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1.  Copper Homeostasis for the Developmental Progression of Intraerythrocytic Malarial Parasite 
Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry  2016;16(27):3048-3057.
Malaria is one of the world’s most devastating diseases, particularly in the tropics. In humans, Plasmodium falciparum lives mainly within red blood cells, and malaria pathogenesis depends on the red blood cells being infected with the parasite. Non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs), including cis-9-octadecenoic acid, and phospholipids have been critical for complete parasite growth in serum-free culture, although the efficacy of NEFAs in sustaining the growth of P. falciparum has varied markedly. Hexadecanoic acid and trans-9-octadecenoic acid have arrested development of the parasite, in association with down-regulation of genes encoding copper-binding proteins. Selective removal of Cu+ ions has blockaded completely the ring–trophozoite–schizont progression of the parasite. The importance of copper homeostasis for the developmental progression of P. falciparum has been confirmed by inhibition of copper-binding proteins that regulate copper physiology and function by associating with copper ions. These data have provided strong evidence for a link between healthy copper homeostasis and successive developmental progression of P. falciparum. Perturbation of copper homeostasis may be, thus, instrumental in drug and vaccine development for the malaria medication. We review the importance of copper homeostasis in the asexual growth of P. falciparum in relation to NEFAs, copper-binding proteins, apoptosis, mitochondria, and gene expression.
doi:10.2174/1568026616999160215151704
PMCID: PMC5068492  PMID: 26881705
Copper-binding protein; Copper homeostasis; Developmental arrest; Gene expression; Non-esterified fatty acids; Plasmodium falciparum; Copper ion
2.  Clients and Oncogenic Roles of Molecular Chaperone gp96/grp94 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2016;16(25):2765-2778.
As an endoplasmic reticulum heat shock protein (HSP) 90 paralogue, glycoprotein (gp) 96 possesses immunological properties by chaperoning antigenic peptides for activation of T cells. Genetic studies in the last decade have unveiled that gp96 is also an essential master chaperone for multiple receptors and secreting proteins including Toll-like receptors (TLRs), integrins, the Wnt co-receptor, Low Density Lipoprotein Receptor-Related Protein 6 (LRP6), the latent TGFβ docking receptor, Glycoprotein A Repetitions Predominant (GARP), Glycoprotein (GP) Ib and insulin-like growth factors (IGF). Clinically, elevated expression of gp96 in a variety of cancers correlates with the advanced stage and poor survival of cancer patients. Recent preclinical studies have also uncovered that gp96 expression is closely linked to cancer progression in multiple myeloma, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer and inflammation-associated colon cancer. Thus, gp96 is an attractive therapeutic target for cancer treatment. The chaperone function of gp96 depends on its ATPase domain, which is structurally distinct from other HSP90 members, and thus favors the design of highly selective gp96-targeted inhibitors against cancer. We herein discuss the strategically important oncogenic clients of gp96 and their underlying biology. The roles of cell-intrinsic gp96 in T cell biology are also discussed, in part because it offers another opportunity of cancer therapy by manipulating levels of gp96 in T cells to enhance host immune defense.
PMCID: PMC5041304  PMID: 27072698
3.  Cellular Selenoprotein mRNA Tethering via Antisense Interactions with Ebola and HIV-1 mRNAs May Impact Host Selenium Biochemistry 
Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry  2016;16(13):1530-1535.
