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1.  Discovery of novel agonists and antagonists of the free fatty acid receptor one (FFAR1) using virtual screening 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(3):625-633.
The G protein-coupled receptor free fatty acid receptor 1 (FFAR1), previously named GPR40, is a possible novel target for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In an attempt to identify new ligands for this receptor, we performed virtual screening (VS) based on 2D-similarity, 3D-pharmacophore searches and docking studies, using the structure of known agonists and our model of the ligand binding site, which was validated by mutagenesis. VS of a database of 2.6 million compounds followed by extraction of structural neighbors of functionally-confirmed hits resulted in identification of 15 compounds active at FFAR1 either as full agonists, partial agonists, or pure antagonists. Site-directed mutagenesis and docking studies revealed different patterns of ligand-receptor interactions, and provided important information on the role of specific amino acids in binding and activation of FFAR1.
PMCID: PMC3711565  PMID: 18193825
2.  A bi-directional, iterative approach to the structural delineation of the functional “chemoprint” in GPR40 for agonist recognition 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2007;50(13):2981-2989.
GPR40, free fatty acid receptor 1 (FFAR1), is a member of the GPCR superfamily and a possible target for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In this work we conducted a bi-directional iterative investigation, including computational modeling and site-directed mutagenesis, aimed at delineating amino acid residues forming the functional “chemoprint” of GPR40 for agonist recognition. The computational and experimental studies revolved around the recognition of the potent synthetic agonist GW9508. Our experimentally supported model suggested that H137(4.56), R183(5.39), N244(6.55), and R258(7.35) are directly involved in interactions with the ligand. We have proposed a polarized NH - π interaction between H137(4.56) and GW9508 as one of the contributing forces leading to the high potency of GW9508. The modeling approach presented in this work provides a general strategy for the exploration of receptor-ligand interactions in GPCRs beginning prior to acquisition of experimental data.
PMCID: PMC3592210  PMID: 17552505
3.  Architecture of P2Y Nucleotide Receptors: Structural Comparison Based on Sequence Analysis, Mutagenesis, and Homology Modeling† 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2004;47(22):5393-5404.
Human P2Y receptors encompass at least eight subtypes of Class A G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), responding to adenine and/or uracil nucleotides. Using a BLAST search against the Homo sapiens subset of the SWISS–PROT and TrEMBL databases, we identified 68 proteins showing high similarity to P2Y receptors. To address the problem of low sequence identity between rhodopsin and the P2Y receptors, we performed a multiple-sequence alignment of the retrieved proteins and the template bovine rhodopsin, combining manual identification of the transmembrane domains (TMs) with automatic techniques. The resulting phylogenetic tree delineated two distinct subgroups of P2Y receptors: Gq-coupled subtypes (e.g., P2Y1) and those coupled to Gi (e.g., P2Y12). On the basis of sequence comparison we mutated three Tyr residues of the putative P2Y1 binding pocket to Ala and Phe and characterized pharmacologically the mutant receptors expressed in COS-7 cells. The mutation of Y306 (7.35, site of a cationic residue in P2Y12) or Y203 in the second extracellular loop selectively decreased the affinity of the agonist 2-MeSADP, and the Y306F mutation also reduced antagonist (MRS2179) affinity by 5-fold. The Y273A (6.48) mutation precluded the receptor activation without a major effect on the ligand-binding affinities, but the Y273F mutant receptor still activated G proteins with full agonist affinity. Thus, we have identified new recognition elements to further define the P2Y1 binding site and related these to other P2Y receptor subtypes. Following sequence-based secondary-structure prediction, we constructed complete models of all the human P2Y receptors by homology to rhodopsin. Ligand docking on P2Y1 and P2Y12 receptor models was guided by mutagenesis results, to identify the residues implicated in the binding process. Different sets of cationic residues in the two subgroups appeared to coordinate phosphate-bearing ligands. Within the P2Y1 subgroup these residues are R3.29, K/R6.55, and R7.39. Within the P2Y12 subgroup, the only residue in common with P2Y1 is R6.55, and the role of R3.29 in TM3 seems to be fulfilled by a Lys residue in EL2, whereas the R7.39 in TM7 seems to be substituted by K7.35. Thus, we have identified common and distinguishing features of P2Y receptor structure and have proposed modes of ligand binding for the two representative subtypes that already have well-developed ligands.
