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1.  Development and in vivo Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Polymer Micelles Targeted to the Melanocortin 1 Receptor 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(16):10.1021/jm4005576.
Recent emphasis has focused on the development of rationally-designed polymer-based micelle carriers for drug delivery. The current work tests the hypothesis that target specificity can be enhanced by micelles with cancer-specific ligands. In particular, we describe the synthesis and characterization of a new gadolinium texaphyrin (Gd-Tx) complex encapsulated in an IVECT™ micellar system, stabilized through Fe(III) crosslinking and targeted with multiple copies of a specific ligand for the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), which has been evaluated as a cell-surface marker for melanoma. On the basis of comparative MRI experiments, we have been able to demonstrate that these Gd-Tx micelles are able to target MC1R-expressing xenograft tumors in vitro and in vivo more effectively than various control systems, including untargeted and/or uncrosslinked Gd-Tx micelles. Taken in concert, the findings reported herein support the conclusion that appropriately designed micelles are able to deliver contrast agent payloads to tumors expressing the MC1R.
PMCID: PMC3807968  PMID: 23863078
micelle; targeted therapy; melanoma; cancer; nanoparticles; MRI
2.  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
3.  Design, synthesis and biological studies of efficient multivalent melanotropin ligands: tools towards melanoma diagnosis and treatment 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(20):7375-7384.
In order to achieve early detection and specific cancer treatment we propose the use of multivalent interactions in which a series of binding events leads to increased affinity and consequently to selectivity. Using melanotropin (MSH) ligands, our aim is to target melanoma cells, which overexpress melanocortin receptors. In this study, we report the design and efficient synthesis of new trivalent ligands bearing MSH ligands. Evaluation of these multimers on a cell model engineered to overexpress melanocortin 4 receptors (MC4R) showed up to a 350-fold increase in binding compared to the monomer, resulting in a trivalent construct with nanomolar affinity starting from a micromolar affinity ligand. Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) production was also investigated leading to more insights into the effects of multivalent compounds on transduction mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3521580  PMID: 21928837
Binding; multiple interactions; multimeric ligand design; targeted therapy; cancer; melanoma
4.  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
5.  Development of melanoma-targeted polymer micelles by conjugation of a Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) specific ligand 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2011;54(23):8078-8084.
The incidence of malignant melanoma is rising faster than that of any other cancer in the United States. Due to its high expression on the surface of melanomas, MC1R has been investigated as a target for selective imaging and therapeutic agents against melanoma. Eight ligands were screened against cell lines engineered to over-express MC1R, MC4R or MC5R. Of these, compound 1 (4-phenylbutyryl-His-Dphe-Arg-Trp-NH2) exhibited high (0.2 nM) binding affinity for MC1R, and low (high nM) affinities for MC4R and MC5R. Subsequently functionalization of the ligand at the C-terminus with an alkyne for use in Cu-catalyzed click chemistry was shown not to affect the binding affinity. Finally, formation of the targeted-polymer, as well as the targeted micelle formulation, also resulted in constructs with low nM binding affinity.
PMCID: PMC3302579  PMID: 22011200
Click reaction; MC1R; micelle; melanoma; melanocortin receptor; solid-phase synthesis; targeted therapies
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Synthesis and evaluation of new endomorphin-2 analogues containing (Z)-α,β-didehydro-phenylalanine (ΔZPhe) residues 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;53(11):4550-4554.
New endomorphin-2 (EM-2) analogues incorporating (Z)-α,β-didehydro-phenylalanine (ΔZPhe) in place of the native phenylalanine in EM-2 are reported. Tyr-Pro-ΔZPhe-Phe-NH2 {[ΔZPhe3]EM-2} (1), Tyr-Pro-Phe-ΔZPhe-NH2 {[ΔZPhe4]EM-2} (2) and Tyr-Pro-ΔZPhe-ΔZPhe-NH2 {[ΔZPhe3,4]EM-2}(3) have been synthesized, their opioid receptor binding affinities and tissue bioassay activities were determined, and their conformational properties were examined. Compound 2 shows high µ opioid receptor selectivity and µ agonist activity comparable to that of the native peptide. The conformation adopted in solution and in the crystal by N-Boc-Tyr-Pro-ΔZPhe-Phe-NH2 (8) is reported.
PMCID: PMC2918392  PMID: 20476738
10.  The Importance of Micelle-Bound States for the Bioactivities of Bifunctional Peptide Derivatives for δ/μ Opioid Receptor Agonists and Neurokinin 1 Receptor Antagonists 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(20):6334-6347.