Regulation of protein expression by non-coding RNAs typically involves effects on mRNA degradation and/or ribosomal translation. The possibility of virus-host mRNA-mRNA antisense tethering interactions (ATI) as a gain-of-function strategy, via the capture of functional RNA motifs, has not been hitherto considered. We present evidence that ATIs may be exploited by certain RNA viruses in order to tether the mRNAs of host selenoproteins, potentially exploiting the proximity of a captured host selenocysteine insertion sequence (SECIS) element to enable the expression of virally-encoded selenoprotein modules, via translation of in-frame UGA stop codons as selenocysteine. Computational analysis predicts thermodynamically stable ATIs between several widely expressed mammalian selenoprotein mRNAs (e.g., isoforms of thioredoxin reductase) and specific Ebola virus mRNAs, and HIV-1 mRNA, which we demonstrate via DNA gel shift assays. The probable functional significance of these ATIs is further supported by the observation that, in both viruses, they are located in close proximity to highly conserved in-frame UGA stop codons at the 3′ end of open reading frames that encode essential viral proteins (the HIV-1 nef protein and the Ebola nucleoprotein). Significantly, in HIV/AIDS patients, an inverse correlation between serum selenium and mortality has been repeatedly documented, and clinical benefits of selenium in the context of multi-micronutrient supplementation have been demonstrated in several well-controlled clinical trials. Hence, in the light of our findings, the possibility of a similar role for selenium in Ebola pathogenesis and treatment merits serious investigation.
doi:10.2174/1568026615666150915121633
PMCID: PMC4997913  PMID: 26369818
Antisense; Ebola; mRNA; Selenium; Selenoprotein; HIV; Tethering; Thioredoxin reductase
4.  Active Targeted Drug Delivery for Microbes Using Nano-Carriers 
Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry  2015;15(15):1525-1531.
Although vaccines and antibiotics could kill or inhibit microbes, many infectious diseases remain difficult to treat because of acquired resistance and adverse side effects. Nano-carriers-based technology has made significant progress for a long time and is introducing a new paradigm in drug delivery. However, it still has some challenges like lack of specificity toward targeting the infectious site. Nano-carriers utilized targeting ligands on their surface called ‘active target’ provide the promising way to solve the problems like accelerating drug delivery to infectious areas and preventing toxicity or side-effects. In this mini review, we demonstrate the recent studies using the active targeted strategy to kill or inhibit microbes. The four common nano-carriers (e.g. liposomes, nanoparticles, dendrimers and carbon nanotubes) delivering encapsulated drugs are introduced.
doi:10.2174/1568026615666150414123157
PMCID: PMC4997950  PMID: 25877093
Active target; Ligands; Microbe; Nano-carrier
5.  Drug Delivery Systems and Combination Therapy by Using Vinca Alkaloids 
Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry  2015;15(15):1491-1500.
Developing new methods for chemotherapy drug delivery has become a topic of great concern. Vinca alkaloids are among the most widely used chemotherapy reagents for tumor therapy; however, their side effects are particularly problematic for many medical doctors. To reduce the toxicity and enhance the therapeutic efficiency of vinca alkaloids, many researchers have developed strategies such as using liposome-entrapped drugs, chemical- or peptide-modified drugs, polymeric packaging drugs, and chemotherapy drug combinations. This review mainly focuses on the development of a vinca alkaloid drug delivery system and the combination therapy. Five vinca alkaloids (eg, vincristine, vinblastine, vinorelbine, vindesine, and vinflunine) are reviewed.
doi:10.2174/1568026615666150414120547
PMCID: PMC4997956  PMID: 25877096
Vinca alkaloids; Drug delivery systems; Combination therapy; Vincristine; Vinblastine; Vinorelbine; Vindesine; Vinflunine; Vinpocetine
6.  Telomerase as a Cancer Target. Development of New Molecules 
Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry  2016;16(22):2432-2440.
Telomeres are the terminal part of the chromosome containing a long repetitive and non-codifying sequence that has as function protecting the chromosomes. In normal cells, telomeres lost part of such repetitive sequence in each mitosis, until telomeres reach a critical point, triggering at that time senescence and cell death. However, in most of tumor cells in each cell division a part of the telomere is lost, however the appearance of an enzyme called telomerase synthetize the segment that just has been lost, therefore conferring to tumor cells the immortality hallmark. Telomerase is significantly overexpressed in 80–95% of all malignant tumors, being present at low levels in few normal cells, mostly stem cells. Due to these characteristics, telomerase has become an attractive target for new and more effective anticancer agents. The capability of inhibiting telomerase in tumor cells should lead to telomere shortening, senescence and apoptosis. In this work, we analyze the different strategies for telomerase inhibition, either in development, preclinical or clinical stages taking into account their strong points and their caveats. We covered strategies such as nucleosides analogs, oligonucleotides, small molecule inhibitors, G-quadruplex stabilizers, immunotherapy, gene therapy, molecules that affect the telomere/telomerase associated proteins, agents from microbial sources, among others, providing a balanced evaluation of the status of the inhibitors of this powerful target together with an analysis of the challenges ahead.
