Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Mol Pharmacol. 1992 Jan;41(1):185-96.

Molecular determinants of mu receptor recognition for the fentanyl class of compounds.

Author information

  • 1Molecular Research Institute, Palo Alto, California 94304.


We report here a theoretical study of a series of fentanyl analogs with a wide range of affinities and selectivities at the mu receptor, designed to identify and characterize the molecular determinants of mu receptor recognition. In this work, a complete conformational search combining nested rotations and molecular dynamic simulations has been made, leading to identification of accessible conformers for all analogs and to the selection of a candidate bioactive form. In addition, electronic properties have been calculated and examined as possible modulators of recognition at the mu receptor. The results of these studies have led to a distinct pharmacophore for interaction at the mu receptor for this class of compounds, with the piperidine ring in a chair conformation and the N-phenethyl and 4-phenylpropanamide substituents both equatorial. Moreover, four key moieties necessary for optimum receptor recognition and a postulated role for each of them in this recognition have been identified. These are (i) a protonated amine nitrogen, assumed to be involved in an initial electrostatic interaction with a negatively charged site on the receptor; (ii) a polar function capable of hydrogen-bonding with an electrophilic site; (iii) an aromatic ring involved in lipophilic interaction with a similar moiety; and (iv) a second aromatic ring, most probably involved in electron transfer interaction with the receptor. These requirements, taken together, form the basis of our proposed mechanism for mu receptor recognition. Not only is the presence of these components required for recognition, but specific steric relationships between them have been determined, implying the appropriate arrangement for interaction with complementary receptor sites. These steric parameters are pseudobond angles and one torsion angle that determine the relative spatial arrangement of these four moieties. They are the angles theta 1 and theta 3, defining the relative position of the protonated nitrogen and the polar function with each of the two aromatic rings, and the torsion angle eta 1, defining the orientation of the lone pair(s) on the polar proton-accepting function with respect to the lone pair on the piperidine nitrogen. This postulated mechanism of recognition provides a conceptual framework to understand why some compounds do and some do not recognize the mu receptor.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk