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1.  Protein Homeostasis as a Therapeutic Target for Diseases of Protein Conformation† 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2012;12(22):2623-2640.
Protein misfolding and aggregation are widely implicated in an increasing number of human diseases providing for new therapeutic opportunities targeting protein homeostasis (proteostasis). The cellular response to proteotoxicity is highly regulated by stress signaling pathways, molecular chaperones, transport and clearance machineries that function as a proteostasis network (PN) to protect the stability and functional properties of the proteome. Consequently, the PN is essential at the cellular and organismal level for development and lifespan. However, when challenged during aging, stress, and disease, the folding and clearance machineries can become compromised leading to both gain-of-function and loss-of-function proteinopathies. Here, we assess the role of small molecules that activate the heat shock response, the unfolded protein response, and clearance mechanisms to increase PN capacity and protect cellular proteostasis against proteotoxicity. We propose that this strategy to enhance cell stress pathways and chaperone activity establishes a cytoprotective state against misfolding and/or aggregation and represents a promising therapeutic avenue to prevent the cellular damage associated with the variety of protein conformational diseases.
PMCID: PMC3955168  PMID: 23339312
Protein conformational diseases; proteostasis network; proteostasis regulators; stress responses
2.  Vascularization of Engineered Tissues: Approaches to Promote Angio-genesis in Biomaterials 
Although there have been extensive research efforts to create functional tissues and organs, most successes in tissue engineering have been limited to avascular or thin tissues. The major hurdle in development of more complex tissues lies in the formation of vascular networks capable of delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the engineered constructs. Sufficient neovascularization in scaffold materials can be achieved through coordinated application of angiogenic factors with proper cell types in biomaterials. This review present the current research developments in the design of biomaterials and their biochemical and biochemical modifications to produce vascularized tissue constructs.
PMCID: PMC3929210  PMID: 18393893
Tissue engineering; vascularization; angiogenesis; scaffold; biomaterials
3.  Recent Advances Toward Improving the Bioavailability of Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase Inhibitors 
Overproduction of nitric oxide by neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) has been highly correlated with numerous neurodegenerative diseases and stroke. Given its role in human diseases, nNOS is an important target for therapy that deserves further attention. During the last decade, a large number of organic scaffolds have been investigated to develop selective nNOS inhibitors, resulting in two principal classes of compounds, 2-aminopyridines and thiophene-2-carboximidamides. The former compounds were investigated in detail by our group, exhibiting great potency and excellent selectivity; however, they suffer from poor bioavailability, which hampers their therapeutic potential. Here we present a review of various strategies adopted by our group to improve the bioavailability of 2-aminopyridine derivatives and describe recent advances in thiophene-2-carboximidamide based nNOS-selective inhibitors, which exhibit promising pharmacological profiles.
PMCID: PMC3914398  PMID: 23578024
Bioavailability; Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase; Inhibitor; Isoform selectivity; 2-Aminopyridine; Thiophene-2-carboximidamide
4.  The Nociceptin/Orphanin FQ Receptor (NOP) as a Target for Drug Abuse Medications 
Several studies show that the nociceptin receptor NOP plays a role in the regulation of reward and motivation pathways related to substance abuse. Administration of the NOP’s natural peptide ligand, Nociceptin/Orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) or synthetic agonist Ro 64-6198 has been shown to block rewarding effects of cocaine, morphine, amphetamines and alcohol, in various behavioral models of drug reward and reinforcement, such as conditioned place preference and drug self-administration. Administration of N/OFQ has been shown to reduce drug-stimulated levels of dopamine in mesolimbic pathways. The NOP-N/OFQ system has been particularly well examined in the development of alcohol abuse in animal models. Furthermore, the efficacy of the mixed-action opioid buprenorphine, in attenuating alcohol consumption in human addicts and in alcohol-preferring animal models, at higher doses, has been attributed to its partial agonist activity at the NOP receptor. These studies suggest that NOP receptor agonists may have potential as drug abuse medications. However, the pathophysiology of addiction is complex and drug addiction pharmacotherapy needs to address the various phases of substance addiction (craving, withdrawal, relapse). Further studies are needed to clearly establish how NOP agonists may attenuate the drug addiction process and provide therapeutic benefit. Addiction to multiple abused drugs (polydrug addiction) is now commonplace and presents a treatment challenge, given the limited pharmacotherapies currently approved. Polydrug addiction may not be adequately treated by a single agent with a single mechanism of action. As with the case of buprenorphine, a mixed-action profile of NOP/opioid activity may provide a more effective drug to treat addiction to various abused substances and/or polydrug addiction.
PMCID: PMC3899399  PMID: 21050175
Nociceptin receptor ligands; NOP ligands; NOP receptor; mixed-action opioids; NOP/opioid ligands; drug addiction; polydrug addiction
5.  Sleep-active neuronal nitric oxide synthase-positive cells of the cerebral cortex: a local regulator of sleep? 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2011;11(19):2483-2489.
Our recent report demonstrated that a small subset of GABAergic interneurons in the cerebral cortex of rodents expresses Fos protein, a marker for neuronal activity, during slow wave sleep (Gerashchenko et al., 2008). The population of sleep-active neurons consists of strongly immunohistochemically-stained cells for the enzyme neuronal nitric oxide synthase. By virtue of their widespread localization within the cerebral cortex and their widespread projections to other cortical cell types, cortical neuronal nitric oxide synthase-positive neurons are positioned to play a central role in the local regulation of sleep waveforms within the cerebral cortex. Here, we review the possible functions of neuronal nitric oxide synthase and its diffusible gas product, nitric oxide, in regulating neuronal activity, synaptic plasticity and cerebral blood flow within the context of local sleep regulation in the cerebral cortex. We also summarize what is known, in addition to their expression of neuronal nitric oxide synthase, about the biochemical phenotype, synaptic connectivity and electrophysiological properties of this novel sleep-active population of cells. Finally, we raise some critical unanswered questions about the role of this population in local sleep regulation within the cerebral cortex and describe some experimental approaches that might be used to address those questions.
PMCID: PMC3899842  PMID: 21906016
Sleep; nitric oxide; interneurons; electroencephalographic slow waves; cerebral blood flow; neuropeptides; sleep homeostasis; synaptic plasticity
6.  Reviewing Colchicaceae Alkaloids – Perspectives of Evolution on Medicinal Chemistry 
The subject of chemosystematics has provided insight to both botanical classification and drug development. However, degrees of subjectivity in botanical classifications and limited understanding of the evolution of chemical characters and their biosynthetic pathways has often hampered such studies. In this review an approach of taking phylogenetic classification into account in evaluating colchicine and related phenethylisoquinoline alkaloids from the family Colchicaceae will be applied. Following on the trends of utilizing evolutionary reasoning in inferring mechanisms in eg. drug resistance in cancer and infections, this will exemplify how thinking about evolution can influence selection of plant material in drug lead discovery, and how knowledge about phylogenetic relationships may be used to evaluate predicted biosynthetic pathways.
PMCID: PMC3884533  PMID: 24359194
Alkaloids; biosynthetic pathways; colchicaceae; colchicine; evolution; phylogenetic prediction.
7.  Impact of Quaternary Structure Dynamics on Allosteric Drug Discovery 
The morpheein model of allosteric regulation draws attention to proteins that can exist as an equilibrium of functionally distinct assemblies where: one subunit conformation assembles into one multimer; a different subunit conformation assembles into a different multimer; and the various multimers are in a dynamic equilibrium whose position can be modulated by ligands that bind to a multimer-specific ligand binding site. The case study of porphobilinogen synthase (PBGS) illustrates how such an equilibrium holds lessons for disease mechanisms, drug discovery, understanding drug side effects, and identifying proteins wherein drug discovery efforts might focus on quaternary structure dynamics. The morpheein model of allostery has been proposed as applicable for a wide assortment of disease-associated proteins (Selwood, T., Jaffe, E., (2012) Arch. Bioch. Biophys, 519:131–143). Herein we discuss quaternary structure dynamics aspects to drug discovery for the disease-associated putative morpheeins phenylalanine hydroxylase, HIV integrase, pyruvate kinase, and tumor necrosis factor α. Also highlighted is the quaternary structure equilibrium of transthyretin and successful drug discovery efforts focused on controlling its quaternary structure dynamics.
PMCID: PMC3631351  PMID: 23409765
HIV integrase; morpheein; phenylalanine hydroxylase; porphobilinogen synthase; pyruvate kinase; transthyretin; tumor necrosis factor alpha; protein dynamics
8.  Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) Channels and Cardiac Fibrosis 
Cardiac fibrosis is associated with most cardiac diseases. Fibrosis is an accumulation of excessive extracellular matrix proteins (ECM) synthesized by cardiac fibroblasts and myofibroblasts. Fibroblasts are the most prevalent cell type in the heart, comprising 75% of cardiac cells. Myofibroblasts are hardly present in healthy normal heart tissue, but appear abundantly in diseased hearts. Cardiac fibroblasts are activated by a variety of pathological stimuli, such as myocardial injury, oxidative stress, mechanical stretch, and elevated autocrine-paracrine mediators, thereby undergoing proliferation, differentiation to myofibroblasts, and production of various cytokines and ECM proteins. A number of signaling pathways and bioactive molecules are involved and work in concert to activate fibroblasts and myofibroblasts in the fibrogenesis cascade. Fibroblasts and myofibroblasts are not only principal ECM producers, but also play a central role in fibrogenesis and myocardial remodeling in fibrotic heart disease. Thus, understanding the biological processes of cardiac fibroblasts will provide novel insights into the underlying mechanisms of fibrosis and provide potential targets for developing anti-fibrotic drugs. Recent studies demonstrate that Ca2+ signal is essential for fibroblast proliferation, differentiation, and ECM-protein production. This review focuses on the recent advances in understanding molecular mechanisms of Ca2+ signaling in cardiac fibrogenesis, and potential role of Ca2+-permeable channels, in particular, the transient potential (TRP) channels in fibrotic heart disease. TRP channels are highly expressed in cardiac fibroblasts. TRPM7 has been shown to be essential in TGFβ1 mediated fibrogenesis, and TRPC3 has been demonstrated to play an essential role in regulating fibroblast function. Thus, the Ca2+-permeable TRP channels may serve as potential novel targets for developing anti-fibrotic drugs.
PMCID: PMC3874073  PMID: 23432060
TRP channels; fibroblasts; fibrosis; remodeling; extracellular matrix
9.  Fragment-Based Optimization of Small Molecule CXCL12 Inhibitors for Antagonizing the CXCL12/CXCR4 Interaction 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2012;12(24):2727-2740.
The chemokine CXCL12 and its G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) CXCR4 are high-priority clinical targets because of their involvement in metastatic cancers (also implicated in autoimmune disease and cardiovascular disease). Because chemokines interact with two distinct sites to bind and activate their receptors, both the GPCRs and chemokines are potential targets for small molecule inhibition. A number of chemokines have been validated as targets for drug development, but virtually all drug discovery efforts focus on the GPCRs. However, all CXCR4 receptor antagonists with the exception of MSX-122 have failed in clinical trials due to unmanageable toxicities, emphasizing the need for alternative strategies to interfere with CXCL12/CXCR4-guided metastatic homing. Although targeting the relatively featureless surface of CXCL12 was presumed to be challenging, focusing efforts at the sulfotyrosine (sY) binding pockets proved successful for procuring initial hits. Using a hybrid structure-based in silico/NMR screening strategy, we recently identified a ligand that occludes the receptor recognition site. From this initial hit, we designed a small fragment library containing only nine tetrazole derivatives using a fragment-based and bioisostere approach to target the sY binding sites of CXCL12. Compound binding modes and affinities were studied by 2D NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, molecular docking and cell-based functional assays. Our results demonstrate that the sY binding sites are conducive to the development of high affinity inhibitors with better ligand efficiency (LE) than typical protein-protein interaction inhibitors (LE ≤ 0.24). Our novel tetrazole-based fragment 18 was identified to bind the sY21 site with a Kd of 24 μM (LE = 0.30). Optimization of 18 yielded compound 25 which specifically inhibits CXCL12-induced migration with an improvement in potency over the initial hit 9. The fragment from this library that exhibited the highest affinity and ligand efficiency (11: Kd = 13 μM, LE = 0.33) may serve as a starting point for development of inhibitors targeting the sY12 site.