doi:10.2174/1568026616666160212122425
PMCID: PMC4997958  PMID: 26873194
Telomere; Telomerase; Inhibitor; Cancer; Preclinical; Clinical trials
7.  Biomarkers in the Management of Difficult Asthma 
Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry  2016;16(14):1561-1573.
Difficult asthma is a heterogeneous disease of the airways including various types of bronchial inflammation and various degrees of airway remodeling. Therapeutic response of severe asthmatics can be predicted by the use of biomarkers of Type2-high or Type2-low inflammation. Based on sputum cell analysis, four inflammatory phenotypes have been described. As induced sputum is time-consuming and expensive technique, surrogate biomarkers are useful in clinical practice.
Eosinophilic phenotype is likely to reflect ongoing adaptive immunity in response to allergen. Several biomarkers of eosinophilic asthma are easily available in clinical practice (blood eosinophils, serum IgE, exhaled nitric oxyde, serum periostin). Neutrophilic asthma is thought to reflect innate immune system activation in response to pollutants or infectious agents while paucigranulocytic asthma is thought to be not inflammatory and characterized by smooth muscle dysfunction. We currently lack of user-friendly biomarkers of neutrophilic asthma and airway remodeling.
In this review, we summarize the biomarkers available for the management of difficult asthma.
doi:10.2174/1568026616666151015093406
PMCID: PMC4997932  PMID: 26467509
Airway remodeling; Biomarker; Difficult asthma; Inflammation; Phenotype; Severe
8.  Paralog specific Hsp90 Inhibitors – a brief history and a bright future 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2016;16(25):2779-2791.
Structured Abstract
Background
The high sequence and structural homology among the hsp90 paralogs – Hsp90α, Hsp90β, Grp94, and Trap-1 – has made the development of paralog-specific inhibitors a challenging proposition.
Objective
This review surveys the state of developments in structural analysis, compound screening, and structure-based design that have been brought to bear on this problem.
Results
First generation compounds that selectively bind to Hsp90, Grp94, or Trap-1 have been identified.
Conclusion
With the proof of principle firmly established, the prospects for further progress are bright.
PMCID: PMC4995118  PMID: 27072700
Hsp90; Grp94; Trap-1; paralog-selective inhibitor; structure-based design; screening
9.  Selected PET Radioligands for Ion Channel Linked Neuroreceptor Imaging: Focus on GABA, NMDA and nACh Receptors 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2016;16(16):1830-1842.
Positron emission tomography (PET) neuroimaging of ion channel linked receptors is a developing area of preclinical and clinical research. The present review focuses on recent advances with radiochemistry, preclinical and clinical PET imaging studies of three receptors that are actively pursued in neuropsychiatric drug discovery: namely the γ-aminobutyric acid-benzodiazapine (GABA) receptor, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), and N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. Recent efforts to develop new PET radioligands for these targets with improved brain uptake, selectivity, stability and pharmacokinetics are highlighted.
Graphical abstract
PMCID: PMC4950862  PMID: 26975506
Positron Emission Tomography; Ion Channel; γ-Aminobutyric Acid-Benzodiazapine Receptor; Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor; N-Methyl-d-Aspartate Receptor
10.  Sulfur Containing Scaffolds in Drugs: Synthesis and Application in Medicinal Chemistry 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2016;16(11):1200-1216.
