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1.  Addressing Brain Tumors with Targeted Gold Nanoparticles: A New Gold Standard for Hydrophobic Drug Delivery? 
Small (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)  2011;7(16):10.1002/smll.201100628.
doi:10.1002/smll.201100628
PMCID: PMC3837553  PMID: 21630446
gold nanoparticle; brain tumors; photodynamic therapy; targeted delivery; nanomedicine
2.  An Optical Probe for Noninvasive Molecular Imaging of Orthotopic Brain Tumors Overexpressing Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;11(10):10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0211.
We have developed a near-infrared (NIR) probe that targets cells overexpressing the EGF receptor (EGFR) for imaging glioblastoma brain tumors in live subjects. A peptide specific for the EGFR was modified with various lengths of monodiscrete polyethylene glycol (PEG) units and a NIR Cy5.5 fluorescence dye. The lead compound, compound 2, with one unit of PEG displayed good binding (8.9 μmol/L) and cellular uptake in glioblastoma cells overexpressing EGFR in vitro. The in vivo studies have shown that the probe was able to selectively label glioblastoma-derived orthotopic brain tumors. In vivo image analyses of peptide binding to the tumors using fluorescence-mediated molecular tomography revealed that the compound could distinguish between tumors expressing different levels of EGFR. The data presented here represent the first demonstration of differential quantitation of tumors expressing EGFR in live animals by a targeted NIR fluorescence probe using a molecular imaging device.
doi:10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0211
PMCID: PMC3829608  PMID: 22807580
3.  Novel peptide ligands with dual acting pharmacophores designed for the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain 
Brain research  2011;1395:1-11.
The conventional design of high affinity drugs targeted to a single molecule has not resulted in clinically useful therapies for pain relief. Recent reviews have suggested that newly designed analgesic drugs should incorporate multiple targets. The distributions of cholecystokinin (CCK) and CCK receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) overlap significantly with endogenous opioid systems and can be dually targeted. CCK has been shown to act as an endogenous “anti-analgesic” peptide and neuropathic pain conditions promote endogenous CCK release in CNS regions of pain modulation. Administration of CCK into nuclei of the rostral ventromedial medulla induces pronociceptive behaviors in rats. RSA 504 and RSA 601 are novel bifunctional compounds developed to target neuropathic pain by simultaneously acting as agonists at two distinct opioid receptors and antagonizing CCK receptors in the CNS. RSA 504 and RSA 601 demonstrate agonist activity in vitro and antihypersensitivity to mechanical and thermal stimuli in vivo using the spinal nerve ligation model of neuropathic pain. Intrathecal administration of RSA 504 and RSA 601 did not demonstrate antinociceptive tolerance over 7 days of administration and did not display motor impairment or sedation using a rotarod. These are the first behavioral studies that demonstrate how multi-targeted molecule design can address the pathology of neuropathic pain. These compounds with δ and μ opioid agonist activity and CCK antagonist activity within one molecule offer a novel approach with efficacy for neuropathic pain while lacking the side effects typically caused by conventional opioid therapies.
doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2011.04.024
PMCID: PMC3105124  PMID: 21550594
neuropathic pain; spinal nerve ligation; cholecystokinin; opioids
4.  Suborganelle Sensing of Mitochondrial cAMP-Dependent Protein Kinase Activity 
A fluorescent sensor of protein kinase activity has been developed and used to characterize the compartmentalized location of cAMP-dependent protein kinase activity in mitochondria. The sensor functions via a phosphorylation-induced release of a quencher from a peptide-based substrate, producing a 150-fold enhancement in fluorescence. The quenching phenomenon transpires via interaction of the quencher with Arg residues positioned on the peptide substrate. Although the cAMP-dependent protein kinase is known to be present in mitochondria, the relative amount of enzyme positioned in the major compartments (outer membrane, intermembrane space, and the matrix) of the organelle is unclear. The fluorescent sensor developed in this study was used to reveal the relative matrix:intermembrane space:outer membrane (85:6:9) distribution of PKA in bovine heart mitochondria.
doi:10.1021/ja909652q
PMCID: PMC2862470  PMID: 20380406
5.  Photochemically-Activated Probes of Protein–Protein Interactions 
Organic letters  2007;9(12):2249-2252.