In order to provide new insight into the determining factors of membrane-bound peptide conformation which might play an important role in peptide-receptor docking and further biological behaviors, the dodecylphosphocholine (DPC) micelle-bound conformations of bifunctional peptide derivatives of δ-preferring opioid agonists and NK1 antagonists (1: Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Met-Pro-Leu-Trp-O-3,5-Bzl(CF3)2; 2: Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Met-Pro-Leu-Trp-NH-3,5-Bzl(CF3)2; 3: Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Met-Pro-Leu-Trp-NH-Bzl) were determined based on 2D NMR studies. Although the differences in the primary sequence were limited to the C-terminus, the obtained NMR conformations were unexpectedly different for each compound. Moreover, their biological activities showed different trends in direct relation to the compound-specific conformations in DPC micelles. The important result is that not only were the NK1 antagonist activities different (the pharmacophore located at the C-terminus), but the opioid agonist activities (this pharmacophore was at the structurally preserved N-terminus) also were shifted, suggesting that a general conformational change in the bioactive state was induced due to relatively small and limited structural modifications.
PMCID: PMC2675940  PMID: 18821747
bifunctional peptides; analgesics; opioid induced tolerance; opioid receptor agonists; neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists; structure-activity relationships; NMR structure; DPC micelles; conformation; fluorine
11.  Design and Microwave-Assisted Synthesis of Novel Macrocyclic Peptides Active at Melanocortin Receptors: Discovery of Potent and Selective hMC5R Receptor Antagonists 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(9):2701-2707.
Differentiation of the physiological role of the melanocortin receptor 5 MC5R from that of other melanocortin receptors will require development of high affinity and selective antagonists. To date, a few synthetic antagonist ligands active at hMC5 receptor are available, but most do not have appreciable selectivity. With the aim to gain more potent and selective antagonists for the MC5R ligands, we have designed, synthesized, and pharmacologically characterized a series of alkylthioaryl-bridged macrocyclic peptide analogues derived from MT-II and SHU9119. These 20-membered macrocycles were synthesized by a tandem combination using solid phase peptide synthesis and microwave-assisted reactions. Biological assays for binding affinities and adenylate cyclase activities for the hMC1R, hMC3R, hMC4R, and hMC5R showed that three analogues, compounds, 9, 4, and 7, are selective antagonists at the hMC5 receptor. In particular, compound 9 (PG-20N) is a selective and competitive hMC5R antagonist, with IC50 of 130 ± 11 nM, and a pA2 value of 8.3, and represents an important tool for further biological investigations of the hMC5R. Compounds 4 and 7 (PG14N, PG17N) show potent and selective allosteric inhibition at hMC5R with IC50 values of 38 ± 3 nM and 58 ± 6 nM, respectively. Compound 9 will be used to further investigate and more clearly understand the physiological roles played by the MC5 receptor in humans and other animals.
PMCID: PMC2756086  PMID: 18412316
12.  A Structure–Activity Relationship Study and Combinatorial Synthetic Approach of C-Terminal Modified Bifunctional Peptides That Are δ/μ Opioid Receptor Agonists and Neurokinin 1 Receptor Antagonists 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(5):1369-1376.
A series of bifunctional peptides with opioid agonist and substance P antagonist bioactivities were designed with the concept of overlapping pharmacophores. In this concept, the bifunctional peptides were expected to interact with each receptor separately in the spinal dorsal horn where both the opioid receptors and the NK1 receptors were found to be expressed, to show an enhanced analgesic effect, no opioid-induced tolerance, and to provide better compliance than coadministration of two drugs. Compounds were synthesized using a two-step combinatorial method for C-terminal modification. In the method, the protected C-terminal-free carboxyl peptide, Boc-Tyr(tBu)-d-Ala-Gly Phe-Pro-Leu-Trp(Boc)-OH, was synthesized as a shared intermediate using Fmoc solid phase chemistry on a 2-chlorotrityl resin. This intermediate was esterified or amidated in solution phase. The structure–activity relationships (SAR) showed that the C-terminus acted as not only a critical pharmacophore for the substance P antagonist activities, but as an address region for the opioid agonist pharmacophore that is structurally distant from the C-terminal. Among the peptides, H-Tyr-d-Ala-Gly-Phe-Pro-Leu-Trp-NH-Bzl (3) demonstrated high binding affinities at both δ and μ receptors (Ki = 10 and 0.65 nM, respectively) with efficient agonist functional activity in the mouse isolated vas deferens (MVD) and guinea pig isolated ileum (GPI) assays (IC50 = 50 and 13 nM, respectively). Compound 3 also showed a good antagonist activity in the GPI assay with substance P stimulation (Ke = 26 nM) and good affinity for the hNK1 receptor (Ki = 14 nM). Consequently, compound 3 is expected to be a promising and novel type of analgesic with bifunctional activities.
PMCID: PMC2737825  PMID: 18266313
13.  Development of novel enkephalin analogues which have enhanced opioid activities at both μ and δ opioid receptors 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2007;50(22):5528-5532.