The impact of the development of sulfur therapeutics is instrumental to the evolution of the pharmaceutical industry. Sulfur-derived functional groups can be found in a broad range of pharmaceuticals and natural products. For centuries, sulfur continues to maintain its status as the dominating heteroatom integrated into a set of 362 sulfur-containing FDA approved drugs (besides oxygen or nitrogen) through the present. Sulfonamides, thioethers, sulfones and Penicillin are the most common scaffolds in sulfur containing drugs, which are well studied both on synthesis and application during the past decades. In this review, these four moieties in pharmaceuticals and recent advances in the synthesis of the corresponding core scaffolds are presented.
PMCID: PMC4877035  PMID: 26369815
sulfur containing drugs; sulfonamide; thioether; sulfones; sulfur dioxide fixation; organic synthesis
11.  Development of Small-molecule HIV Entry Inhibitors Specifically Targeting gp120 or gp41 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2016;16(10):1074-1090.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope (Env) glycoprotein surface subunit gp120 and transmembrane subunit gp41 play important roles in HIV-1 entry, thus serving as key targets for the development of HIV-1 entry inhibitors. T20 peptide (enfuvirtide) is the first U.S. FDA-approved HIV entry inhibitor; however, its clinical application is limited by the lack of oral availability. Here, we have described the structure and function of the HIV-1 gp120 and gp41 subunits and reviewed advancements in the development of small-molecule HIV entry inhibitors specifically targeting these two Env glycoproteins. We then compared the advantages and disadvantages of different categories of HIV entry inhibitor candidates and further predicted the future trend of HIV entry inhibitor development.
PMCID: PMC4775441  PMID: 26324044
HIV; viral entry; entry inhibitor; gp120; gp41
12.  DNA Recognition by a Novel Bis-Intercalator, Potent Anticancer Drug XR5944 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2015;15(14):1385-1397.
XR5944 is a potent anticancer drug with a novel DNA binding mode: DNA bis-intercalationg with major groove binding. XR5944 can bind the estrogen response element (ERE) sequence to block ER-ERE binding and inhibit ERα activities, which may be useful for overcoming drug resistance to currently available antiestrogen treatments. This review discusses the progress relating to the structure and function studies of specific DNA recognition of XR5944. The sites of intercalation within a native promoter sequence appear to be different from the ideal binding site and are context- and sequence- dependent. The structural information may provide insights for rational design of improved ERE-specific XR5944 derivatives, as well as of DNA bis-intercalators in general.
PMCID: PMC4772870  PMID: 25866279
Anticancer drug; DNA bis-intercalation; DNA bis-intercalation with major groove binding; NMR solution structure; XR5944 or MLN944
13.  Discovery and development of a potent and highly selective small molecule muscarinic acetylcholine receptor subtype I (mAChR 1 or M1) antagonist in vitro and in vivo probe 
This article describes the discovery and development of the first highly selective, small molecule antagonist of the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor subtype I (mAChR1 or M1). An M1 functional, cell-based calcium-mobilization assay identified three distinct chemical series with initial selectivity for M1 versus M4. An iterative parallel synthesis approach was employed to optimize all three series in parallel, which led to the development of novel microwave-assisted chemistry and provided important take home lessons for probe development projects. Ultimately, this effort produced VU0255035, a potent (IC50 = 130 nM) and selective (>75-fold vs. M2-M5 and > 10 μM vs. a panel of 75 GPCRs, ion channels and transporters) small molecule M1 antagonist. Further profiling demonstrated that VU0255035 was centrally penetrant (BrainAUC/PlasmaAUC of 0.48) and active in vivo, rendering it acceptable as both an in vitro and in vivo MLSCN/ MLPCN probe molecule for studying and dissecting M1 function.
PMCID: PMC4765323  PMID: 19807667
muscarinic; acetylcholine; mAChR; M1; antagonist
14.  Age-Related Neurodegeneration Prevention Through mTOR Inhibition: Potential Mechanisms and Remaining Questions 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2015;15(21):2139-2151.