The activity of light-activatable (“caged”) compounds can be temporally and spatially controlled, thereby providing a means to interrogate intracellular biochemical pathways as a function of time and space. Nearly all caged peptides contain photocleavable groups positioned on the side chains of key residues. We describe an alternative active site targeted strategy that disrupts the interaction between the protein target (SH2 domain, kinase, and proteinase) and a critical amide NH moiety of the peptide probe.
doi:10.1021/ol070238t
PMCID: PMC3057037  PMID: 17506572
6.  Neuropathic pain is maintained by brainstem neurons co-expressing opioid and cholecystokinin receptors 
Brain  2008;132(3):778-787.
Descending input from the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) provides positive and negative modulation of spinal nociceptive transmission and has been proposed to be critical for maintaining neuropathic pain. This study tests the hypothesis that neuropathic pain requires the activity of a subset of RVM neurons that are distinguished by co-expression of mu opioid receptor (MOR) and cholecystokinin type 2 receptor (CCK2). Using male Sprague–Dawley rats, we demonstrate that discrete RVM neurons express MOR and CCK2; over 80% of these cells co-express both receptors. Agonist-directed cell lesion in the RVM with the cytotoxin, saporin, using either CCK-saporin to target CCK receptor expressing cells, or dermorphin-saporin to target MOR expressing cells, resulted in concomitant loss of CCK2 and MOR expressing cells, did not alter the basal sensory thresholds but abolished the hyperalgesia induced by microinjection of CCK into the RVM. The findings suggest that these CCK2-MOR co-expressing RVM neurons facilitate pain and can be directly activated by CCK input to the RVM. Furthermore, lesion of these RVM neurons did not affect the initial development of neuropathic pain in the hind paw upon injury to the sciatic nerve, but the abnormal pain states were short lived such that by about day 9 the sensory thresholds had reverted to pre-injury baselines despite the existing neuropathy. These data support our hypothesis and identify CCK2-MOR co-expressing neurons in the RVM as potential therapeutic targets for neuropathic pain.
doi:10.1093/brain/awn330
PMCID: PMC2724921  PMID: 19050032
opioid receptor; cholecystokinin receptor; neuropathy; rostral ventromedial medulla; nociception
7.  Structure-Activity Relationships of Bifunctional Cyclic Disulfide Peptides Based on Overlapping Pharmacophores at Opioid and Cholecystokinin Receptors 
Peptides  2008;29(8):1413-1423.
Prolonged opioid exposure increases the expression of cholecystokinin (CCK) and its receptors in the central nervous system, where CCK may attenuate the antinociceptive effects of opioids. The complex interactions between opioid and CCK may play a role in the development of opioid tolerance. We designed and synthesized cyclic disulfide peptides and determined their agonist properties at opioid receptors and antagonist properties at CCK receptors. Compound 1 (Tyr-c[D-Cys-Gly-Trp-Cys]-Asp-Phe-NH2) showed potent binding and agonist activities at δ and µ opioid receptors while displaying some binding to CCK receptors. The NMR structure of the lead compound displayed similar conformational features of opioid and CCK ligands.
doi:10.1016/j.peptides.2008.03.022
PMCID: PMC2601673  PMID: 18502541
Multivalent Ligands; Bifunctional Peptides; Overlapping Pharmacophores; G-Protein Coupled Receptors; Pain; Tolerance; NMR Conformation
8.  Opioid and Melanocortin Receptors: Do They Have Opioid Overlapping Pharmacophores? 
Biopolymers  2008;90(3):433-438.
We have identified compound 1 as a novel ligand for opioid and melanocortin (MC) receptors, which is derived from the overlapping of a well known structure for the δ opioid receptor, 2,6-dimethyltyrosine (Dmt)-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroisoquinoline-3-carboxylic acid (Tic), and a small molecule for the MC receptor, Tic-DPhe(p-Cl)-piperidin-4-yl-N-phenyl-propionamide. Ligand 1 showed that there is an overlapping pharmacophore between opioid and MC receptors through the Tic residue. The ligand displayed high biological activities at the δ opioid receptor (Ki = 0.38 nM in binding assay, EC50 = 0.48 nM in GTP-γ-S binding assay, IC50 = 74 nM in MVD) as an agonist instead of an antagonist and showed selective binding affinity (IC50 = 2.3 μM) at the MC-3 receptor rather than at the MC-5 receptor. A study of the structure-activity relationships demonstrated that the residues in positions 2, 3, and the C-terminus act as a pharmacophore for the MC receptors, and the residues in positions 1 and 2 act as a pharmacophore for the opioid receptors. Thus, this structural construct can be used to prepare chimeric structures with adjacent or overlapping pharmacophores for opioid and MC receptors.
