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1.  Discovery and Labeling of High Affinity 3,4-Diarylpyrazolines as Candidate Radioligands for In Vivo Imaging of Cannabinoid Subtype-1 (CB1) Receptors 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(18):5608-5616.
Imaging of cannabinoid subtype-1 (CB1) receptors in vivo with positron emission tomography (PET) is likely to be important for understanding their role in neuropsychiatric disorders and for drug development. Radioligands for imaging with PET are required for this purpose. We synthesized new ligands from a 3,4-diarylpyrazoline platform of which (-)-12a ((-)-3-(4-chlorophenyl)-N’-[(4-cyanophenyl)sulfonyl]-4-phenyl-4,5-dihydro-1H-pyrazole-1-carboxamidine) was found to have high-affinity and selectivity for binding to CB1 receptors. (-)-12a and its lower affinity enantiomer ((+)-12a) were labeled with carbon-11 (t1/2 = 20.4 min) using [11C]cyanide ion as labeling agent and evaluated as PET radioligands in cynomolgus monkey. After injection of [11C](-)-12a there was high uptake and retention of radioactivity across brain according to the rank order of CB1 receptor densities. The distomer, [11C](+)-12a, failed to give a sustained CB1 receptor-specific distribution. Polar radiometabolites of [11C](-)-12a appeared moderately slowly in plasma. Radioligand [11C](-)-12a is promising for the study of brain CB1 receptors and merits further investigation in human subjects.
PMCID: PMC4182912  PMID: 18754613
2.  Synthesis and Evaluation of Two 18F-Labeled 6-Iodo-2-(4′-N,N-dimethylamino)phenylimidazo[1,2-a]pyridine Derivatives as Prospective Radioligands for β-Amyloid in Alzheimer’s Disease 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2004;47(9):2208-2218.
This study evaluated 18F-labeled IMPY [6-iodo-2-(4′-N,N-dimethylamino)phenylimidazo[1,2-a]pyridine] derivatives as agents for imaging β-amyloid plaque with positron emission tomography (PET). The precursor for radiolabeling and reference compounds was synthesized in up to five steps from commercially accessible starting materials. One of the two N-methyl groups of IMPY was substituted with either a 3-fluoropropyl (FPM-IMPY) or a 2-fluoroethyl (FEM-IMPY) group. FPM-IMPY and FEM-IMPY were found to have moderate affinity for Aβ- aggregates with Ki = 27 ± 8 and 40 ± 5 nM, respectively. A “one-pot” method for 18F-2-fluoroethylation and 18F-3-fluoropropylation of the precursor was developed. The overall decay-corrected radiochemical yields were 26–51%. In PET experiments with normal mouse, high uptake of activity was obtained in the brain after iv injection of each probe: 6.4% ID/g for [18F]FEM-IMPY at 1.2 min, and 5.7% ID/g for [18F]FPM-IMPY at 0.8 min. These values were similar to those of [123I/125I]IMPY (7.2% ID/g at 2 min). Polar and nonpolar radioactive metabolites were observed in both plasma and brain homogenates after injection of [18F]FEM or [18F]FPM-IMPY. In contrast to the single-exponential washout of [123I/125I]IMPY, the washouts of brain activity for the two fluorinated analogues were biphasic, with an initial rapid phase over 20 min and a subsequent much slower phase. Residual brain activity at 2 h, which may represent polar metabolites trapped in the brain, was 4.5% ID/g for [18F]FEM-IMPY and 2.1% ID/g for [18F]FPM-IMPY. Substantial skull uptake of [18F]fluoride was also clearly observed. With a view to slow the metabolism of [18F]FEM-IMPY, an analogue was prepared with deuteriums substituted for the four ethyl hydrogens. However, D4-[18F]FEM-IMPY showed the same brain uptake and clearance as the protio analogue. Metabolism of the [18F]FEM-IMPY was appreciably slower in rhesus monkey than in mouse. Autoradiography of postmortem brain sections of human Alzheimer’s disease patients with [18F]FEM-IMPY showed high displaceable uptake in gray matter and low nonspecific binding in the white matter. This study demonstrates that the IMPY derivatives have favorable in vivo brain pharmacokinetics and a moderate affinity for imaging β-amyloid plaques; however, further improvements are needed to reduce radioactive metabolites, increase binding affinity, and reduce lipophilicity.
PMCID: PMC4137392  PMID: 15084119
3.  Radiosynthesis and evaluation of an 18F-labeled positron emission tomography (PET) radioligand for brain histamine subtype-3 receptors based on a nonimidazole 2-aminoethylbenzofuran chemotype 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2012;55(5):2406-2415.
