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1.  Truncation of the peptide sequence in bifunctional ligands with mu and delta opioid receptor agonist and neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist activities 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters  2013;23(17):10.1016/j.bmcl.2013.06.065.
The optimization and truncation of our lead peptide-derived ligand TY005 possessing eight amino-acid residues was performed. Among the synthesized derivatives, NP30 (Tyr1-DAla2-Gly3-Phe4-Gly5-Trp6-O-[3′,5′-Bzl(CF3)2]) showed balanced and potent opioid agonist as well as substance P antagonist activities in isolated tissue-based assays, together with significant antinociceptive and antiallodynic activities in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3810412  PMID: 23899615
bifunctional compounds; opioid receptor agonists; neutokinin-1 receptor antagonists; Truncation of peptide sequence; NMR structure
2.  Synthesis and biological evaluation of new opioid agonist and neurokinin-1 antagonist bivalent ligands 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2011;19(20):6135-6142.
Newly designed bivalent ligands—opioid agonist/NK1-antagonists have been synthesized. The synthesis of new starting materials—carboxy-derivatives of Fentanyl (1a–1c) was developed. These products have been transformed to ‘isoimidium perchlorates’ (2a–c). The new isoimidium perchlorates have been successfully implemented in nucleophilic addition reactions, with L-tryptophan 3,5-bis(trifluoromethyl)benzyl ester to give the target compounds—amides (3a–c). Perchlorates (2a–c) successfully undergo reactions with other nucleophiles such as alcohols, amines or hydrazines. The obtained compound 3b exhibited μ-opioid agonist activity and NK1-antagonist activity and may serve as a useful lead compound for the further design of a new series of opioid agonist/NK1-antagonist compounds.
PMCID: PMC4137774  PMID: 21925887
Analgesic; Bivalent ligands; μ-Opioids; NK1 antagonist; Fentanyl
3.  Discovery of Amphipathic Dynorphin A Analogues to Inhibit the Neuroexcitatory Effects of Dynorphin A through Bradykinin Receptors in the Spinal Cord 
We hypothesized that under chronic pain conditions, up-regulated dynorphin A (Dyn A) interacts with bradykinin receptors (BRs) in the spinal cord to promote hyperalgesia through an excitatory effect, which is opposite to the well known inhibitory effect of opioid receptors. Considering the structural dissimilarity between Dyn A and endogenous BR ligands, bradykinin (BK) and kallidin (KD), this interaction could not be predicted, but allowed us to discover a potential neuroexcitatory target. Well known BR ligands, BK, DALKD, and HOE140 showed different binding profiles at rat brain BRs than that previously reported. These results suggest that neuronal BRs in the rat central nervous system (CNS) may be pharmacologically distinct from those previously defined in non-neuronal tissues. Systematic structure-activity relationship (SAR) study at the rat brain BRs was performed and as a result, a new key structural feature of Dyn A for BR recognition was identified: amphipathicity. NMR studies of two lead ligands, Dyn A-(4-11) 7 and [des-Arg7]-Dyn A-(4-11) 14, which showed the same high binding affinity, confirmed that the Arg residue in position 7, which is known to be crucial for Dyn A’s biological activity, is not necessary, and that a type I β-turn structure at the C-terminal part of both ligands plays an important role in retaining good binding affinities at the BRs. Our lead ligand 14 blocked Dyn A-(2-13) 10-induced hyperalgesic effects and motor impairment in in vivo assays using naïve rats. In a model of peripheral neuropathy, intrathecal ( administration of ligand 14 reversed thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical hypersensitivity in a dose-dependent manner in nerve-injured rats. Thus ligand 14 may inhibit abnormal pain states by blocking the neuroexcitatory effects of enhanced levels of Dyn A, which are likely to be mediated by BRs in the spinal cord.
PMCID: PMC4021566  PMID: 24742335
pathological chronic pain states; hyperalgesia; dynorphin A; bradykinin receptor recognition; non-opioid; amphipathic pharmacophore
4.  Chiral Effect of a Phe Residue in Position 3 of the Dmt1-l(or d)-Tic2 Analogues on Opioid Functional Activities 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2013;4(7):656-659.
