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J Med Chem. 2003 Jan 2;46(1):34-48.

The power of visual imagery in drug design. Isopavines as a new class of morphinomimetics and their human opioid receptor binding activity.

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Department of Chemistry, Université de Montréal, Succersale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


The importance of visual imagery and relational thinking manifests itself in a heuristic approach to the design and synthesis of potential morphinomimetics as agonists of the human mu receptor. The well-known class of alkaloids represented by the isopavine nucleus has a topological resemblance to the morphine skeleton, especially when viewed in a particular way. Enantiopure isopavines can be readily obtained from a 1,2 Stevens rearrangement of 13-substituted dihydromethanodibenzoazocines, prepared in four steps from d- and l-amino acids. Consideration of the topology and the expected orientation of the nitrogen lone pair for a better overlap with morphine necessitates the utilization of d-amino acids. By variation of the substituents on the aromatic rings and a judicious choice of ring substituents, it is possible to obtain low nanomolar binding to the human mu receptor while maintaining good to excellent mu/delta selectivity. Agonist-like activity is indicated in a functional assay for one of the analogues originally derived from d-alanine as a precursor. X-ray crystal structures of several compounds corroborate stereochemistries and overall topologies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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