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J Med Chem. 2002 Dec 5;45(25):5556-63.

Potent delta-opioid receptor agonists containing the Dmt-Tic pharmacophore.

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Department of Toxicology, University of Cagliari, I-09126 Cagliari, Italy.


Conversion of delta-opioid receptor antagonists containing the 2',6'-dimethyl-L-tyrosine (Dmt)-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroisoquinoline-3-carboxylic acid (Tic) pharmacophore into potent delta-agonists required a third heteroaromatic nucleus, such as 1H-benzimidazole-2-yl (Bid) and a linker of specified length both located C-terminally to Tic in the general formula H-Dmt-Tic-NH-CH(R)-R'. The distance between Tic and Bid is a determining factor responsible for the acquisition of delta agonism (2, 2', 3, 4, 6) or delta antagonism (8). Compounds containing a C-terminal Ala (1, 1'), Asp (5), or Asn (7) with an amide (1, 1', 5) or free acid group (7) served as delta-antagonist controls lacking the third heteroaromatic ring. A change in chirality of the spacer (2, 2') or inclusion of a negative charge via derivatives of Asp (4, 6) resulted in potent delta agonism and moderate mu agonism, although delta-receptor affinity decreased about 10-fold for 4 while mu affinity fell by over 2 orders of magnitude. Repositioning of the negative charge in the linker altered activity: H-Dmt-Tic-NH-CH(CH(2)-Bid)COOH (6) maintained high delta affinity (K(i) = 0.042 nM) and delta agonism (IC(50) = 0.015 nM), but attachment of the free acid group to Bid [H-Dmt-Tic-NH-CH(2)-Bid(CH(2)-COOH) (9)] reconstituted delta antagonism (K(e) = 0.27 nM). The data demonstrate that a linker separating the Dmt-Tic pharmacophore and Bid, regardless of the presence of a negative charge, is important in the acquisition of opioids exhibiting potent delta agonism and weak mu agonism from a parent delta antagonist.

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