In this letter, we describe a structure–activity relationships study, specifically related to the chirality of third amino acid residue in our H-Dmt-l(or d)-Tic analogues, of which C-terminus is attached to a piperidinyl moiety. Observed selectivities and functional activities of these analogues demonstrated that the chiralities of the second and third position residues are crucial for determining whether these ligands act as antagonists or agonists at the δ opioid receptor, but not at the μ opioid receptor.
PMCID: PMC3956057  PMID: 24648867
Dmt-Tic; opioid functional activities; structure−activity relationship; δ opioid receptor; chirality
5.  Nerve Injury-induced Tactile Allodynia Is Present In The Absence Of FOS Labeling In Retrogradelly Labeled Post-Synaptic Dorsal Column Neurons 
Pain  2006;129(0):143-154.
The dorsal column pathway consists of direct projections from primary afferents and of ascending fibers of the post-synaptic dorsal column (PSDC) cells. This pathway mediates touch but may also mediate allodynia after nerve injury. The role of PSDC neurons in nerve injury-induced mechanical allodynia is unknown. Repetitive gentle, tactile stimulus or noxious pinch was applied to the ipsilateral hindpaw of rats with spinal nerve ligation (SNL) or sham surgery that had previously received tetramethylrhodamine dextran in the ipsilateral n. gracilis. Both touch and noxious stimuli produced marked increases in FOS expression in other cells throughout all laminae of the ipsilateral dorsal horn after nerve injury. However, virtually none of the identified PSDC cells expressed FOS immunofluorescence in response to repetitive touch or pinch in either the nerve-injured or sham groups. In contrast, labeled PSDC cells expressed FOS in response to ureter ligation and labeled spinothalamic tract (STT) cells expressed FOS in response to noxious pinch. Identified PSDC neurons from either sham-operated or SNL rats did not express immunoreactivity to substance P, CGRP, NPY, PKCg, MOR, the NK1 and the NPY-Y1 receptor. Retrogradely labeled DRG cells of nerve injured rats were large diameter neurons, which expressed NPY, but no detectable CGRP or substance P. Spinal nerve injury sensitizes neurons in the spinal dorsal horn to repetitive light touch but PSDC neurons apparently do not participate in touch-evoked allodynia. Sensitization of these non-PSDC neurons may result in activation of projections integral to the spinal/supraspinal processing of enhanced pain states and of descending facilitation, thus priming the central nervous system to interpret tactile stimuli as being aversive.
PMCID: PMC4028680  PMID: 17156921
PSDC cells; spinal cord; neuropathic pain; FOS expression
Pain  2006;129(0):35-45.
Opioids can induce hyperalgesia in humans and in animals. Mechanisms of opiate-induced hyperalgesia and possibly of spinal antinociceptive tolerance may be linked to pronociceptive adaptations occurring at multiple levels of the nervous system including activation of descending facilitatory influences from the brainstem, spinal neuroplasticity, and changes in primary afferent fibers. Here, the role of NK-1 receptor-expressing cells in the spinal dorsal horn in morphine-induced hyperalgesia and spinal antinociceptive tolerance was assessed by ablating these cells with intrathecal injection of SP-saporin (SP-SAP). Ablation of NK-1 receptor expressing cells prevented (a) morphine-induced thermal and mechanical hypersensitivity, (b) increased touch-evoked spinal FOS expression, (c) upregulation of spinal dynorphin content and (d) the rightward displacement of the spinal morphine antinociceptive dose-response curve (i.e., tolerance). Morphine-induced hyperalgesia and antinociceptive tolerance were also blocked by spinal administration of ondansetron, a serotonergic receptor antagonist. Thus, NK-1 receptor expressing neurons play a critical role in sustained morphine-induced neuroplastic changes which underlie spinal excitability reflected as thermal and tactile hypersensitivity to peripheral stimuli, and to reduced antinociceptive actions of spinal morphine (i.e., antinociceptive tolerance). Ablation of these cells likely eliminates the ascending limb of a spinal-bulbospinal loop that engages descending facilitation and elicits subsequent spinal neuroplasticity. The data may provide a basis for understanding mechanisms of prolonged pain which can occur in the absence of tissue injury.