Enkephalin analogues with an 4-anilidopiperidine scaffold have been designed and synthesized to achieve therapeutic benefit for the treatment of pain due to mixed μ and δ opioid agonist activities. Ligand 16, in which a Dmt-substituted enkephalin-like structure was linked to the N-phenyl-N-piperidin-4-yl propionamide moiety showed very high binding affinities (0.4 nM) at μ and δ receptors with an increased hydrophobicity (aLogP = 2.96). This novel lead compound was found to have very potent agonist activities in MVD (1.8 nM) and GPI (8.5 nM) assays.
PMCID: PMC2678914  PMID: 17927164
14.  Structure–Activity Relationships of Cyclic Lactam Analogues of α-Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone (α-MSH) Targeting the Human Melanocortin-3 Receptor 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2007;51(2):187-195.
A variety of dicarboxylic acid linkers introduced between the α-amino group of Pro6 and the ε-amino group of Lys10 of the cyclic lactam α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH)-derived Pro6-D-Phe7/D-Nal(2′)7-Arg8-Trp9-Lys10-NH2 pentapeptide template lead to nanomolar range and selective hMC3R agonists and antagonists. Replacement of the Pro6 residue and the dicarboxylic acid linker with 2,3-pyrazine-dicarboxylic acid furnished a highly selective nanomolar range hMC3R partial agonist (analogue 12, c[CO-2,3-pyrazine-CO-D-Phe-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2, EC50 = 27 nM, 70% max cAMP) and an hMC3R antagonist (analogue 13, c[CO-2,3-pyrazine-CO-D-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2, IC50 = 23 nM). Modeling experiments suggest that 2,3-pyrazinedicarboxylic acid stabilizes a β-turn-like structure with the D-Phe/D-Nal(2′) residues, which explains the high potency of the corresponding peptides. Placement of a Nle residue in position 6 produced a hMC3R/hMC5R antagonist (analogue 15, c[CO-(CH2)2-CO-Nle-D-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2, IC50 = 12 and 17 nM, respectively), similarly to the previously described cyclic γ-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (γ-MSH)-derived hMC3R/hMC5R antagonists. These newly developed melanotropins will serve as critical biochemical tools for elucidating the full spectrum of functions performed by the physiologically important melanocortin-3 receptor.
PMCID: PMC2587288  PMID: 18088090
15.  Design, Synthesis, and Biological Evaluation of Novel Bifunctional C-Terminal-Modified Peptides for δ/μ Opioid Receptor Agonists and Neurokinin-1 Receptor Antagonists 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2007;50(12):2779-2786.
A series of bifunctional peptides that act as agonists for δ and μ opioid receptors with δ selectivity and as antagonist for neurokinin-1 (NK1) receptors were designed and synthesized for potential application as analgesics in various pain states. The peptides were characterized using radioligand binding assays and functional assays using cell membrane and animal tissue. Optimization was performed on the fifth residue which serves as an address moiety for both receptor recognitions. It had critical effects on both activities at δ/μ opioid receptors and NK1 receptors. Among the synthesized peptides, H-Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Met-Pro-Leu-Trp-O-3,5-Bzl(CF3)2 (5) and H-Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Nle-Pro-Leu-Trp-O-3,5-Bzl(CF3)2 (7) had excellent agonist activity for both δ opioid and μ opioid receptors and excellent antagonist activity for NK1 receptors. These results indicate that the rational design of multifunctional ligands with opioid agonist and neurokinin-1 antagonist activities can be accomplished and may provide a new tool for treatment of chronic and several pain states.
PMCID: PMC2365895  PMID: 17516639
16.  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.
PMCID: PMC2365893  PMID: 17201419
17.  Synthesis of Stable and Potent δ/μ Opioid Peptides: Analogues of H-Tyr-c[D-Cys-Gly-Phe-D-Cys]-OH by Ring-Closing Metathesis 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2007;50(13):3138-3142.
Ring-closing metathesis has emerged as a powerful tool in organic synthesis for generating cyclic structures via C–C double bond formation. Recently, it has been successfully used in peptide chemistry for obtaining cyclic molecules bridged through an olefin unit in place of the usual disulfide bond. Here, we describe this approach for obtaining cyclic olefin bridged analogues of H-Tyr-c[D-Cys-Gly-Phe-Cys]-OH. The synthesis of the new ligands was performed using the second generation Grubbs’ catalyst. The resulting cis-8 (cDADAE) and trans-9 (tDADAE) were fully characterized and tested at δ, μ, and κ opioid receptors. Also the linear precursor 13 (lDADAE) and the hydrogenated derivative 11 (rDADAE) also were tested. All the cyclic products containing a olefinic bond are slightly selective but highly active and potent for the δ and μ opioid receptors. Activity toward the κ opioid receptors was absent or very low.
