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1.  Development of Novel Alkene Oxindole Derivatives As Orally Efficacious AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Activators 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2013;4(5):475-480.
Adenosine 5′-monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is emerging as a promising drug target for its regulatory function in both glucose and lipid metabolism. Compound PT1 (5) was originally identified from high throughput screening as a small molecule activator of AMPK through the antagonization of the autoinhibition in α subunits. In order to enhance its potency at AMPK and bioavailability, structure–activity relationship studies have been performed and resulted in a novel series of AMPK activators based on an alkene oxindole scaffold. Following their evaluation in pharmacological AMPK activation assays, lead compound 24 was identified to possess improved potency as well as favorable pharmacokinetic profile. In the diet-induced obesity (DIO) mouse model, compound 24 was found to improve glucose tolerance and alleviate insulin resistance. The in vitro and in vivo data for these alkene oxindoles warrant further studies for their potential therapeutic medications in metabolic associated diseases.
doi:10.1021/ml400028q
PMCID: PMC4027511  PMID: 24900695
AMPK activator; alkene oxindole; DIO mouse model; insulin sensitivity; diabetes
2.  The potent and selective α4β2*/α6*-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist 2-[5-[5-((S)Azetidin-2-ylmethoxy)-3-pyridinyl]-3-isoxazolyl]ethanol demonstrates antidepressive-like behavior in animal models and a favorable ADME-tox profile 
Preclinical and clinical studies demonstrated that the inhibition of cholinergic supersensitivity through nicotinic antagonists and partial agonists can be used successfully to treat depressed patients, especially those who are poor responders to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In our effort to develop novel antidepressant drugs, LF-3-88 was identified as a potent nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) partial agonist with subnanomolar to nanomolar affinities for β2-containing nAChRs (α2β2, α3β2, α4β2, and α4β2*) and superior selectivity away from α3β4 − (Ki > 104 nmol/L) and α7-nAChRs (Ki > 104 nmol/L) as well as 51 other central nervous system (CNS)-related neurotransmitter receptors and transporters. Functional activities at different nAChR subtypes were characterized utilizing 86Rb+ ion efflux assays, two-electrode voltage-clamp (TEVC) recording in oocytes, and whole-cell current recording measurements. In mouse models, administration of LF-3-88 resulted in antidepressive-like behavioral signatures 15 min post injection in the SmartCube® test (5 and 10 mg/kg, i.p.; about 45-min session), decreased immobility in the forced swim test (1–3 mg/kg, i.p.; 1–10 mg/kg, p.o.; 30 min pretreatment, 6-min trial), and decreased latency to approach food in the novelty-suppressed feeding test after 29 days chronic administration once daily (5 mg/kg but not 10 mg/kg, p.o.; 15-min trial). In addition, LF-3-88 exhibited a favorable profile in pharmacokinetic/ADME-Tox (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity) assays. This compound was also shown to cause no mortality in wild-type Balb/CJ mice when tested at 300 mg/kg. These results further support the potential of potent and selective nicotinic partial agonists for use in the treatment of depression.
doi:10.1002/prp2.26
PMCID: PMC4184702  PMID: 25505580
Antidepressive-like behavior; nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; partial agonist; selectivity
3.  Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Behavioral Studies Identify Chiral Cyclopropanes as Selective α4β2- Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Partial Agonists Exhibiting an Antidepressant Profile. Part II 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(13):10.1021/jm400510u.
A 3-pyridyl ether scaffold bearing a cyclopropane-containing side chain was recently identified in our efforts to create novel antidepressants that act as partial agonists at α4β2-nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. In this study, a systematic structure-activity relationship investigation was carried out on both the azetidine moiety present in compound 3 and its right-hand side chain, thereby discovering a variety of novel nicotinic ligands that retain bioactivity and feature improved chemical stability. The most promising compounds 24, 26, and 30 demonstrated comparable or enhanced pharmacological profiles compared to the parent compound 4, and the N-methylpyrrolidine analogue 26 also exhibited robust antidepressant-like efficacy in the mouse forced swim test. The favorable ADMET profile and chemical stability of 26 further indicate this compound to be a promising lead as a drug candidate warranting further advancement down the drug discovery pipeline.
