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J Med Chem. 2000 Jan 13;43(1):71-95.

Pharmacophore/receptor models for GABA(A)/BzR subtypes (alpha1beta3gamma2, alpha5beta3gamma2, and alpha6beta3gamma2) via a comprehensive ligand-mapping approach.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201, USA.


Pharmacophore/receptor models for three recombinant GABA(A)/BzR subtypes (alpha1beta3gamma2, alpha5beta3gamma2, and alpha6beta3gamma2) have been established via an SAR ligand-mapping approach. This study was based on the affinities of 151 BzR ligands at five distinct (alpha1-3,5,6beta3gamma2) recombinant GABA(A)/BzR receptor subtypes from at least nine different structural families. Examination of the included volumes of the alpha1-, alpha5-, and alpha6-containing subtypes indicated that region L(2) for the alpha5-containing subtype appeared to be larger in size than the analogous region of the other receptor subtypes. Region L(Di), in contrast, appeared to be larger in the alpha1 subtype than in the other two subtypes. Moreover, region L(3) in the alpha6 subtype is either very small or nonexistent in this diazepam-insensitive subtype (see Figure 16 for details) as compared to the other subtypes. Use of the pharmacophore/receptor models for these subtypes has resulted in the design of novel BzR ligands (see 27) selective for the alpha5beta3gamma2 receptor subtype. alpha5-Selective ligand 27 when injected directly into the hippocampus did enhance memory in one paradigm (Bailey et al., unpublished observations); however, systemic administration of either 9 or 27 into animals did not provide an observable enhancement. This result is in complete agreement with the observation of Liu (1996). It has been shown (Liu, 1996; Wisden et al., 1992) that in the central nervous system of the rat (as well as monkeys and pigeons) there are several native subtypes of the GABA(A) receptor which exhibit different functions, regional distributions, and neuronal locations. Although 27 binds more potently at alpha5beta3gamma2 receptor subtypes and is clearly an inverse agonist (Liu et al., 1996; Liu, 1996), it is possible that this ligand acts as an agonist at one or more subtypes. Liu (1996) clearly showed that a number of imidazobenzodiazepines were negative modulators at one subtype and agonists at another. Therefore, selectivity for a particular subtype at this point is not sufficient to rule out some physiological effect at other GABA(A)/BzR subtypes. The inability of 27 to potentiate memory when given systemically is again in support of this hypothesis, especially since alpha1beta2gamma2 subtypes are distributed throughout the brain (Wisden et al., 1992). A drug delivered systemically is far more likely to interact with all subtypes than one delivered to a specific brain region. This observation (systemic vs intrahippocampal) provides further support for the design of more subtype-specific ligands at the BzR to accurately define their pharmacology, one key to the design of new drugs with fewer side effects.

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