doi:10.1002/bip.20814
PMCID: PMC2693099  PMID: 17657709
opioid receptor; melanocortin receptor; anti-opioid effect; multi-target drug; overlapping pharmacophores; antinociception; side effect; Dmt-Tic; fentanyl
9.  Deep Quench: An Expanded Dynamic Range for Protein Kinase Sensors 
Assays that furnish a fluorescent readout of protein kinase activity provide a means to identify and characterize inhibitory agents, assess structure-function relationships, and correlate enzyme activity with cellular behavior. Although several protein kinase sensors have been described in the literature, their fluorescent response to phosphorylation are generally modest to moderate (1.1 – 8-fold). We have developed a “deep quench” strategy that elicits a dramatic amplification of fluorescence (>60-fold) in cAMP-dependent protein kinase substrates. We describe sensor design, assay development via a combination of library synthesis and screening, characterization of the assay components, and an assessment of two inhibitory species.
doi:10.1021/ja068280r
PMCID: PMC2517079  PMID: 17305340
10.  Partial Retro–Inverso, Retro, and Inverso Modifications of Hydrazide Linked Bifunctional Peptides for Opioid and Cholecystokinin (CCK) Receptors 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2007;50(1):165-168.
Partially modified retro–inverso, retro, and inverso isomers of hydrazide linked bifunctional peptides were designed, synthesized, and evaluated for bioactivities at δ/μ opioid receptors and CCK-1/CCK-2 receptors. All modifications of the CCK pharmacophore moiety affected bioactivities for the CCK-1 and CCK-2 receptors (up to 180-fold increase in the binding affinity with higher selectivity) and for the δ and μ opioid receptors. The results indicate that the opioid and CCK pharmacophores in one molecule interact with each other to induce topographical changes for both pharmacophores.
doi:10.1021/jm061268p
PMCID: PMC2365893  PMID: 17201419
11.  Understanding the structural requirements of 4-anilidopiperidine analogues for biological activities at μ and δ opioid receptors 
New 4-anilidopiperidine analogues in which the phenethyl group of fentanyl was replaced by several aromatic ring-contained amino acids (or acids) were synthesized to study the biological effect of the substituents on μ and δ opioid receptor interactions. These analogues showed broad (47 nM–76 μM) but selective (up to 17-fold) binding affinities at the μ opioid receptor over the δ opioid receptor, as predicted from the message-address concept.
doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2007.01.114
PMCID: PMC2274923  PMID: 17329100
4-Anilidopiperidine analogues; Fentanyl; Dmt-Tic; Opioid receptors; Analgesic effects
12.  New Paradigms and Tools in Drug Design for Pain and Addiction 
The AAPS journal  2006;8(3):E450-E460.
New modalities providing safe and effective treatment of pain, especially prolonged pathological pain, have not appeared despite much effort. In this mini-review/overview we suggest that new paradigms of drug design are required to counter the underlying changes that occur in the nervous system that may elicit chronic pain states. We illustrate this approach with the example of designing, in a single ligand, molecules that have agonist activity at μ and δ opioid receptors and antagonist activities at cholecystokinin (CCK) receptors. Our findings thus far provide evidence in support of this new approach to drug design. We also report on a new biophysical method, plasmon waveguide resonance (PWR) spectroscopy, which can provide new insights into information transduction in G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) as illustrated by the δ opioid receptor.
doi:10.1208/aapsj080353
PMCID: PMC1764851  PMID: 17025262
drug design; neuropathic pain; bifunctional ligands; plasmon waveguide resonance spectroscopy; GPCRs; opioid receptors; cholecystokinin receptors
13.  Design and Synthesis of Novel Hydrazide-Linked Bifunctional Peptides as δ/μ Opioid Receptor Agonists and CCK-1/CCK-2 Receptor Antagonists 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2006;49(5):1773-1780.
