Discovery of Small Peptides and Peptidomimetics Targeting the Substance P 1-7 Binding Site : Focus on Design, Synthesis, Structure-Activity Relationships and Drug-Like Properties

Sammanfattning: Biologically active peptides are important for many physiological functions in the human body and therefore serve as interesting starting points in drug discovery processes. In this work the neuropeptide substance P 1–7 (SP1–7, H-Arg-Pro-Lys-Pro-Gln-Gln-Phe-OH), which has been demonstrated to reduce neuropathic pain and attenuate opioid withdrawal symptoms in animal models, has been addressed in a medicinal chemistry program with the overall aim of transforming this bioactive peptide into more drug-like compounds. Specific binding sites for this neuropeptide have been detected in the brain and the spinal cord. Interestingly, the smaller neuropeptide endomorphin-2 (EM-2, H-Tyr-Pro-Phe-Phe-NH2) also interacts with these binding sites, although 10-fold less efficient. In this work the structure–activity relationship of SP1–7 and EM-2, regarding their affinity to the SP1–7 binding site was elucidated using alanine scans, truncation, and terminal modifications. The C-terminal part of both peptides, and especially the C-terminal phenylalanine, was crucial for binding affinity. Moreover, the C-terminal functional group should preferably be a primary amide. The truncation studies finally resulted in the remarkable discovery of H-Phe-Phe-NH2 as an equally good binder as the heptapeptide SP1–7. This dipeptide amide served as a lead compound for further studies. In order to improve the drug-like properties and to find a plausible bioactive conformation, a set of rigidified and methylated dipeptides of different stereochemistry, and analogs with reduced peptide character, were synthesized and evaluated regarding binding, metabolic stability and absorption. Small SP1–7 analogs with retained affinity and substantially improved permeability and metabolic stability were identified. Beside peptide chemistry the synthetic work included the development of a fast and convenient microwave-assisted protocol for direct arylation of imidazoles. Furthermore, microwave-assisted aminocarbonylation using Mo(CO)6 as a solid carbon monoxide source was investigated in the synthesis of MAP amides and for coupling of imidazoles with amino acids. In a future perspective the present findings, together with the fact that some of the SP1–7 analogs discovered herein have been shown to reproduce the biological effects of SP1-7 in animal studies related to neuropathic pain and opioid dependence, can ultimately have an impact on drug discovery in these two areas.