PMCID: PMC4028682  PMID: 17123731
Opioid-induced hyperalgesia; descending facilitation; spinal plasticity; spinal tolerance; NK-1 receptors; projection cells
7.  Descending Facilitatory Pathways From the Rostroventromedial Medulla Mediate Naloxone-precipitated Withdrawal in Morphine-Dependent Rats 
Opioids produce analgesic effects and extended use can produce physical dependence in both humans and animals. Dependence to opiates can be demonstrated by either termination of drug administration or through precipitation of the withdrawal syndrome by opiate antagonists. Key features of the opiate withdrawal syndrome include hyperalgesia, anxiety and autonomic signs such as diarrhea. The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) plays an important role in the modulation of pain and for this reason, may influence withdrawal-induced hyperalgesia. The mechanisms that drive opiate withdrawal-induced hyperalgesia have not been elucidated. Here, rats made dependent upon morphine received naloxone to precipitate withdrawal. RVM microinjection of lidocaine, kynurenic acid (excitatory amino acid antagonist) or YM022 (CCK2 receptor antagonist) blocked withdrawal-induced hyperalgesia. Additionally, these treatments reduced both somatic and autonomic signs of naloxone-induced withdrawal. Spinal application of ondansetron, a 5HT3 receptor antagonist thought to ultimately be engaged by descending pain facilitatory drive, also blocked hyperalgesia and somatic and autonomic features of the withdrawal syndrome. These results indicate that the RVM plays a critical role in mediating components of opioid withdrawal that may contribute to opioid dependence.
Manipulations targeting these descending pathways from the RVM may diminish the consequences of prolonged opioid administration-induced dependence and be useful adjunct strategies in reducing the risk of opioid addiction.
PMCID: PMC4028695  PMID: 21354865
naloxone-induced withdrawal; hyperalgesia; RVM; descending facilitation; morphine dependence
8.  Chiral Effect of a Phe Residue in Position 3 of the Dmt1-L(or D)-Tic2 Analogues on Opioid Functional Activities 
ACS medicinal chemistry letters  2013;4(7):656-659.
In this letter, we describe a structure–activity relationships study, specifically related to the chirality of third amino acid residue in our H-Dmt-L(or D)-Tic analogues, of which C-terminus is attached to a piperidinyl moiety. Observed selectivities and functional activities of these analogues demonstrated that the chiralities of the second and third position residues are crucial for determining whether these ligands act as antagonists or agonists at the δ opioid receptor, but not at the μ opioid receptor.
PMCID: PMC3956057  PMID: 24648867
Dmt-Tic; opioid functional activities; structure–activity relationship; δ opioid receptor; chirality
9.  Effect of anchoring 4-anilidopiperidines to opioid peptides 
We report here the design, synthesis, and in vitro characterization of new opioid peptides featuring a 4-anilidopiperidine moiety. Despite the fact that the chemical structures of fentanyl surrogates have been found suboptimal per se for the opioid activity, the corresponding conjugates with opioid peptides displayed potent opioid activity. These studies shed an instructive light on the strategies and potential therapeutic values of anchoring the 4-anilidopiperidine scaffold to different classes of opioid peptides.
PMCID: PMC3942532  PMID: 23623418
Opioid peptide; Dynorphine analog; Bivalent ligand; Fentanyl; Analgesic
10.  Biological Active Analogues of the Opioid Peptide Biphalin: Mixed α/β3-Peptides 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(8):3419-3423.
Natural residues of the dimeric opioid peptide Biphalin were replaced by the corresponding homo-β3 amino acids. The derivative 1 containing hβ3 Phe in place of Phe showed good μ- and δ-receptor affinities ( Kiδ=0.72nM;Kiμ=1.1nM) and antinociceptive activity in vivo together with an increased enzymatic stability in human plasma.
PMCID: PMC3942533  PMID: 23547584
11.  Activation of Descending Pain Facilitatory Pathways from the Rostral Ventromedial Medulla by Cholecystokinin Elicits Release of PGE2 in the Spinal Cord 
Pain  2011;153(1):86-94.