PMCID: PMC3839847  PMID: 23368099
Chemokines; CXCL12/CXCR4 inhibitors; protein-protein interaction; metastasis; fragment-based and structure-guided drug design
10.  Adenylating Enzymes in Mycobacterium tuberculosis as Drug Targets 
Adenylation or adenylate-forming enzymes (AEs) are widely found in nature and are responsible for the activation of carboxylic acids to intermediate acyladenylates, which are mixed anhydrides of AMP. In a second reaction, AEs catalyze the transfer of the acyl group of the acyladenylate onto a nucleophilic amino, alcohol, or thiol group of an acceptor molecule leading to amide, ester, and thioester products, respectively. Mycobacterium tuberculosis encodes for more than 60 adenylating enzymes, many of which represent potential drug targets due to their confirmed essentiality or requirement for virulence. Several strategies have been used to develop potent and selective AE inhibitors including high-throughput screening, fragment-based screening, and the rationale design of bisubstrate inhibitors that mimic the acyladenylate. In this review, a comprehensive analysis of the mycobacterial adenylating enzymes will be presented with a focus on the identification of small molecule inhibitors. Specifically, this review will cover the aminoacyl tRNA-synthetases (aaRSs), MenE required for menaquinone synthesis, the FadD family of enzymes including the fatty acyl-AMP ligases (FAAL) and the fatty acyl-CoA ligases (FACLs) involved in lipid metabolism, and the nonribosomal peptide synthetase adenylation enzyme MbtA that is necessary for mycobactin synthesis. Additionally, the enzymes NadE, GuaA, PanC, and MshC involved in the respective synthesis of NAD, guanine, pantothenate, and mycothiol will be discussed as well as BirA that is responsible for biotinylation of the acyl CoA-carboxylases.
PMCID: PMC3808994  PMID: 22283817
Adenylation; adenylate-forming; tuberculosis; bisubstrate inhibitor
11.  A Survey of Quantitative Descriptions of Molecular Structure 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2012;12(18):1946-1956.
Numerical characterization of molecular structure is a first step in many computational analysis of chemical structure data. These numerical representations, termed descriptors, come in many forms, ranging from simple atom counts and invariants of the molecular graph to distribution of properties, such as charge, across a molecular surface. In this article we first present a broad categorization of descriptors and then describe applications and toolkits that can be employed to evaluate them. We highlight a number of issues surrounding molecular descriptor calculations such as versioning and reproducibility and describe how some toolkits have attempted to address these problems.
PMCID: PMC3809149  PMID: 23110530
12.  Allosteric Modulators for the Treatment of Schizophrenia: Targeting Glutamatergic Networks 
Schizophrenia is a highly debilitating mental disorder which afflicts approximately 1% of the global population. Cognitive and negative deficits account for the lifelong disability associated with schizophrenia, whose symptoms are not effectively addressed by current treatments. New medicines are needed to treat these aspects of the disease. Neurodevelopmental, neuropathological, genetic, and behavioral pharmacological data indicate that schizophrenia stems from a dysfunction of glutamate synaptic transmission, particularly in frontal cortical networks. A number of novel pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms affecting glutamatergic synaptic transmission have emerged as viable targets for schizophrenia. While developing orthosteric glutamatergic agents for these targets has proven extremely difficult, targeting allosteric sites of these targets has emerged as a promising alternative. From a medicinal chemistry perspective, allosteric sites provide an opportunity of finding agents with better drug-like properties and greater target specificity. Furthermore, allosteric modulators are better suited to maintaining the highly precise temporal and spatial aspects of glutamatergic synaptic transmission. Herein, we review neuropathological and genomic/genetic evidence underscoring the importance of glutamate synaptic dysfunction in the etiology of schizophrenia and make a case for allosteric targets for therapeutic intervention. We review progress in identifying allosteric modulators of AMPA receptors, NMDA receptors, and metabotropic glutamate receptors, all with the aim of restoring physiological glutamatergic synaptic transmission. Challenges remain given the complexity of schizophrenia and the difficulty in studying cognition in animals and humans. Nonetheless, important compounds have emerged from these efforts and promising preclinical and variable clinical validation has been achieved.
PMCID: PMC3792577  PMID: 23409764
Allosterism; AMPA; glycine; glutamate; NAMS; NMDA; PAMS; schizophrenia
13.  Gd-based macromolecules and nanoparticles as magnetic resonance contrast agents for molecular imaging 
As we move towards an era of personalized medicine, molecular imaging contrast agents are likely to see an increasing presence in routine clinical practice. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging has garnered particular interest as a platform for molecular imaging applications due its ability to monitor anatomical changes concomitant with physiologic and molecular changes. One promising new direction in the development of MR contrast agents involves the labeling and/or loading of nanoparticles with gadolinium (Gd). These nanoplatforms are capable of carrying large payloads of Gd, thus providing the requisite sensitivity to detect molecular signatures within disease pathologies. In this review, we discuss some of the progress that has recently been made in the development of Gd-based macromolecules and nanoparticles and outline some of the physical and chemical properties that will be important to incorporate into the next generation of contrast agents, including high Gd chelate stability, high “relaxivity per particle” and “relaxivity density”, and biodegradability.