doi:10.1021/jm400510u
PMCID: PMC3843973  PMID: 23734673
4.  Pharmacokinetics and brain penetration of LF-3-88, (2-[5-[5-(2(S)-azetidinylmethoxyl)-3-pyridyl]-3-isoxazolyl]ethanol, a selective α4β2-nAChR partial agonist and promising antidepressant 
LF-3-88 (2-[5-[5-(2(S)-azetidinylmethoxyl)-3-pyridyl]-3-isoxazolyl] ethanol) was identified as a highly selective α4β2-nAChRs partial agonist, with a Ki value of 0.4 nM and EC50 value of 110 nM. A sensitive and selective ultra high pressure liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS-MS) method was developed and validated to study the pharmacokinetics profile of this compound in mice. Protein precipitation with acetonitrile was used to prepare the plasma and brain samples, and the recovery was greater than 90%. The inter-day and intra-day accuracy and precision of the quantitative method ranged from 95 % to 106 % for plasma and from 93 % to 105 % for brain homogenates. The precision of the assay was <10 %. The limit of detection and limit of quantitation were 0.5 ng/mL (1.8 nM) and 1 ng/mL (3.6 nM), respectively. LF-3-88 was stable (>93 %) for 24 h on the bench top at room temperature, and for at least 3 weeks at 4 °C and −80 °C. The UHPLC-MS-MS assay was applied to the measurement of plasma and brain levels of LF-3-88 following oral administration to male Balb/c mice. Plasma concentrations of LF-3-88 and brain levels were dose-dependent with half-lives of approximately 60 min and 180 min, respectively, indicating good oral bioavailability and penetration of the blood-brain barrier.
doi:10.1016/j.jchromb.2012.11.011
PMCID: PMC3538945  PMID: 23246847
α4β2-nAChRs partial agonist; Antidepressant; UHPLC-MS-MS Pharmacokinetics; Quantitative analysis
5.  From α4β2 Nicotinic Ligands to the Discovery of σ1 Receptor Ligands: Pharmacophore Analysis and Rational Design 
ACS medicinal chemistry letters  2012;3(12):1054-1058.
Comparative analyses of the pharmacophoric elements required for σ1 and nicotinic ligands led to the identification of a potent and selective σ1 ligand (15). Compound 15 displayed high selectivity for the σ1 receptor (Ki, σ1 = 4.1 nM, Ki, σ2 = 1312 nM) with moderate binding affinity for the DAT (Ki = 373 nM) and NET (Ki = 203 nM) in the PDSP broad screening panel of common CNS neurotransmitter transporters and receptors. The key finding in this present work is that a subtle structural modifica tion could be used as a tool to switch a ligand’s selectivity between nAChRs and sigma receptors.
doi:10.1021/ml3002715
PMCID: PMC3638970  PMID: 23641311
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; sigma-1 receptor; alkoxyisoxazole; pharmacophore; broad screening
6.  From α4β2 Nicotinic Ligands to the Discovery of σ1 Receptor Ligands: Pharmacophore Analysis and Rational Design 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2012;3(12):1054-1058.
Comparative analyses of the pharmacophoric elements required for σ1 and nicotinic ligands led to the identification of a potent and selective σ1 ligand (15). Compound 15 displayed high selectivity for the σ1 receptor (Ki, σ1 = 4.1 nM; Ki, σ2 = 1312 nM) with moderate binding affinity for the DAT (Ki = 373 nM) and NET (Ki = 203 nM) in the PDSP broad screening panel of common CNS neurotransmitter transporters and receptors. The key finding in this present work is that a subtle structural modification could be used as a tool to switch a ligand’s selectivity between nAChRs and sigma receptors.
doi:10.1021/ml3002715
PMCID: PMC3638970  PMID: 23641311
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; sigma-1 receptor; alkoxyisoxazole; pharmacophore; broad screening
7.  Discovery of Highly Potent and Selective α4β2-Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor (nAChR) Partial Agonists Containing an Isoxazolylpyridine Ether Scaffold that Demonstrate Antidepressant-like Activity. Part II 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2012;55(22):9998-10009.
In our continued efforts to develop α4β2-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) partial agonists as novel antidepressants having a unique mechanism of action, structure activity relationship (SAR) exploration of certain isoxazolylpyridine ethers is presented. In particular, modifications to both the azetidine ring present in the starting structure 4 and its metabolically liable hydroxyl side chain substituent have been explored to improve compound druggability. The pharmacological characterization of all new compounds has been carried out using [3H]epibatidine binding studies together with functional assays based on 86Rb+ ion flux measurements. We found that the deletion of the metabolically liable hydroxyl group or its replacement by a fluoromethyl group not only maintained potency and selectivity, but also resulted in compounds showing antidepressant-like properties in the mouse forced swim test. These isoxazolylpyridine ethers appear to represent promising lead candidates in the design of innovative chemical tools containing reporter groups for imaging purposes and of possible therapeutics.
doi:10.1021/jm301177j
PMCID: PMC3532055  PMID: 23092294
8.  Insights into the Structural Determinants Required for High Affinity Binding of Chiral Cyclopropane-Containing Ligands to α4β2-Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors; An Integrated Approach to Behaviorally Active Nicotinic Ligands 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2012;55(18):8028-8037.