A series of hydrazide-linked bifunctional peptides designed to act as agonists for δ /μ opioid receptors and antagonists for CCK-1/CCK-2 receptors was prepared and tested for binding to both opioid and CCK receptors and in functional assays. SAR studies in the CCK region examined the structural requirements for the side chain groups at positions 1′, 2′, and 4′ and for the N-terminal protecting group, which are related to interactions not only with CCK, but also with opioid receptors. Most peptide ligands that showed high binding affinities (0.1–10 nM) for both δ and μ opioid receptors generally showed lower binding affinities (micromolar range) at CCK-1 and CCK-2 receptors, but were potent CCK receptor antagonists in the GPI/LMMP assay (up to Ke = 6.5 nM). The results indicate that it is reasonable to design chimeric bifunctional peptide ligands for different G-protein coupled receptors in a single molecule.
doi:10.1021/jm05085
PMCID: PMC1614704  PMID: 16509592
14.  Structure–Activity Relationships of Bifunctional Peptides Based on Overlapping Pharmacophores at Opioid and Cholecystokinin Receptors 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2006;49(10):2868-2875.
Cholecystokinin (CCK) has been identified as a pronociceptive endogenous peptide which also possesses antiopioid actions. CCK may be upregulated in conditions of chronic pain or during sustained morphine administration resulting in attenuation of opioid-mediated pain relief. These complex interactions between opioids and endogenous CCK receptor systems have suggested the need for a new paradigm in drug design for some states of chronic pain. In these circumstances the rational design of potential drugs for the treatment of these conditions must be based on one ligand for multiple targets. We have designed a single peptide which can interact with δ and μ opioid receptors as agonists and with CCK receptors as antagonists. The ligands were designed based on a model of overlapping pharmacophores of opioid and CCK peptide ligands, which incorporates opioid pharmacophores at the N-terminal and CCK tetrapeptide pharmacophores at the C-terminal of the designed ligands. We measured binding and activities of our bifunctional peptides at opioid and CCK receptors. Compound 11 (Tyr-d-Ala-Gly-d-Trp-NMeNle-Asp-Phe-NH2) demonstrated opioid agonist properties at δ and μ receptors (IC50 = 63 ± 27 nM and 150 ± 65 nM, respectively in MVD and GPI tissue assays) and high binding affinity at CCK-1 and CCK-2 receptors (Ki = 320 and 1.5 nM, respectively). Compound 9 (Tyr-d-Nle-Gly-Trp-Nle-Asp-Phe-NH2) displayed potent agonist activity at δ and μ receptors (IC50 = 23 ±10 nM and 210 ± 52 nM, respectively in MVD and GPI tissue assays), with a balanced binding affinity for CCK-1 and CCK-2 receptors (Ki = 9.6 and 15 nM, respectively). These results provide evidence supporting the concept that opioid and CCK receptors have overlapping pharmacophores required for binding affinity and biological activity and that designing overlapping pharmacophores of two peptides into a single peptide is a valid drug design approach.
doi:10.1021/jm050921q
PMCID: PMC1484468  PMID: 16686530
15.  New paradigms and tools in drug design for pain and addiction 
The AAPS Journal  2006;8(3):E450-E460.
New modalities providing safe and effective treatment of pain, especially prolonged pathological pain, have not appeared despite much effort. In this mini-review/overview we suggest that new paradigms of drug design are required to counter the underlying changes that occur in the nervous system that may elicit chronic pain states. We illustrate this approach with the example of designing, in a single ligand, molecules that have agonist activity at μ and σ opioid receptors and antagonist activities at cholecystokinin (CCK) receptors. Our findings thus far provide evidence in support of this new approach to drug design. We also report on a new biophysical method, plasmon waveguide resonance (PWR) spectroscopy, which can provide new insights into information transduction in g-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) as illustrated by the δ opioid receptor.
doi:10.1208/aapsj080353
PMCID: PMC1764851  PMID: 17025262
drug design; neuropathic pain; bifunctional ligands; plasmon waveguide resonance spectroscopy; GPCRs; opioid receptors; cholecystokinin receptors

Results 1-15 (15)