Cholecystokinin (CCK) has been suggested to be both pro-nociceptive and anti-opioid by actions on pain modulatory cells within the RVM. One consequence of activation of RVM CCK2 receptors may be enhanced spinal nociceptive transmission but how this might occur, especially in states of pathological pain is unknown. Here, in vivo microdialysis was used to demonstrate that levels of RVM CCK increased by approximately 2-fold following ligation of L5/L6 spinal nerves (SNL). Microinjection of CCK into the RVM of naïve rats elicited hypersensitivity to tactile stimulation of the hindpaw. Additionally, RVM CCK elicited a time-related increase in PGE2 measured in cerebrospinal fluid from the lumbar spinal cord. The peak increase in spinal PGE2 was approximately 5-fold and was observed at approximately 80-min post-RVM CCK, a time coincident with maximal RVM CCK-induced mechanical hypersensitivity. Spinal administration of naproxen, a non-selective COX-inhibitor, significantly attenuated RVM CCK-induced hindpaw tactile hypersensitivity. RVM-CCK also resulted in a 2-fold increase in spinal 5-HIAA, a 5-HT metabolite, as compared to controls, and mechanical hypersensitivity that was attenuated by spinal application of ondansetron, a 5-HT3 antagonist. The present studies suggest that chronic nerve injury can result in activation of descending facilitatory mechanisms that may promote hyperalgesia via ultimate release of PGE2 and 5-HT in the spinal cord.
PMCID: PMC3245767  PMID: 22030324
rostral ventromedial medulla; descending facilitation; cholecystokinin; serotonin; PGE2; microdialysis; tactile hypersensitivity; nerve injury
12.  Improving Metabolic Stability By Glycosylation: Bifunctional Peptide Derivatives That Are Opioid Receptor Agonists and Neurokinin 1 Receptor Antagonists 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2009;52(16):5164-5175.
In order to obtain a metabolically more stable analgesic peptide derivative, O-β-glycosylated serine (Ser(Glc)) was introduced into TY027 (Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Met-Pro-Leu-Trp-NH-3’,5’-Bzl(CF3)2) which was a previously reported bifunctional compound with delta/mu opioid agonist and neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist activities, and with a half life of 4.8 h in rat plasma. Incorporation of Ser(Glc) into various positions of TY027 gave analogues with variable bioactivities. Analogue 6 (Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Nle-Pro-Leu-Ser(Glc)-Trp-NH-3’,5’-Bzl(CF3)2) was found to have effective bifunctional activities with a well-defined conformation with two β-turns based on the NMR conformational analysis in the presence of DPC micelles. In addition, 6 showed significant improvement in its metabolic stability (70 ± 9 % of 6 was intact after 24 h incubation in rat plasma). This improved metabolic stability, along with its effective and delta selective bifunctional activities, suggests that 6 could be an interesting research tool and possibly a promising candidate as a novel analgesic drug.
PMCID: PMC3521585  PMID: 20560643
bifunctional peptide derivatives; glycopeptides; analgesics; opioid induced tolerance; opioid receptor agonist; neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist; conformation-activity relationships; NMR structure; DPC micelles
13.  Engagement of Descending Inhibition from the Rostral Ventromedial Medulla Protects Against Chronic Neuropathic Pain 
Pain  2011;152(12):2701-2709.
A puzzling observation is why peripheral nerve injury results in chronic pain in some, but not all, patients. We explored potential mechanisms that may prevent the expression of chronic pain. Sprague-Dawley (SD) or Holtzman (HZ) rats showed no differences in baseline sensory thresholds or responses to inflammatory stimuli. However, spinal nerve ligation (SNL)-induced tactile allodynia occurred in approximately 85% of SD and 50% of HZ rats, respectively. No apparent differences were observed in a survey of DRG or spinal “neuropathic markers” following SNL regardless of allodynic phenotype. SNL-induced allodynia was reversed by administration of lidocaine within the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM), a site that integrates descending pain modulation via pain inhibitory (i.e., OFF) and excitatory (i.e., ON) cells. However, in SD or HZ rats with SNL but without allodynia, RVM lidocaine precipitated allodynia. Additionally, RVM lidocaine produced conditioned place preference in allodynic SD or HZ rats but conditioned place aversion in non-allodynic HZ rats. Similarly, RVM U69,593 (kappa opioid agonist) or blockade of spinal α2 adrenergic receptors precipitated allodynia in previously non-allodynic HZ rats with SNL. All rats showed an equivalent first phase formalin responses. However, HZ rats had reduced second phase formalin behaviors along with fewer RVM OFF cell pauses and RVM ON cell bursts. Thus, expression of nerve-injury induced pain may ultimately depend on descending modulation. Engagement of descending inhibition protects in the transition from acute to chronic pain. These unexpected findings might provide a mechanistic explanation for medications that engage descending inhibition or mimic its consequences.