A known chemotype of H3 receptor ligand was explored for development of a radioligand for imaging brain histamine subtype 3 (H3) receptors in vivo with positron emission tomography (PET), namely non-imidazole 2-aminoethylbenzofurans, represented by the compound (R)-(2-(2-(2-methylpyrrolidin-1-yl)ethyl)benzofuran-5-yl)(4-fluorophenyl)methanone (9). Compound 9 was labeled with fluorine-18 (t1/2= 109.7 min) in high specific activity by treating the prepared nitro analog (12) with cyclotron-produced [18F]fluoride ion. [18F]9 was studied with PET in mouse and in monkey after intravenous injection. [18F]9 showed favorable properties as a candidate PET radioligand, including moderately high brain uptake with a high proportion of H3 receptor-specific signal in the absence of radiodefluorination. The nitro compound 12 was found to have even higher H3 receptor affinity, indicating the potential of this chemotype for the development of further promising PET radioligands.
PMCID: PMC3303611  PMID: 22313227
Radioligand; H3 receptor; PET; imaging; fluorine-18
4.  Syntheses of 2-Amino and 2-Halothiazole Derivatives as High-Affinity Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor Subtype 5 Ligands and Potential Radioligands for In Vivo Imaging 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(3):901-908.
The structure of the potent selective mGlu5 ligand, SP203 (1, 3-fluoro-5-[[2-(fluoromethyl)thiazol-4-yl]ethynyl]benzonitrile), was modified by replacing the 2-fluoromethyl substituent with an amino or halo substituent and by variation of substituents in the distal aromatic ring to provide a series of new high-affinity mGlu5 ligands. In this series, among the most potent ligands obtained, the 2-chloro-thiazoles 7a and 7b and the 2-fluorothiazole 10b showed sub-nanomolar mGlu5 affinity. 10b also displayed >10,000-fold selectivity over all other metabotropic receptor subtypes plus a wide range of other receptors and binding sites. The 2-fluorothiazoles 10a and 10b were labeled using [18F]fluoride ion (t1/2 = 109.7 min) in moderately high radiochemical yield to provide potential radioligands that may resist troublesome radiodefluorination during the imaging of brain mGlu5 with position emission tomography. The iodo compound 9b has nanomolar affinity for mGlu5 and may also serve as a lead to a potential 123I-labeled ligand for imaging brain mGlu5 with single photon emission computed tomography.
PMCID: PMC3092816  PMID: 21207959
5.  Synthesis and Evaluation of Radioligands for Imaging Brain Nociceptin/Orphanin FQ Peptide (NOP) Receptors with Positron Emission Tomography 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(8):2687-2700.
Positron emission tomography (PET) coupled to an effective radioligand could provide an important tool for understanding possible links between neuropsychiatric disorders and brain NOP (nociceptin/orphanin FQ peptide) receptors. We sought to develop such a PET radioligand. High-affinity NOP ligands were synthesized based on a 3-(2'-fluoro-4',5'-dihydrospiro[piperidine-4,7'-thieno[2,3-c]pyran]-1-yl)-2(2-halobenzyl)-N-alkylpropanamide scaffold and from experimental screens in rats, with ex vivo LC-MS/MS measures, three ligands were identified for labeling with carbon-11 and evaluation with PET in monkey. Each ligand was labeled by 11C-methylation of an N-desmethyl precursor and studied in monkey under baseline and NOP receptor-preblock conditions. The three radioligands, [11C](S)-10a–c, gave similar results. Baseline scans showed high entry of radioactivity into brain to give a distribution reflecting that expected for NOP receptors. Pre-block experiments showed high early peak levels of brain radioactivity which rapidly declined to a much lower level than seen in baseline scans, thereby indicating a high level of receptor-specific binding in baseline experiments. Overall, [11C](S)-10c showed the most favorable receptor-specific signal and kinetics and is now selected for evaluation in human subjects.
PMCID: PMC3081360  PMID: 21438532
NFSI; NOP receptor; PET; Radioligand; Carbon-11; Imaging
6.  N-(4-Cyano-tetrahydro-2H-pyran-4-yl) and N-(1-Cyanocyclohexyl) Derivatives of 1,5-Diarylpyrazole 3-Carboxamides Showing High Affinity for 18 kDa Translocator Protein and/or Cannabinoid Receptors 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(8):2961-2970.
