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J Med Chem. 2006 Feb 9;49(3):911-22.

Mapping the binding site of melanocortin 4 receptor agonists: a hydrophobic pocket formed by I3.28(125), I3.32(129), and I7.42(291) is critical for receptor activation.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, MA 02446, USA.


The melanocortin 4 receptor is involved in the control of the feeding behavior and energy homeostasis. It is regulated by internal agonist (alpha-MSH) and antagonists (Agouti). Peptide agonists bind in a beta-turn conformation that organizes the characteristic message sequence (His-L/DPhe-Arg-Trp) in an optimal arrangement for binding and activation of the receptor. Our goal is to determine the most likely binding modes of peptide and small molecule agonists to use this information to guide our structure-based drug design efforts. Previous studies have identified some residues that are likely to be involved in peptide agonist binding, giving an initial estimate of the main contacts between peptides and receptor. However, a more detailed description of the orientation of the peptide in a beta-turn conformation in the binding site, as well as of the small molecule agonists, and it is commonalities with the peptide agonist binding modes is necessary to serve as the basis for structure-based drug design. In the current study we combine site-directed mutagenesis with molecular modeling studies to determine the most likely binding mode of peptide and small molecule agonists, and we found that Y6.58(268), Y7.38(287), I3.28(125), I3.32(129), and I7.42(291) also line the binding site and are likely to have direct contacts with the MC4R agonists. Of particular interest are residues I3.28(125), I3.32(129), and I7.42(291), which form a hydrophobic pocket where I7.42(291), on top of the NPXXY motif, is likely to act as a new rotamer switch implicated in the activation of the receptor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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