PMCID: PMC3222148  PMID: 21745713
14.  Contribution of Afferent Pathways to Nerve-injury Induced Spontaneous Pain and Evoked Hypersensitivity 
Pain  2011;152(9):1997-2005.
A predominant complaint in patients with neuropathic pain is spontaneous pain, often described as “burning”. Recent studies have demonstrated that negative reinforcement can be used to unmask spontaneous neuropathic pain allowing for mechanistic investigations. Here, ascending pathways that might contribute to evoked and spontaneous components of experimental neuropathic pain model were explored. Desensitization of TRPV1 positive fibers with systemic resiniferatoxin (RTX) abolished spinal nerve ligation (SNL) injury-induced thermal hypersensitivity and spontaneous pain, but had no effect on tactile hypersensitivity. Ablation of spinal NK-1 receptor expressing neurons blocked SNL-induced thermal and tactile hypersensitivity as well as spontaneous pain. Following nerve injury, upregulation of neuropeptide Y (NPY) is observed almost exclusively in large diameter fibers and inactivation of the brainstem target of these fibers in the n. gracilis prevents tactile, but not thermal, hypersensitivity. Blockade of NPY signaling within the n. gracilis failed to block SNL-induced spontaneous pain or thermal hyperalgesia while fully reversing tactile hypersensitivity. Moreover, microinjection of NPY into n. gracilis produced robust tactile hypersensitivity, but failed to induce conditioned place aversion. These data suggest that spontaneous neuropathic pain and thermal hyperalgesia are mediated by TRPV1 positive fibers and spinal NK-1 positive ascending projections. In contrast, the large diameter dorsal column projection can mediate nerve injury-induced tactile hypersensitivity, but does not contribute to spontaneous pain. As inhibition of tactile hypersensitivity can be achieved either by spinal manipulations or by inactivation of signaling within the n. gracilis, the enhanced paw withdrawal response evoked by tactile stimulation does not necessarily reflect “allodynia”.
PMCID: PMC3306802  PMID: 21620567
Ongoing pain; nerve injury; NPY; TRPV1; tactile allodynia; thermal hyperalgesia
15.  Unmasking the tonic-aversive state in neuropathic pain 
Nature neuroscience  2009;12(11):1364-1366.
Tonic pain has been difficult to demonstrate in animals. Because relief of pain is rewarding, analgesic agents that are not rewarding in the absence of pain should become rewarding only when there is ongoing pain. We used conditioned place preference to concomitantly determine the presence of tonic pain in rats and the efficacy of agents that relieve it. This provides a new approach for investigating tonic pain in animals and for evaluating the analgesic effects of drugs.
PMCID: PMC3427725  PMID: 19783992
16.  Lesion of the Rostral Anterior Cingulate Cortex Eliminates the Aversiveness of Spontaneous Neuropathic Pain Following Partial or Complete Axotomy 
Pain  2011;152(7):1641-1648.
Neuropathic pain is often “spontaneous” or “stimulus-independent.” Such pain may result from spontaneous discharge in primary afferent nociceptors in injured peripheral nerves. However, whether axotomized primary afferent nociceptors give rise to pain is unclear. The rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) mediates the negative affective component of inflammatory pain. Whether the rACC integrates the aversive component of chronic spontaneous pain arising from nerve injury is not known. Here, we used the principle of negative reinforcement to show that axotomy produces an aversive state reflecting spontaneous pain driven from injured nerves. Additionally, we investigated whether the rACC contributes to the aversiveness of nerve injury induced spontaneous pain. Partial or complete hindpaw denervation was produced by sciatic or sciatic/saphenous axotomy, respectively. Conditioned place preference resulting from presumed pain relief was observed following spinal clonidinein animals with sciatic axotomy but not in sham-operated controls. Similarly, lidocaine administration into the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) produced place preference selectively in animals with sciatic/saphenous axotomy. In rats with spinal nerve ligation (SNL) injury lesion of the rACC blocked the reward elicited by RVM lidocaine but did not alter acute stimulus evoked hypersensitivity. Lesion of the rACC did not block cocaine-induced reward indicating that rACC blockade did not impair memory encoding or retrieval but did impair spontaneous aversiveness. These data indicate that spontaneous pain arising from injured nerve fibers produces a tonic aversive state that is mediated by the rACC. Identification of the circuits mediating aversiveness of chronic pain should facilitate the development of improved therapies.