PMCID: PMC3431558  PMID: 15481977
4.  Molecular Modeling of the Human P2Y2 Receptor and Design of a Selective Agonist, 2′-Amino-2′-deoxy-2-thio-UTP 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2007;50(6):1166-1176.
A rhodopsin-based homology model of the nucleotide-activated human P2Y2 receptor, including loops, termini, and phospholipids, was optimized with Monte Carlo Multiple Minimum. Docked UTP formed a nucleobase π–π complex with conserved Phe3.32. Selectivity-enhancing 2′-amino-2′-deoxy substitution interacted through π-hydrogen bonding with aromatic Phe6.51 and Tyr3.33. A “sequential ligand composition” approach for docking the flexible dinucleotide agonist Up4U demonstrated a shift of conserved cationic Arg3.29 from the UTP γ position to δ position of Up4U and Up4ribose. Sysnthesized nucleotides were tested as agonists at human P2Y receptors expressed in 1321N1 astrocytoma cells. 2′-Amino and 2-thio modifications synergized to enhance potency and selectivity; compound 8 (8 nM EC50) was 300-fold P2Y2-selective versus P2Y4. 2′-Amine acetylation reduced potency, and trifluoroacetylation produced intermediate potency. 5-Amino nucleobase substitution did not enhance potency through a predicted hydrophilic interaction, possibly because of destabilization of the receptor-favored (N)-ribose conformation. This detailed view of P2Y2 receptor recognition suggests mutations for model validation.
PMCID: PMC3404812  PMID: 17302398
G protein–coupled receptor; nucleotides; docking; phospholipase C; pyrimidines; homology modeling
5.  Structure activity relationship of uridine 5′-diphosphate analogues at the human P2Y6 receptor 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2006;49(18):5532-5543.
The structure activity relationships and molecular modeling of the uracil nucleotide-activated P2Y6 receptor have been studied. A series of UDP analogues bearing substitutions of the ribose moiety, the uracil ring, and the diphosphate group was synthesized and assayed for activity at the human P2Y6 receptor. The uracil ring was modified at the 4-position, with the synthesis of 4-substituted-thiouridine-5′-diphosphate analogues, as well as at positions 3 and 5. The effect of modifications at the level of the phosphate chain was studied by preparing a cyclic 3′,5′-diphosphate analogue, a 3′-diphosphate analogue and several dinucleotide diphosphates. 5-Iodo-UDP 32 (EC50 0.15 μM) was equipotent to UDP, while substitutions of the 2′-hydroxyl (amino, azido) greatly reduce potency. 2- and 4-Thio analogues, 20 and 21, respectively, were also relatively potent in comparison to UDP. However, most other modifications greatly reduced potency. Molecular modeling indicates that the β-phosphate of 5′-UDP and analogs is essential for the establishment of electrostatic interactions with two of the three conserved cationic residues of the receptor. Among 4-thioether derivatives, a 4-ethylthio analogue 23 displayed an EC50 of 0.28 μM, indicative of favorable interactions predicted for a small 4-alkylthio moiety with the aromatic ring of Y33 in TM1. The activity of analogue 19 in which the ribose was substituted with a 2-oxabicyclohexane ring in a rigid (S) conformation (P= 126°, 1′-exo) was consistent with molecular modeling. These results provide a better understanding of molecular recognition at the P2Y6 receptor and will be helpful in designing selective and potent P2Y6 receptor ligands
PMCID: PMC3405152  PMID: 16942026
G protein-coupled receptor; nucleotides; thionucleotides; phospholipase C; pyrimidines; homology modeling
6.  Pyrimidine Nucleotides with 4-Alkyloxyimino and Terminal Tetraphosphate δ-Ester Modifications as Selective Agonists of the P2Y4 Receptor 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(12):4018-4033.