PMCID: PMC3761358  PMID: 23432004
contrast agent; gadolinium; macromolecule; magnetic resonance; molecular imaging; nanoparticle
14.  Predicting Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitory Activity through Ligand-Based Models 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2012;12(20):2258-2274.
The evolution of bio- and cheminformatics associated with the development of specialized software and increasing computer power has produced a great interest in theoretical in silico methods applied in drug rational design. These techniques apply the concept that “similar molecules have similar biological properties” that has been exploited in Medicinal Chemistry for years to design new molecules with desirable pharmacological profiles. Ligand-based methods are not dependent on receptor structural data and take into account two and three-dimensional molecular properties to assess similarity of new compounds in regards to the set of molecules with the biological property under study. Depending on the complexity of the calculation, there are different types of ligand-based methods, such as QSAR (Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship) with 2D and 3D descriptors, CoMFA (Comparative Molecular Field Analysis) or pharmacophoric approaches. This work provides a description of a series of ligand-based models applied in the prediction of the inhibitory activity of monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes. The controlled regulation of the enzymes’ function through the use of MAO inhibitors is used as a treatment in many psychiatric and neurological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. For this reason, multiple scaffolds, such as substituted coumarins, indolylmethylamine or pyridazine derivatives were synthesized and assayed toward MAO-A and MAO-B inhibition. Our intention is to focus on the description of ligand-based models to provide new insights in the relationship between the MAO inhibitory activity and the molecular structure of the different inhibitors, and further study enzyme selectivity and possible mechanisms of action.
PMCID: PMC3762258  PMID: 23231398
Alzheimer’s; CoMFA; Ligand-based models; MAO; Molecular Descriptors; Parkinson’s; Pharmacophore; QSAR
15.  On the Design of Broad Based Screening Assays to Identify Potential Pharmacological Chaperones of Protein Misfolding Diseases† 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2012;12(22):2504-2522.
Correcting aberrant folds that develop during protein folding disease states is now an active research endeavor that is attracting increasing attention from both academic and industrial circles. One particular approach focuses on developing or identifying small molecule correctors or pharmacological chaperones that specifically stabilize the native fold. Unfortunately, the limited screening platforms available to rapidly identify or validate potential drug candidates are usually inadequate or slow because the folding disease proteins in question are often transiently folded and/or aggregation-prone, complicating and/or interfering with the assay outcomes. In this review, we outline and discuss the numerous platform options currently being employed to identify small molecule therapeutics for folding diseases. Finally, we describe a new stability screening approach that is broad based and is easily applicable toward a very large number of both common and rare protein folding diseases. The label free screening method described herein couples the promiscuity of the GroEL binding to transient aggregation-prone hydrophobic folds with surface plasmon resonance enabling one to rapidly identify potential small molecule pharmacological chaperones.
PMCID: PMC3751797  PMID: 23339304
Protein misfolding; missense mutations; pharmacological chaperones; GroEL chaperonin; Surface Plasmon Resonance
16.  Design, Synthesis and Interaction at the Vesicular Monoamine Transporter-2 of Lobeline Analogs: Potential Pharmacotherapies for the Treatment of Psychostimulant Abuse 
The vesicular monoamine transporter-2 (VMAT2) is considered as a new target for the development of novel therapeutics to treat psychostimulant abuse. Current information on the structure, function and role of VMAT2 in psychostimulant abuse are presented. Lobeline, the major alkaloidal constituent of Lobelia inflata, interacts with nicotinic receptors and with VMAT2. Numerous studies have shown that lobeline inhibits both the neurochemical and behavioral effects of amphetamine in rodents, and behavioral studies demonstrate that lobeline has potential as a pharmacotherapy for psychostimulant abuse. Systematic structural modification of the lobeline molecule is described with the aim of improving selectivity and affinity for VMAT2 over neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and other neurotransmitter transporters. This has led to the discovery of more potent and selective ligands for VMAT2. In addition, a computational neural network analysis of the affinity of these lobeline analogs for VMAT2 has been carried out, which provides computational models that have predictive value in the rational design of VMAT2 ligands and is also useful in identifying drug candidates from virtual libraries for subsequent synthesis and evaluation.
