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Life Sci. 1988;43(12):1013-20.

Cyclic, disulfide- and dithioether-containing opioid tetrapeptides: development of a ligand with high delta opioid receptor selectivity and affinity.

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  • 1College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109.


Tetrapeptides of primary sequence Tyr-X-Phe-YNH2, where X is D-Cys or D-Pen (penicillamine) and where Y is D-Pen or L-Pen, were prepared and were cyclized via the side chain sulfurs of residues 2 and 4 to disulfide or dithioether-containing analogs. These peptides are related to previously reported penicillamine-containing pentapeptide enkephalin analogs but lack the central glycine residue of the latter and were designed to assess the effect of decreased ring size on opioid activity. Binding affinities of the tetrapeptides were determined to both mu and delta opioid receptors. Binding affinity and selectivity in the tetrapeptide series were observed to be highly dependent on primary sequence. For example, L-Pen4 analogs displayed low affinity and were nonselective, while the corresponding D-Pen4 diastereomers were of variable affinity and higher selectivity. Among the latter compounds were examples of potent analogs in which selectivity shifted from delta selective to mu selective as the ring size was increased. The relatively high binding affinity and delta receptor selectivity observed with one of the carboxamide terminal disulfide analogs led to the synthesis of the corresponding carboxylic acid terminal, Tyr-D-Cys-Phe-D-PenOH. This analog displayed delta receptor binding selectivity similar to that of the standard delta ligand, [D-Pen2,D-Pen5]enkephalin (DPDPE), and was found to have a 3.5-fold higher binding affinity than DPDPE. All the tetrapeptides were further evaluated in the isolated mouse vas deferens (mvd) assay and all displayed opioid agonist activity. In general, tetrapeptide potencies in the mouse vas deferens correlated well with binding affinities but were somewhat lower. Receptor selectivity in the mvd, assessed by examining the effect of opioid antagonists on the tetrapeptide concentration-effect curves, was similar to that determined in the binding studies.

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