PMCID: PMC3389793  PMID: 21474245
Spontaneous pain; axotomy; nerve injury; anterior cingulate cortex; negative reinforcement
17.  TRPV1 Receptor in Expression of Opioid-induced hyperalgesia 
The Journal of Pain  2008;10(3):243-252.
Opiates are currently the mainstay for treatment of moderate to severe pain. However, prolonged administration of opiates has been reported to elicit hyperalgesia in animals and examples of opiate-induced hyperalgesia have been reported in humans as well. In spite of the potential clinical significance of such opiate-induced actions, the mechanisms of opiate-induced hypersensitivity remain unknown. The TRPV1 receptor, a molecular sensor of noxious heat, acts as an integrator of multiple forms of noxious stimuli and plays an important role in the development of inflammation-induced hyperalgesia. As animals treated with opiates show thermal hyperalgesia, we examined the possible role of TRPV1 receptors in the development of morphine-induced hyperalgesia using TRPV1 wild-type (WT) and knock-out (KO) mice and with administration of a TRPV1 antagonist in mice and rats. Administration of morphine by subcutaneous implantation of morphine pellets elicited both thermal and tactile hypersensitivity in TRPV1 WT mice, but not in TRPV1 KO mice. Moreover, oral administration of a TRPV1 antagonist reversed both thermal and tactile hypersensitivity induced by sustained morphine administration in mice and rats. Immunohistochemical analyses indicate that sustained morphine administration modestly increases TRPV1 labeling in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). In addition, sustained morphine increased flinching and plasma extravasation after peripheral stimulation with capsaicin, suggesting an increase in TRPV1 receptor function in the periphery in morphine treated animals. Collectively our data indicate that the TRPV1 receptor is an essential peripheral mechanism in expression of morphine-induced hyperalgesia.
Opioid-induced hyperalgesia possibly limits the usefulness of opioids, emphasizing the value of alternative methods of pain control. We demonstrate that TRPV1 channels play an important role in peripheral mechanisms of opioid-induced hyperalgesia. Such information may lead to the discovery of analgesics lacking such adaptations and improving treatment of chronic pain.
PMCID: PMC3385996  PMID: 18774343
18.  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.
PMCID: PMC3105124  PMID: 21550594
neuropathic pain; spinal nerve ligation; cholecystokinin; opioids
19.  Discovery of a Potent and Efficacious Peptide Derivative for δ/μ Opioid Agonist/Neurokinin 1 Antagonist Activity with a 2′, 6′-Dimethyl-L-Tyrosine: In Vitro, In Vivo and NMR-Based Structural Studies 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(7):2029-2038.
Multivalent ligands with delta/mu opioid agonist and NK1 antagonist activities have shown promising analgesic potency without detectable sign of toxicities, including motor skill impairment and opioid-induced tolerance. To improve their biological activities and metabolic stability, structural optimization was performed on our peptide-derived lead compounds by introducing 2′, 6′-Dimethyl-L-Tyrosine (Dmt) instead of Tyr at the first position. The compound 7 (Dmt-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-MetPro-Leu-Trp-NH-[3′,5′-(CF3)2-Bzl]) showed improved multivalent bioactivities compared to those of the lead compounds, had more than 6 h half-life in rat plasma, and significant antinociceptive efficacy in vivo. The NMR structural analysis suggested that Dmt1 incorporation in compound 7 induces the structured conformation in the opioid pharmacophore (N-terminus), and simultaneously shifts the orientation of the NK1 pharmacophore (C-terminus), consistent with its affinities and activities at both opioid and NK1 receptors. These results indicate that compound 7 is a valuable research tool to seek a novel analgesic drug.
PMCID: PMC3090346  PMID: 21366266
analgesics; bifunctional peptide derivatives; 2′, 6′-Dimethyl-L-Tyrosine; DPC micelle; opioid induced tolerance; opioid receptor agonist; neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist; NMR structure
20.  Design of novel neurokinin 1 receptor antagonists based on conformationally constrained aromatic amino acids and discovery of a potent chimeric opioid agonist-neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(7):2467-2476.