PMCID: PMC3725992  PMID: 21050177
Vesicular monoamine transporter-2 (VMAT2); psychostimulant abuse; lobeline; lobeline analogs; computational modeling
17.  Cross-Pharmacology Analysis of G Protein-Coupled Receptors 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2011;11(15):1956-1963.
The degree of applicability of chemogenomic approaches to protein families depends on the accuracy and completeness of pharmacological data and the corresponding level of pharmacological similarity observed among their protein members. The recent public domain availability of pharmacological data for thousands of small molecules on 204 G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) provides a firm basis for an in-depth cross-pharmacology analysis of this superfamily. The number of protein targets included in the cross-pharmacology profile of the different GPCRs changes significantly upon varying the ligand similarity and binding affinity criteria. However, with the exception of muscarinic receptors, aminergic GPCRs distinguish themselves from the rest of the members in the family by their remarkably high levels of pharmacological similarity among them. Clusters of non-GPCR targets related by cross-pharmacology with particular GPCRs are identified and the implications for unwanted side-effects, as well as for repurposing opportunities, discussed.
PMCID: PMC3717414  PMID: 21851335
GPCR network; ligand similarity; target profile; adverse effects; drug repositioning
18.  Imaging of P-glycoprotein function and expression to elucidate mechanisms of pharmacoresistance in epilepsy 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2010;10(17):1785-1791.
The issue of pharmacoresistance in epilepsy has received considerable attention in recent years, and a number of plausible hypotheses have been proposed. Of these, the so-called transporter hypothesis is the most extensively researched and documented. This hypothesis assumes that refractory epilepsy is associated with a localised over-expression of drug transporter proteins such as P-glycoprotein (Pgp) in the region of the epileptic focus, which actively extrudes antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) from their intended site of action. However, although this hypothesis has biological plausibility, there is no clinical evidence to support the assertion that AEDs are sufficiently strong substrates for transporter-mediated extrusion from the brain. The use of modern brain imaging techniques to determine Pgp function in patients with refractory epilepsy has started only recently, and may ultimately determine whether increased expression and function of Pgp or other efflux transporters are involved in AED resistance.
PMCID: PMC3689923  PMID: 20645916
19.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3637177  PMID: 22242852
20.  Design and Development of Molecular Imaging Probes 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2010;10(12):1227-1236.
Molecular imaging, the visualization, characterization and measurement of biological processes at the cellular, subcellular level, or even molecular level in living subjects, has rapidly gained importance in the dawning era of personalized medicine. Molecular imaging takes advantage of the traditional diagnostic imaging techniques and introduces molecular imaging probes to determine the expression of indicative molecular markers at different stages of diseases and disorders. As a key component of molecular imaging, molecular imaging probe must be able to specifically reach the target of interest in vivo while retaining long enough to be detected. A desirable molecular imaging probe with clinical translation potential is expected to have unique characteristics. Therefore, design and development of molecular imaging probe is frequently a challenging endeavor for medicinal chemists. This review summarizes the general principles of molecular imaging probe design and some fundamental strategies of molecular imaging probe development with a number of illustrative examples.
PMCID: PMC3632640  PMID: 20388106
Molecular imaging; imaging probe design; imaging probe development strategies
21.  Near-Infrared Quantum Dots as Optical Probes for Tumor Imaging 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2010;10(12):1147-1157.
Molecular imaging plays a key role in personalized medicine, which is the goal and future of patient management. Among the various molecular imaging modalities, optical imaging may be the fastest growing area for bioanalysis, and the major reason is the research on fluorescence semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) and dyes have evolved over the past two decades. The great efforts on the synthesis of QDs with fluorescence emission from UV to near-infrared (NIR) regions speed up the studies of QDs as optical probes for in vitro and in vivo molecular imaging. For in vivo applications, the fluorescent emission wavelength ideally should be in a region of the spectrum where blood and tissue absorb minimally and tissue penetration reach maximally, which is NIR region (typically 700–1000 nm). The goal of this review is to provide readers the basics of NIR-emitting QDs, the bioconjugate chemistry of QDs, and their applications for diagnostic tumor imaging. We will also discuss the benefits, challenges, limitations, perspective, and the future scope of NIR-emitting QDs for tumor imaging applications.