In order to develop improved radioligands for imaging brain CB1 receptors with positron emission tomography (PET) based on rimonabant (5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-N-(piperidin-1-yl)-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxamide; 1), we synthesized compounds 9a–s in which the N-piperidinyl ring was replaced with a 4-(4-cyano-tetrahydro-2H-pyranyl) or 1-cyano-cyclohexyl ring. Such changes were expected to be almost isosteric with 1, confer greater metabolic resistance and, in the case of the 4-(4-cyano-tetrahydro-2H-pyranyl) compounds, substantially reduce lipophilicity. One derivative, 1-(2-bromophenyl)-N-(1-cyanocyclohexyl)-5-(4-methoxyphenyl)-4-methyl-pyrazole-3-carboxamide (9n), showed high affinity (Ki = 15.7 nM) and selectivity for binding to CB1 receptors. The corresponding 4-(4-cyano-tetrahydro-2H-pyranyl) derivative (9m) also showed quite high affinity for CB1 receptors (Ki = 62 nM), but was found to have even higher affinity (Ki = 29 nM) for the structurally unrelated 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO). Some other minor structural changes among 9a–s were also found to switch binding selectivity from CB1 receptors to TSPO or vice versa. These unexpected findings and their implications for the development of selective ligands or PET radioligands for CB1 receptors or TSPO are discussed in relation to current pharmacophore models of CB1 receptor and TSPO binding sites.
PMCID: PMC3085958  PMID: 21428406
CB1 receptor; CB2 receptor; TSPO receptor; pharmacophore
7.  Evaluation of Novel N1-Methyl-2-phenylindol-3-ylglyoxylamides as a New Chemotype of 18 kDa Translocator Protein-Selective Ligand Suitable for the Development of Positron Emission Tomography Radioligands 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;54(1):366-373.
A novel series of N1-methyl-(2-phenylindol-3-yl)glyoxylamides 19–31, designed in accordance with our previously reported pharmacophore/topological model, showed high affinity for the 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO) and paved the way for developing a new radiolabeled probe. Thus ligand 31, N,N-di-n-propyl-(N1-methyl-2-(4'-nitrophenyl)indol-3-yl)glyoxylamide, featuring the best combination of affinity and lipophilicity, was labeled with carbon-11 for evaluation with positron emission tomography (PET) in monkey. After intravenous injection, [11C]31 entered brain to give a high proportion of TSPO-specific binding. These findings augur well for the future application of [11C]31 in humans. Consequently, the binding of 31 to human TSPO was tested on samples of brain membranes from deceased subjects who through ethically-approved in vitro study had previously been established to be high-affinity binders (HABs), mixed-affinity binders (MABs) or low-affinity binders (LABs) for the known TSPO ligand, PBR28 (2). 31 showed high affinity for HABs, MABs and LABs. In conclusion, [11C]31 represents a promising new chemotype for developing novel TSPO radioligands as biomarkers of neuroinflammation.
PMCID: PMC3135721  PMID: 21133364
TSPO; PET; Radioligand; Chemotype; Carbon-11; Imaging
8.  Synthesis, Structure-affinity Relationships and Radiolabeling of Selective High-affinity 5-HT4 Receptor Ligands as Prospective Imaging Probes for PET 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;53(19):7035-7047.
In a search for high-affinity receptor ligands that might serve for development as radioligands for the imaging of brain 5-HT4 receptors in vivo with positron emission tomography (PET), structural modifications were made to the high-affinity 5-HT4 antagonist, (1-butylpiperidin-4-yl)methyl 8-amino-7-iodo-2,3-dihydrobenzo[b][1,4]dioxine-5-carboxylate (1, SB 207710). These modifications were made mainly on the aryl side of the ester bond to permit possible rapid labeling of the carboxylic acid component with a positron-emitter, either carbon-11 (t1/2 = 20.4 min) or fluorine-18 (t1/2 = 109.7 min), and included, i) replacement of the iodine atom with a small substituent such as nitrile, methyl or fluoro, ii) methylation of the 8-amino group, iii) opening of the dioxan ring, and iv) alteration of the length of the N-alkyl goup. High-affinity ligands were discovered for recombinant human 5-HT4 receptors with amenability to labeling with a positron-emitter and potential for development as imaging probes. The ring-opened radioligand, (([methoxy-11C]1-butylpiperidin-4-yl)methyl 4-amino-3-methoxybenzoate; [11C]13), showed an especially favorable array of properties for future evaluation as a PET radioligand for brain 5-HT4 receptors.
PMCID: PMC2951497  PMID: 20812727
PET; Imaging; 5-HT4; Radioligand; Carbon-11; Fluorine-18
9.  Single-step High-yield Radiosynthesis and Evaluation of a Sensitive 18F-Labeled Ligand for Imaging Brain Peripheral Benzodiazepine Receptors with PET 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2009;52(3):688-699.