A screening of conformationally constrained aromatic amino acids as base cores for the preparation of new NK1 receptor antagonists resulted in the discovery of three new NK1 receptor antagonists, 19 [Ac-Aba-Gly-NH-3′,5′-(CF3)2-Bn], 20 [Ac-Aba-Gly-NMe-3′,5′-(CF3)2-Bn] and 23 [Ac-Tic-NMe-3′,5′-(CF3)2-Bn], which were able to counteract the agonist effect of substance P, the endogenous ligand of NK1R. The most active NK1 antagonist of the series, 20 [Ac-Aba-Gly-NMe-3′,5′-(CF3)2-Bn], was then used in the design of a novel, potent chimeric opioid agonist-NK1 receptor antagonist, 35 [Dmt-D-Arg-Aba-Gly-NMe-3′,5′-(CF3)2-Bn], which combines the N-terminus of the established Dmt1-DALDA agonist opioid pharmacophore (H-Dmt-D-Arg-Phe-Lys-NH2) and 20, the NK1R ligand. The opioid component of the chimeric compound 35, i.e. Dmt-D-Arg-Aba-Gly-NH2 36, also proved to be an extremely potent and balanced μ- and δ opioid receptor agonist with subnanomolar binding and in vitro functional activity.
PMCID: PMC3096782  PMID: 21413804
NK1 receptor antagonists; opioids; multitarget drug design; designed multiple ligands
21.  Reversal of pancreatitis-induced pain by an orally available, small molecule interleukin-6 receptor antagonist 
Pain  2010;151(2):257-265.
Pancreatic pain resulting from chronic inflammation of the pancreas is often intractable and clinically difficult to manage with available analgesics reflecting the need for more effective therapies. Mechanisms underlying pancreatitis pain are not well understood. Here, the possibility that interleukin-6 (IL-6) may promote pancreatitis pain was investigated with TB-2-081 (3-O-formyl-20R,21-epoxyresibufogenin, EBRF), a small molecule IL-6 receptor antagonist that was semi-synthetically derived from natural sources. The potential activity and mechanism of TB-2-081 was investigated following induction of persistent pancreatitis using dibutyltin dichloride (DBTC) in rats. TB-2-081 displaces binding of IL-6 to the human recombinant soluble IL-6 receptor with apparent high affinity and inhibits IL-6 mediated cell growth. Systemic or oral, but not intrathecal, administration of TB-2-081 reversed DBTC-induced abdominal hypersensitivity in a dose- and time-dependent manner. IL-6 levels were significantly upregulated in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) of rats with pancreatitis on day 6 after DBTC injection. IL-6 enhanced capsaicin-evoked release of calcitonin gene related peptide from cultured DRG neurons was blocked by TB-2-081. Our data demonstrate that TB-2-081 acts as a systemically available and orally active small molecule IL-6 receptor antagonist. TB-2-081 effectively reduces pancreatitis-induced pain through peripheral mechanisms that are likely due to (a) increased expression of IL-6 in the DRG and (b) IL-6-mediated sensitization of nociceptive neurons. The activity of TB-2-081 implicates an important role for IL-6 in sustaining pancreatitis pain. Strategies targeting IL-6 actions through small molecule antagonists may offer novel approaches to improve therapy of chronic pancreatitis and other chronic pain states.
PMCID: PMC3313485  PMID: 20599324
22.  Development of potent μ and δ opioid agonists with high lipophilicity 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;54(1):382-386.
An SAR study on the Dmt-substituted enkephalin-like tetrapeptide with a N-phenyl-N-piperidin-4-yl propionamide moiety at C-terminal was performed, and has resulted in highly potent ligands at μ and δ opioid receptors. In general, ligands with the substitution of D-Nle2 and halogenation of the aromatic ring of Phe4 showed highly increased opioid activities. Ligand 6 with good biological activities in vitro demonstrated potent in vivo antihyperalgesic and antiallodynic effects in the tail-flick assay.
PMCID: PMC3136578  PMID: 21128594
23.  Biological and Conformational Evaluation of Bifunctional Compounds for Opioid Receptor Agonists and Neurokinin 1 Receptor Antagonists Possessing Two Penicillamines 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;53(15):5491-5501.
