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Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2013 Jul 15;23(14):4145-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2013.05.039. Epub 2013 May 23.

Synthesis and evaluation of a conditionally-silent agonist for the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Florida, PO Box 117200, Gainesville, FL 32611-7200, USA.


We introduce the term 'silent agonists' to describe ligands that can place the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) into a desensitized state with little or no apparent activation of the ion channel, forming a complex that can subsequently generate currents when treated with an allosteric modulator. KC-1 (5'-phenylanabaseine) was synthesized and identified as a new silent agonist for the α7 nAChR; it binds to the receptor but does not activate α7 nAChR channel opening when applied alone, and its agonism is revealed by co-application with the type II positive allosteric modulator PNU-120596 in the Xenopus oocyte system. The concise synthesis was accomplished in three steps with the C-C bonds formed via Pd-catalyzed mono-arylation and organolithium coupling with N-Boc piperidinone. Comparative structural analyses indicate that a positive charge, an H-bond acceptor, and an aryl ring in a proper arrangement are needed to constitute one class of silent agonist for the α7 nAChR. Because silent agonists may act on signaling pathways not involving ion channel opening, this class of α7 nAChR ligands may constitute a new alternative for the development of α7 nAChR therapeutics.

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