P2Y2 and P2Y4 receptors are G protein-coupled receptors, activated by UTP and dinucleoside tetraphosphates, which are difficult to distinguish pharmacologically for lack of potent and selective ligands. We varied structurally phosphate and uracil moieties in analogues of pyrimidine nucleoside 5′-triphosphates and 5′-tetraphosphate esters. P2Y4 receptor potency in phospholipase C stimulation in transfected 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells was enhanced in N4-alkyloxycytidine derivatives. OH groups on a terminal δ-glucose phosphoester of uridine 5′-tetraphosphate were inverted or substituted with H or F to probe H-bonding effects. N4-(Phenylpropoxy)-CTP 16 (MRS4062), Up4-[1]3′-deoxy-3′-fluoroglucose 34 (MRS2927) and N4-(phenylethoxy)-CTP 15 exhibit ≥10-fold selectivity for human P2Y4 over P2Y2 and P2Y6 receptors (EC50 values 23, 62 and 73 nM, respectively). δ-3-Chlorophenyl phosphoester 21 of Up4 activated P2Y2 but not P2Y4 receptor. Selected nucleotides tested for chemical and enzymatic stability were much more stable than UTP. Agonist docking at CXCR4-based P2Y2 and P2Y4 receptor models indicated greater steric tolerance of N4-phenylpropoxy group at P2Y4. Thus, distal structural changes modulate potency, selectivity, and stability of extended uridine tetraphosphate derivatives, and we report the first P2Y4 receptor-selective agonists.
PMCID: PMC3117126  PMID: 21528910
G protein-coupled receptor; nucleotides; pyrimidines; phospholipase C; dinucleotide; cytidine
7.  Pyrimidine Ribonucleotides with Enhanced Selectivity as P2Y6 Receptor Agonists: Novel 4-Alkyloxyimino, (S)-Methanocarba, and 5′-Triphosphate γ-Ester Modificationsa 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;53(11):4488-4501.
The P2Y6 receptor is a cytoprotective G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) activated by UDP (EC50, 0.30 μM). We compared and combined modifications to enhance P2Y6 receptor agonist selectivity, including ribose ring constraint, 5-iodo and 4-alkyloxyimino modifications, and phosphate modifications such as α,β-methylene and extension of the terminal phosphate group into γ-esters of UTP analogues. The conformationally constrained (S)-methanocarba UDP is a full agonist (EC50 0.042 μM). 4-Methoxyimino modification of pyrimidine enhanced P2Y6, preserved P2Y2 and P2Y4, and abolished P2Y14 receptor potency, in the appropriate nucleotide. N4-Benzyloxy-CDP (15, MRS2964) and N4-methoxy-Cp3U (23, MRS2957) were potent, selective P2Y6 receptor agonists (EC50 0.026 μM and 0.012 μM, respectively). A hydrophobic binding region near the nucleobase was explored with receptor modeling and docking. UTP-γ-aryl and cycloalkyl phosphoesters displayed only intermediate P2Y6 receptor potency, but had enhanced stability in acid and cell membranes. UTP-glucose was inactive, but its (S)-methanocarba analogue and N4-methoxy-cytidine 5′-triphospho-γ-[1]glucose were active (EC50 of 2.47 μM and 0.18 μM, respectively). Thus, the potency, selectivity, and stability of pyrimidine nucleotides as P2Y6 receptor agonists may be enhanced by modest structural changes.
PMCID: PMC2935147  PMID: 20446735
G protein-coupled receptor; nucleotides; pyrimidines; phospholipase C; dinucleotide; uracil
8.  On the applicability of GPCR homology models to computer-aided drug discovery: a comparison between in silico and crystal structures of the β2-adrenergic receptor 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(10):2907-2914.