Elevated levels of peripheral benzodiazepine receptors (PBR) are associated with activated microglia in their response to inflammation. Hence, PBR imaging in vivo is valuable for investigating brain inflammatory conditions. Sensitive, easily prepared and readily available radioligands for imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) are desirable for this purpose. We describe a new 18F-labeled PBR radioligand, namely [18F]N-fluoroacetyl-N-(2,5-dimethoxybenzyl)-2-phenoxyaniline ([18F]9). [18F]9 was produced easily through a single and highly efficient step, the reaction of [18F]fluoride ion with the corresponding bromo precursor, 8. Ligand 9 exhibited high affinity for PBR in vitro. PET showed that [18F]9 was avidly taken into monkey brain and gave a high ratio of PBR-specific to nonspecific binding. [18F]9 was devoid of defluorination in rat and monkey and gave predominantly polar radiometabolite(s). In rat, a low level radiometabolite of intermediate lipophilicity was identified as [18F]2-fluoro-N-(2-phenoxyphenyl)acetamide ([18F]11). [18F]9 is a promising radioligand for future imaging of PBR in living human brain.
PMCID: PMC2646257  PMID: 19119848
Peripheral benzodiazepine receptor; PET; Imaging; Radioligand; Fluorine-18; Aryloxyanilide
10.  Synthesis and Evaluation of [N-methyl-11C]N-Desmethyl-loperamide as a New and Improved PET Radiotracer for Imaging P-gp Function 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(19):6034-6043.
[11C]Loperamide has been proposed for imaging P-glycoprotein (P-gp) function with positron emission tomography (PET), but its metabolism to [N-methyl-11C]N-desmethyl-loperamide ([11C]dLop; [11C]3) precludes quantification. We considered that [11C]3 might itself be a superior radiotracer for imaging brain P-gp function and therefore aimed to prepare [11C]3 and characterize its efficacy. An amide precursor (2) was synthesized and methylated with [11C]iodomethane to give [11C]3. After administration of [11C]3 to wild type mice, brain radioactivity uptake was very low. In P-gp (mdr-1a (−/−)) knockout mice, brain uptake of radioactivity at 30 min increased about 3.5 fold by PET measures, and over seven-fold by ex vivo measures. In knockout mice, brain radioactivity was predominantly (90%) unchanged radiotracer. In monkey PET experiments, brain radioactivity uptake was also very low, but after P-gp blockade increased more than seven-fold. [11C]3 is an effective new radiotracer for imaging brain P-gp function and, in favor of future successful quantification, appears free of extensive brain-penetrant radiometabolites.
PMCID: PMC2646255  PMID: 18783208
P-gp; PET; radiotracer; carbon-11; N-desmethyl-loperamide
11.  Synthesis, Ex Vivo Evaluation and Radiolabeling of Potent 1,5-Diphenyl-pyrrolidin-2-one Cannabinoid Subtype-1 (CB1) Receptor Ligands as Candidates for In Vivo Imaging 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(18):5833-5842.
We have reported that [methyl-11C](3R,5R)-5-(3-methoxy-phenyl)-3-((R)-1-phenyl-ethylamino)-1-(4-trifluoromethyl-phenyl)-pyrrolidin-2-one ([11C]8, [11C]MePPEP) binds with high selectivity to cannabinoid type-1 (CB1) receptors in monkey brain in vivo. We now describe the synthesis of 8 and four analogs, namely the 4-fluoro-phenyl (16, FMePPEP), 3-fluoromethoxy (20, FMPEP), 3-fluoromethoxy-d2 (21, FMPEP-d2) and 3-fluoro-ethoxy analogs (22, FEPEP), and report their activity in an ex vivo model designed to identify compounds suitable for use as PET ligands. These ligands showed high, selective potency at CB1 receptors in vitro (Kb < 1 nM). Each ligand (30 μg/kg, i.v.) was injected into rats under baseline and pretreatment conditions (3, rimonabant, 10 mg/kg, i.v.), and quantified at later times in frontal cortex ex vivo with LC-MS detection. Maximal ligand uptakes were high (22.6-48.0 ng/g). Under pretreatment, maximal brain uptakes were greatly reduced (6.5-17.3 ng/g). Since each ligand readily entered brain and bound with high selectivity to CB1 receptors, we then established and here describe methods to produce [11C]8, [11C]16 and [18F]20-22 in adequate activities for evaluation as candidate PET radioligands in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2587418  PMID: 18800770

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