Structure-based drug design can potentially accelerate the development of new therapeutics. In this study, a co-crystal structure of the acetylcholine binding protein (AChBP) from Capitella teleta (Ct) in complex with a cyclopropane-containing, selective α4β2-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) partial agonist (compound 5) was acquired. The structural determinants required for ligand binding obtained from this AChBP X-ray structure were used to refine our previous model of the human α4β2-nAChR, thus possibly providing a better understanding of the structure of the human receptor. In order to validate the potential application of the structure of the Ct-AChBP in the engineering of new α4β2-nAChR ligands, homology modeling methods, combined with in silico ADME calculations, were used to design analogs of compound 5. The most promising compound 12, exhibited an improved metabolic stability in comparison to the parent compound 5 while retaining favorable pharmacological parameters together with appropriate behavioral endpoints in the rodent studies.
doi:10.1021/jm3008739
PMCID: PMC3464052  PMID: 22928944
9.  Identification of Novel α4β2-Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor (nAChR) Agonists Based on an Isoxazole Ether Scaffold that Demonstrate Antidepressant-like Activity 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2012;55(2):812-823.
There is considerable evidence to support the hypothesis that the blockade of nAChR is responsible for the antidepressant action of nicotinic ligands. The nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) antagonist, mecamylamine, has been shown to be an effective add-on in patients that do not respond to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This suggests that nAChR ligands may address an unmet clinical need by providing relief from depressive symptoms in refractory patients. In this study, a new series of nAChR ligands based on an isoxazole-ether scaffold have been designed and synthesized for binding and functional assays. Preliminary structure-activity relationship (SAR) efforts identified a lead compound 43, which possesses potent antidepressant-like activity (1 mg/kg, IP; 5 mg/kg, PO) in the classical mouse forced swim test. Early stage absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity (ADME-Tox) studies also suggested favorable drug-like properties, and broad screening towards other common neurotransmitter receptors indicated that compound 43 is highly selective for nAChRs over the other 45 neurotransmitter receptors and transporters tested.
doi:10.1021/jm201301h
PMCID: PMC3272775  PMID: 22148173
10.  Chemistry and Behavioral Studies Identify Chiral Cyclopropanes as Selective α4β2-Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Partial Agonists Exhibiting an Antidepressant Profile 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2012;55(2):717-724.
Despite their discovery in the early 20th century and intensive study over the last twenty years, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are still far from being well understood. Only a few chemical entities targeting nAChRs are currently undergoing clinical trials, and even fewer have reached the marketplace. In our efforts to discover novel and truly selective nAChR ligands, we designed and synthesized a series of chiral cyclopropane-containing α4β2-specific ligands that display low nanomolar binding affinities and excellent subtype selectivity, while acting as partial agonists at α4β2-nAChRs. Their favorable antidepressant-like properties were demonstrated in the classical mouse forced swim test. Preliminary ADMET studies and broad screening towards other common neurotransmitter receptors were also carried out to further evaluate their safety profile and eliminate their potential off-target activity. These highly potent cyclopropane ligands possess superior subtype selectivity compared to other α4β2-nAChR agonists reported to date, including the marketed drug varenicline, and therefore may fully satisfy the crucial prerequisite for avoiding adverse side effects. These novel chemical entities could potentially be advanced to the clinic as new drug candidates for treating depression.
doi:10.1021/jm201157c
PMCID: PMC3292870  PMID: 22171543
11.  Discovery of Isoxazole Analogs of Sazetidine-A as Selective α4β2-Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor (nAChR) Partial Agonists for the Treatment of Depression 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(20):7280-7288.
Depression, a common neurological condition, is one of the leading causes of disability and suicide worldwide. Standard treatment targeting monoamine transporters selective for the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenalin are not able to help many patients that are poor responders. This study advances the development of sazetidine-A analogs that interact with α4β2-nAChR as partial agonists and that possess favorable antidepressant profiles. The resulting compounds that are highly selective for the α4β2 subtype of nAChR over α3β4-nAChRs are partial agonists at the α4β2 subtype and have excellent antidepressant behavioral profiles as measured by the mouse forced swim test. Preliminary ADMET studies for one promising ligand revealed an excellent plasma protein binding (PPB) profile, low CYP450 related metabolism, and low cardiovascular toxicity, suggesting it is a promising lead as well as a drug candidate to be advanced through the drug discovery pipeline.
doi:10.1021/jm200855b
PMCID: PMC3197876  PMID: 21905669

Results 1-11 (11)