PMCID: PMC3629965  PMID: 20388111
Quantum dots; near-infrared; tumor imaging; fluorescence imaging; perspective
22.  Activatable Molecular Probes for Cancer Imaging 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2010;10(11):1135-1144.
The development of highly sensitive and specific molecular probes for cancer imaging still remains a daunting challenge. Recently, interdisciplinary research at the interface of imaging sciences and bionanoconjugation chemistry has generated novel activatable imaging probes that can provide high-resolution imaging with ultra-low background signals. Activatable imaging probes are designed to amplify output imaging signals in response to specific biomolecular recognition or environmental changes in real time. This review introduces and highlights the unique design strategies and applications of various activatable imaging probes in cancer imaging.
PMCID: PMC3629980  PMID: 20388112
23.  PET Designated Flouride-18 Production and Chemistry 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2010;10(11):1048-1059.
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear medicine imaging technology which allows for four-dimensional, quantitative determination of the distribution of labeled biological compounds within the human body. PET is becoming an increasingly important tool for the measurement of physiological, biochemical and pharmacological functions at the molecular level in healthy and pathological conditions. This review will focus on Flouride-18, one of the common isotopes used for PET imaging, which has a half life of 109.8 minutes. This isotope can be produced with an efficient yield in a cyclotron as a nucleophile or as an electrophile. Flouride-18 can be thereafter introduced into small molecules or biomolecules using various chemical synthetic routes, to give the desired imaging agent.
PMCID: PMC3617500  PMID: 20388116
24.  Amyloid Formation in Light Chain Amyloidosis† 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2012;12(22):2523-2533.
Light chain amyloidosis is one of the unique examples within amyloid diseases where the amyloidogenic precursor is a protein that escapes the quality control machinery and is secreted from the cells to be circulated in the bloodstream. The immunoglobulin light chains are produced by an abnormally proliferative monoclonal population of plasma cells that under normal conditions produce immunoglobulin molecules such as IgG, IgM or IgA. Once the light chains are in circulation, the proteins misfold and deposit as amyloid fibrils in numerous tissues and organs, causing organ failure and death. While there is a correlation between the thermodynamic stability of the protein and the kinetics of amyloid formation, we have recently found that this correlation applies within a thermodynamic range, and it is only a helpful correlation when comparing mutants from the same protein. Light chain amyloidosis poses unique challenges because each patient has a unique protein sequence as a result of the selection of a germline gene and the incorporation of somatic mutations. The exact location of the misfolding process is unknown as well as the full characterization of all of the toxic species populated during the amyloid formation process in light chain amyloidosis.
PMCID: PMC3606678  PMID: 23339305
light chain amyloidosis; immunoglobulin light chain; somatic mutations; amyloid formation; dimer
25.  Enzyme Informatics 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2012;12(17):1911-1923.
Over the last 50 years, sequencing, structural biology and bioinformatics have completely revolutionised biomolecular science, with millions of sequences and tens of thousands of three dimensional structures becoming available. The bioinformatics of enzymes is well served by, mostly free, online databases. BRENDA describes the chemistry, substrate specificity, kinetics, preparation and biological sources of enzymes, while KEGG is valuable for understanding enzymes and metabolic pathways. EzCatDB, SFLD and MACiE are key repositories for data on the chemical mechanisms by which enzymes operate. At the current rate of genome sequencing and manual annotation, human curation will never finish the functional annotation of the ever-expanding list of known enzymes. Hence there is an increasing need for automated annotation, though it is not yet widespread for enzyme data. In contrast, functional ontologies such as the Gene Ontology already profit from automation. Despite our growing understanding of enzyme structure and dynamics, we are only beginning to be able to design novel enzymes. One can now begin to trace the functional evolution of enzymes using phylogenetics. The ability of enzymes to perform secondary functions, albeit relatively inefficiently, gives clues as to how enzyme function evolves. Substrate promiscuity in enzymes is one example of imperfect specificity in protein-ligand interactions. Similarly, most drugs bind to more than one protein target. This may sometimes result in helpful polypharmacology as a drug modulates plural targets, but also often leads to adverse side-effects. Many cheminformatics approaches can be used to model the interactions between druglike molecules and proteins in silico. We can even use quantum chemical techniques like DFT and QM/MM to compute the structural and energetic course of enzyme catalysed chemical reaction mechanisms, including a full description of bond making and breaking.
PMCID: PMC3605803  PMID: 23116471

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