R-selective
Melanocortins; Peptide mimetics; GPCRs
A series of cyclic lactam analogues of γ-MSH (H-Tyr1-Val2-Met3-Gly4-His5-Phe6-Arg7-Trp8-Asp9-Arg10-Phe11-Gly12-OH) with a bulky hydrophobic residue in the direct proximity to the pharmacophore (Xaa-d-Phe/d-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp) were designed and synthesized by solid-phase methods. A variety of amino acids with a broad range of hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties was introduced in position 5 to further explore their complementary role in receptor selectivity. Biological evaluation of these peptides revealed several analogues with potent hMC3R agonist and hMC3R/hMC5R antagonist activities, and good receptor selectivity. Analogue 4, c[Nle-Arg-d-Phe-Arg-Trp-Glu]-NH2, was found to be a very potent and selective hMC3R agonist (EC50 = 1.2 nM, 112% act). In addition, analogue 13, c[Nle-Val-d-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp-Glu]-NH2, was identified as an hMC3R/hMC5R antagonist with the best selectivity against the hMC4R in this series (pA2(hMC3R) = 8.4; pA2(hMC5R) = 8.7). These results indicate the significance of steric factors in melanocortin receptor selectivity and suggest that introduction of bulky residues in the direct proximity to the melanocortin pharmacophore is an effective approach to design of novel hMC3R and hMC5R selective ligands.
Cyclic melanotropin peptides, designed with an aromatic amino acid substitution at the N-terminal position of the MT-II-type scaffold, were prepared by solid-phase peptide synthesis and evaluated for their ability to bind to and activate human melanocortin-1, -3, -4, and -5 receptors. The structure–activity studies of these MT-II analogues have identified a selective antagonist at the hMC4R (H-Phe-c[Asp-Pro-d-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp-Gly-Lys]-NH2, pA2 = 8.7), a selective partial agonist at the hMC4R (H-d-Nal(2′)-c[Asp-Pro-d-Phe-Arg-Trp-Gly-Lys]-NH2, IC50 = 11 nM, EC50 = 56 nM), and a selective partial agonist at the hMC3R (H-D-Phe-c[Asp-Pro-d-Phe-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2, IC50 = 3.7 nM, EC50 = 4.9 nM). Aromatic amino acid substitution at the N-terminus in conjuction with the expansion of the 23-membered cyclic lactam MT-II scaffold to a 26-membered scaffold by addition of a Gly residue in position 10 leads to melanotropin peptides with enhanced receptor selectivity.
Melanotropins; N-Terminal aromatic amino acid substitution; Cyclic peptide lactams; Structure-activity; Receptor selectivity; Melanotropin receptors
alkynes; azides; enzymes; peptides