Neuropathic pain states and tolerance to opioids can result from system changes in the CNS, such as up-regulation of the NK1 receptor and substance P, which have anti-opioid effects in ascending or descending pain-signaling pathways. Bifunctional compounds, possessing both the NK1 antagonist pharmacophore and the opioid agonist pharmacophore with delta-selectivity, could counteract these system changes to have significant analgesic efficacy without undesirable side effects. As a result of the introduction of cyclic and topological constraints with penicillamines, 2 (Tyr-cyclo[D-Pen-Gly-Phe-Pen]-Pro-Leu-Trp-NH-[3′,5′-(CF3)2-Bzl]) was found as the best bifunctional compound with effective NK1 antagonist and potent opioid agonist activities, and 1400-fold delta-selectivity over the mu-receptor. The NMR structural analysis of 2 revealed that the relative positioning of the two connected pharmacophores as well as its cyclic and topological constraints might be responsible for its excellent bifunctional activities as well as its significant delta-opioid selectivity. Together with the observed high metabolic stability, 2 could be considered as a valuable research tool and possibly a promising candidate for a novel analgesic drug.
PMCID: PMC2943425  PMID: 20617791
bifunctional compound; opioid receptor agonists; neutokinin-1 receptor antagonists; NMR structure; membrane-compound interaction
24.  Triptan-induced enhancement of neuronal nitric oxide synthase in trigeminal ganglion dural afferents underlies increased responsiveness to potential migraine triggers 
Brain  2010;133(8):2475-2488.
Migraine is a common neurological disorder often treated with triptans. Triptan overuse can lead to increased frequency of headache in some patients, a phenomenon termed medication overuse headache. Previous preclinical studies have demonstrated that repeated or sustained triptan administration for several days can elicit persistent neural adaptations in trigeminal ganglion cells innervating the dura, prominently characterized by increased labelling of neuronal profiles for calcitonin gene related peptide. Additionally, triptan administration elicited a behavioural syndrome of enhanced sensitivity to surrogate triggers of migraine that was maintained for weeks following discontinuation of drug, a phenomenon termed ‘triptan-induced latent sensitization’. Here, we demonstrate that triptan administration elicits a long-lasting increase in identified rat trigeminal dural afferents labelled for neuronal nitric oxide synthase in the trigeminal ganglion. Cutaneous allodynia observed during the period of triptan administration was reversed by NXN-323, a selective inhibitor of neuronal nitric oxide synthase. Additionally, neuronal nitric oxide synthase inhibition prevented environmental stress-induced hypersensitivity in the post-triptan administration period. Co-administration of NXN-323 with sumatriptan over several days prevented the expression of allodynia and enhanced sensitivity to stress observed following latent sensitization, but not the triptan-induced increased labelling of neuronal nitric oxide synthase in dural afferents. Triptan administration thus promotes increased expression of neuronal nitric oxide synthase in dural afferents, which is critical for enhanced sensitivity to environmental stress. These data provide a biological basis for increased frequency of headache following triptans and highlight the potential clinical utility of neuronal nitric oxide synthase inhibition in preventing or treating medication overuse headache.
PMCID: PMC3139937  PMID: 20627971
triptans; migraine; medication overuse; cutaneous allodynia; nNOS; nitric oxide
25.  Design and synthesis of trivalent ligands targeting opioid, cholecystokinin, and melanocortin receptors for the treatment of pain 
It has been known that co-administration of morphine with either cholecystokinin(CCK) receptor or melanocortin (MC) receptor antagonists enhance morphine's analgesic efficacy by reducing serious side effects such as tolerance and addiction.1–4 Considering these synergistic effects, we have designed trivalent ligands in which all three different pharmacophores for opioid, CCK, and MC receptors are combined in such a way as to conserve their own topographical pharmacophore structures. These ligands, excluding the cyclic compound, were synthesized by solid phase synthesis using Rink-amide resin under microwave assistance in very high yields. These trivalent ligands bind to their respective receptors well demonstrating that the topographical pharmacophore structures for the three receptors were retained for receptor binding. Ligand 10 was a lead compound to show the best biological activities at all three receptors.
PMCID: PMC2917332  PMID: 20547453

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