With the global aging population, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and mild cognition impairment are increasing in prevalence. The success of rapamycin as an agent to extend lifespan in various organisms, including mice, brings hope that chronic mTOR inhibition could also refrain age-related neurodegeneration. Here we review the evidence suggesting that mTOR inhibition - mainly with rapamycin - is a valid intervention to delay age-related neurodegeneration. We discuss the potential mechanisms by which rapamycin may facilitate neurodegeneration prevention or restoration of cognitive function. We also discuss the known side effects of rapamycin and provide evidence to alleviate exaggerated concerns regarding its wider clinical use. We explore the small molecule alternatives to rapamycin and propose future directions for their development, mainly by exploring the possibility of targeting the downstream effectors of mTOR: S6K1 and especially S6K2. Finally, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the models used to determine intervention efficacy for neurodegeneration. We address the difficulties of interpreting data using the common way of investigating the efficacy of interventions to delay/prevent neurodegeneration by observing animal behavior while these animals are under treatment. We propose an experimental design that should isolate the variable of aging in the experimental design and resolve the ambiguity present in recent literature.
PMCID: PMC4765916  PMID: 26059360
Aging; Healthspan; Intervention; mTOR; Neurodegeneration; Prevention; Rapamycin
15.  Purine-Scaffold Hsp90 Inhibitors 
Hsp90 is a molecular chaperone with important roles in regulating the function of several proteins with potential pathogenic activity. Because many of these proteins are involved in cancer and neurodegenerative promoting pathways, Hsp90 has emerged as an attractive therapeutic target in these diseases. Molecules that bind to the N-terminal nucleotide pocket of Hsp90 inhibit its activity, and consequently, disrupt client protein function. A number of these inhibitors from several chemical classes are now known, and some are already in clinical trials. This review focuses on the purine class of Hsp90 inhibitors, their discovery through rational design, and on efforts aimed towards their optimization and development into clinically viable drugs for the treatment of cancer. Their potential towards neurodegenerative diseases will also be touched upon.
PMCID: PMC4699796  PMID: 19860732
Heat shock protein 90; purine; cancer; neurodegeneration
16.  Applications of Aptamers in Targeted Imaging: State of the Art 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2015;15(12):1138-1152.
Aptamers are single-stranded oligonucleotides with high affinity and specificity to the target molecules or cells, thus they can serve as an important category of molecular targeting ligand. Since their discove1y, aptamers have been rapidly translated into clinical practice. The strong target affinity/selectivity, cost-effectivity, chemical versatility and safety of aptamers are superior to traditional peptides- or proteins-based ligands which make them unique choices for molecular imaging. Therefore, aptamers are considered to be extremely useful to guide various imaging contrast agents to the target tissues or cells for optical, magnetic resonance, nuclear, computed tomography, ultra sound and multimodality imaging. This review aims to provide an overview of aptamers' advantages as targeting ligands and their application in targeted imaging. Further research in synthesis of new types of aptamers and their conjugation with new categories of contrast agents is required to develop clinically translatable aptamer-based imaging agents which will eventually result in improved patient care.
PMCID: PMC4410081  PMID: 25866268
Aptamer; molecular imaging; nanomaterials; SELEX
17.  High-throughput screening by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (HTS by NMR) for the identification of PPIs antagonists 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2015;15(20):2032-2042.
In recent years the ever so complex field of drug discovery has embraced novel design strategies based on biophysical fragment screening (fragment-based drug design; FBDD) using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and/or structure-guided approaches, most often using X-ray crystallography and computer modeling. Experience from recent years unveiled that these methods are more effective and less prone to artifacts compared to biochemical high-throughput screening (HTS) of large collection of compounds in designing protein inhibitors. Hence these strategies are increasingly becoming the most utilized in the modern pharmaceutical industry. Nonetheless, there is still an impending need to develop innovative and effective strategies to tackle other more challenging targets such as those involving protein-protein interactions (PPIs). While HTS strategies notoriously fail to identify viable hits against such targets, few successful examples of PPIs antagonists derived by FBDD strategies exist. Recently, we reported on a new strategy that combines some of the basic principles of fragment-based screening with combinatorial chemistry and NMR-based screening. The approach, termed HTS by NMR, combines the advantages of combinatorial chemistry and NMR-based screening to rapidly and unambiguously identify bona fide inhibitors of PPIs. This review will reiterate the critical aspects of the approach with examples of possible applications.