PMCID: PMC2274921  PMID: 17539621
18.  Design, Synthesis, and Biological Evaluation of New Cyclic Melanotropin Peptide Analogues Selective for the Human Melanocortin-4 Receptor 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2006;49(23):6888-6896.
Intensive efforts have been made to develop potent and selective ligands for certain human melanocortin receptors as possible treatments for obesity and sexual dysfunction due to the role of these receptors in feeding behavior, energy homeostasis, sexual function, etc. A number of novel α-MSH analogues were designed and synthesized primarily on the basis of our previous MTII NMR structure. In these peptide analogues, a disulfide or lactam bridge between residues at positions 5 and 8 was used as a conformational constraint to enhance the β-turn spanning His6 and d-Phe7, while the pharmacophore group in Arg8 was mimicked via Nα-alkylation of residues 8 or 9 with the guanidinylbutyl group. Biological assays for binding affinities and adenylate cyclase activities for the hMC1R, hMC3R, hMC4R, and hMC5R showed that three analogues have good binding affinity for the hMC4R (0.7–4.1 nM), but have no binding affinity up to 10 μM at the other three melanocortin receptors. Interestingly, the three hMC4R selective analogues display only 50% binding efficiency, suggesting there is allosteric modulation of the melanocortin-4 receptor. These analogues were found to act as antagonists of the hMC4R. This result represents a discovery of very selective peptide-based antagonists for the hMC4R. The high selectivity may be due to the strong conformational constraint via ring contraction as compared to MTII, and the rigid conformation preferred by these new ligands allows them to recognize only the hMC4R, but not to activate the second messenger. The MTII NMR structure-based design thus not only examined the structural model of melanocortin ligands, but also yielded new biologically unique α-MSH analogues.
PMCID: PMC1764620  PMID: 17154518
19.  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.
PMCID: PMC1614704  PMID: 16509592
20.  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.
PMCID: PMC1484468  PMID: 16686530
21.  Development of Cyclic γ-MSH Analogues with Selective hMC3R Agonist and hMC3R/hMC5R Antagonist Activities 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2006;49(6):1946-1952.
A series of cyclic lactam analogues of γ-MSH (H-Tyr1-Val2-Met3-Gly4-His5-Phe6-Arg7-Trp8-Asp9-Arg10-Phe11-Gly12-OH) with a bulky hydrophobic residue in the direct proximity to the pharmacophore (Xaa-d-Phe/d-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp) were designed and synthesized by solid-phase methods. A variety of amino acids with a broad range of hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties was introduced in position 5 to further explore their complementary role in receptor selectivity. Biological evaluation of these peptides revealed several analogues with potent hMC3R agonist and hMC3R/hMC5R antagonist activities, and good receptor selectivity. Analogue 4, c[Nle-Arg-d-Phe-Arg-Trp-Glu]-NH2, was found to be a very potent and selective hMC3R agonist (EC50 = 1.2 nM, 112% act). In addition, analogue 13, c[Nle-Val-d-Nal(2′)-Arg-Trp-Glu]-NH2, was identified as an hMC3R/hMC5R antagonist with the best selectivity against the hMC4R in this series (pA2(hMC3R) = 8.4; pA2(hMC5R) = 8.7). These results indicate the significance of steric factors in melanocortin receptor selectivity and suggest that introduction of bulky residues in the direct proximity to the melanocortin pharmacophore is an effective approach to design of novel hMC3R and hMC5R selective ligands.
PMCID: PMC1484467  PMID: 16539382
22.  Structure–Activity Studies of Peptides from the “Hot-Spot” Region of Human CD2 Protein: Development of Peptides for Immunomodulation 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2005;48(20):6236-6249.
CD2 is a cell surface protein belonging to the immunoglobulin superfamily (IgSF) that plays a key role in mediating adhesion between human T-lymphocytes and target cells. The interaction between cell-adhesion molecules CD2 and CD58 is critical for immune response. Modulation or inhibition of these interactions has been shown to be therapeutically useful. Synthetic 12-mer linear and cyclic peptides and cyclic hexapeptides from the β-turn and β-strand region (hot spot) of human CD2 protein were designed to modulate CD2–CD58 interaction. The 12-amino acid synthetic cyclic peptides effectively blocked the interaction between CD2 and CD58 proteins as demonstrated by E-rosetting and heterotypic adhesion assays. NMR and molecular modeling studies indicated that these cyclic peptides exhibit β-turn structure in solution and closely mimic the β-turn structure of the surface epitopes of CD2 protein. The designed cyclic peptides with β-turn structure have the ability to modulate CD2–CD58 interaction.
PMCID: PMC1351114  PMID: 16190751

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