The publication of the crystal structure of the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2-AR) proved that G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) share a structurally conserved rhodopsin-like 7TM core. Here, to probe to which extent realistic GPCR structures can be recreated through modeling, carazolol was docked at two rhodopsin-based homology models of the human β2-AR. The first featured a rhodopsin-like second extracellular loop, which interfered with ligand docking and with the orientation of several residues in the binding pocket. The second featured a second extracellular loop built completely de novo, which afforded a more accurate model of the binding pocket and a better docking of the ligand. Furthermore, incorporating available biochemical and computational data to the model by correcting the conformation of a single residue lining the binding pocket – Phe290(6.52) – resulted in significantly improved docking poses. These results support the applicability of GPCR modeling to the design of site-directed mutagenesis experiments and to drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC2443693  PMID: 18442228
9.  Examining the Chirality, Conformation and Selective Kinase Inhibition of 3-((3R,4R)-4-methyl-3-(methyl(7H-pyrrolo[2,3-d]pyrimidin-4-yl)amino)piperidin-1-yl)-3-oxopropanenitrile (CP-690,550) 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(24):8012-8018.
Here, we examine the significance that stereochemistry plays within the clinically relevant Janus Kinase 3 (Jak3) inhibitor CP-690,550. A synthesis of all four enantiopure stereoisomers of the drug was carried out and an examination of each compound revealed that only the enantiopure 3R, 4R isomer was capable of blocking Stat5 phosphorylation (Jak3 dependent). Each compound was profiled across a panel of over 350 kinases which revealed a high level of selectivity for the Jak family kinases for these related compounds. Each stereoisomer retained a degree of binding to Jak3 and Jak2 and the 3R, 4S and 3S, 4R stereoisomers were further revealed to have binding affinity for selected members of the STE7 and STE20 subfamily of kinases. Finally, an appraisal of the minimum energy conformation of each stereoisomer and molecular docking at Jak3 was performed in an effort to better understand each compounds selectivity and potency profiles.
PMCID: PMC2660606  PMID: 19053756
Janus Kinase 3; CP-690,550; Kinase inhibition; Chiral drugs
10.  Human P2Y6 Receptor: Molecular Modeling Leads to the Rational Design of a Novel Agonist Based on a Unique Conformational Preference 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2005;48(26):8108-8111.
Combining molecular dynamics (MD) in a hydrated phospholipids (DOPC) bilayer, Monte Carlo search, and synthesis of locked nucleotide analogues we discovered that the Southern conformation of the ribose is preferred for ligand recognition by the P2Y6 receptor. 2′-Deoxy-(S)-methanocarbaUDP was found to be a full agonist of the receptor and displayed a 10-fold higher potency than the corresponding flexible 2′-deoxyUDP. MD results also suggested a conformational change of the second extracellular loop consequent to agonist binding.
PMCID: PMC2583457  PMID: 16366591
11.  Evaluation of Small Molecule Modulators of the Luteinizing Hormone/Choriogonadotropin and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Receptors: Structure Activity Relationships and Selective Binding Patterns 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2006;49(13):3888-3896.
The substituted thieno[2,3-d]pyrimidine 3 (Org 41841), a partial agonist for the luteinizing hormone/choriogonadotropin receptor (LHCGR) and the closely related thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR), was fundamentally altered and the resulting analogues were analyzed for their potencies, efficacies and specificities at LHCGR and TSHR. Chemical modification of the parent compound combined with prior mutagenesis of TSHR provided compelling experimental evidence in support of computational models of 3 binding to TSHR and LHCGR within their transmembrane cores. Biochemical analysis of a specific modification to the chemical structure of 3 provides additional evidence of a H-bond between the ligand and a glutamate residue in transmembrane helix 3, which is conserved in both receptors. Several key interactions were surveyed to determine their respective biochemical roles in terms of both van der Waals dimensions and hydrogen bond capacity and the respective relationship to biological activity.
PMCID: PMC2543117  PMID: 16789744
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Receptor; Luteinizing Hormone/Choriogonadotropin Receptor; Org 41841

Results 1-11 (11)