PMCID: PMC4545611  PMID: 25986689
Drug discovery; fragment-based drug design; FBDD; FBLD; HTS by NMR; NMR; PPIs; protein-protein interactions; positional scanning; POS
18.  Peptide Aptamers: Development and Applications 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2015;15(12):1082-1101.
Peptide aptamers are small combinatorial proteins that are selected to bind to specific sites on their target molecules. Peptide aptamers consist of short, 5-20 amino acid residues long sequences, typically embedded as a loop within a stable protein scaffold. Various peptide aptamer scaffolds and in vitro and in vivo selection techniques are reviewed with emphasis on specific biomedical, bioimaging, and bioanalytical applications.
PMCID: PMC4428161  PMID: 25866267
Affibodies; affilins; anticalins; armadillo repeat; atrimers; avimers; cell display; combinatorial libraries; darpins; directed evolution; DNA display; fynomers; knottins; kunitz domain; monobodies; mRNA display; OBodies; phage display; peptide aptamers; protein scaffold; ribosome display; thioredoxin; yeast two hybrid
19.  Structural and Functional Diversity of Estrogen Receptor Ligands 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2015;15(14):1372-1384.
Estrogen receptors, comprised of ERα and ERβ isoforms in mammals, act as ligand-modulated transcription factors and orchestrate a plethora of cellular functions from sexual development and reproduction to metabolic homeostasis. Herein, I revisit the structural basis of the binding of ERα to DNA and estradiol in light of the recent discoveries and emerging trends in the field of nuclear receptors. A particular emphasis of this review is on the chemical and structural diversity of an ever-increasing repertoire of physiological, environmental and synthetic ligands of estrogen receptors that ultimately modulate their interactions with cognate DNA located within the promoters of estrogen-responsive genes. In particular, modulation of estrogen receptors by small molecule ligands represents an important therapeutic goal toward the treatment of a wide variety of human pathologies including breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and obesity. Collectively, this article provides an overview of a wide array of small organic and inorganic molecules that can fine-tune the physiological function of estrogen receptors, thereby bearing a direct impact on human health and disease.
PMCID: PMC4604006  PMID: 25866274
Estrogen receptors; Endoestrogens; Phytoestrogens; Xenoestrogens; SERMs; Metalloestrogens
21.  Statistical Analysis, Optimization, and Prioritization of Virtual Screening Parameters for Zinc Enzymes Including the Anthrax Toxin Lethal Factor 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2014;14(18):2105-2114.
The anthrax toxin lethal factor (LF) and matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3, stromelysin-1) are popular zinc metalloenzyme drug targets, with LF primarily responsible for anthrax-related toxicity and host death, while MMP-3 is involved in cancer- and rheumatic disease-related tissue remodeling. A number of in silico screening techniques, most notably docking and scoring, have proven useful for identifying new potential drug scaffolds targeting LF and MMP-3, as well as for optimizing lead compounds and investigating mechanisms of action. However, virtual screening outcomes can vary significantly depending on the specific docking parameters chosen, and systematic statistical significance analyses are needed to prioritize key parameters for screening small molecules against these zinc systems. In the current work, we present a series of chi-square statistical analyses of virtual screening outcomes for cocrystallized LF and MMP-3 inhibitors docked into their respective targets, evaluated by predicted enzyme-inhibitor dissociation constant and root-mean-square deviation (RMSD) between predicted and experimental bound configurations, and we present a series of preferred parameters for use with these systems in the industry-standard Surflex-Dock screening program, for use by researchers utilizing in silico techniques to discover and optimize new scaffolds.
PMCID: PMC4631255  PMID: 25373478
Anthrax; anthrax toxin lethal factor; docking and scoring; MMP-3; surflex-dock; virtual screening; zinc metalloproteinases
22.  Epothilones: from discovery to clinical trials 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2014;14(20):2312-2321.
Epothilones are natural compounds isolated from a myxobacterium at the beginning of the 1990s, and showed a remarkable anti-neoplastic activity. They act through the same mechanism of action of paclitaxel, by stabilizing microtubules and inducing apoptosis. Although, their chemical structure, simpler than taxanes, makes them more suitable for derivatization. Their interesting pharmacokinetic and bioavailabilty profiles, and the activity against paclitaxel-resistant cell lines make them interesting therapeutic agents. Here a brief historical perspective of epothilones is presented, since their isolation, the identification of their mechanism of action and activity, to the recent clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC4629788  PMID: 25434353
23.  Melanotropins as Drugs for the Treatment of Obesity and Other Feeding Disorders: Potential and Problems 
Current biological and pharmacological evidence suggests that the melanocortin 4 and melanocortin 3 receptors which are seven transmembrane G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are involved in various aspects of energy balance and feeding behaviors in animals including humans. The natural endogenous ligands for these receptors are products of the gene pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), and include α-melanocyte stimulating hormone, γ-melanocyte stimulating hormone and perhaps other modified products of POMC. Thus well designed agonists and antagonists of these ligands might serve as drugs for the treatment of feeding disorders. However, these melanotropin peptides also can have other biological activities that involve the MC3R and MC4R, and these other biological properties will need to be modulated in ligands that are likely to be useful drugs for feeding disorders. Current progress in these areas with special emphasis on the MC3R will be discussed along with possible new directions that might be fruitful in these important aspects of contemporary biology and medicine.
PMCID: PMC4608742  PMID: 19689365
Melanocortin genes; melanotropin peptides; MC4R; MC3R; obesity; anorexia
24.  Tuning hERG out: Antitarget QSAR Models for Drug Development 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2014;14(11):1399-1415.
Several non-cardiovascular drugs have been withdrawn from the market due to their inhibition of hERG K+ channels that can potentially lead to severe heart arrhythmia and death. As hERG safety testing is a mandatory FDA-required procedure, there is a considerable interest for developing predictive computational tools to identify and filter out potential hERG blockers early in the drug discovery process. In this study, we aimed to generate predictive and well-characterized quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) models for hERG blockage using the largest publicly available dataset of 11,958 compounds from the ChEMBL database. The models have been developed and validated according to OECD guidelines using four types of descriptors and four different machine-learning techniques. The classification accuracies discriminating blockers from non-blockers were as high as 0.83–0.93 on external set. Model interpretation revealed several SAR rules, which can guide structural optimization of some hERG blockers into non-blockers. We have also applied the generated models for screening the World Drug Index (WDI) database and identify putative hERG blockers and non-blockers among currently marketed drugs. The developed models can reliably identify blockers and non-blockers, which could be useful for the scientific community. A freely accessible web server has been developed allowing users to identify putative hERG blockers and non-blockers in chemical libraries of their interest (http://labmol.farmacia.ufg.br/predherg).
PMCID: PMC4593700  PMID: 24805060
antitarget; drug development; hERG; QSAR modeling; virtual screening
25.  Ritonavir analogues as a probe for deciphering the cytochrome P450 3A4 inhibitory mechanism 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2014;14(11):1348-1355.
Inactivation of human drug-metabolizing cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) could lead to serious adverse events such as drug-drug interactions and toxicity. However, when properly controlled, CYP3A4 inhibition may be beneficial as it can improve clinical efficacy of co-administered therapeutics that otherwise are quickly metabolized by CYP3A4. Currently, the CYP3A4 inhibitor ritonavir and its derivative cobicistat are prescribed to HIV patients as pharmacoenhancers. Both drugs were designed based on the chemical structure/activity relationships rather than the CYP3A4 crystal structure. To unravel the structural basis of CYP3A4 inhibition, we compared the binding modes of ritonavir and ten analogues using biochemical, mutagenesis and x-ray crystallography techniques. This review summarizes our findings on the relative contribution of the heme-ligating moiety, side chains and the terminal group of ritonavir-like molecules to the ligand binding process, and highlights strategies for a structure-guided design of CYP3A4 inactivators.
PMCID: PMC4530633  PMID: 24805065

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