Structure-guided drug design: Conferring selectivity among neuronal nicotinic receptor and acetylcholine-binding protein subtypes

Palmer Taylor, Todd T. Talley, Zoran Radic', Scott B. Hansen, Ryan E. Hibbs, Jian Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Neuronal nicotinic receptors, encoded by nine genes of the α and three of the β type of subunits, and whose gene products assemble in distinct permutations as pentameric molecules, constitute a fertile area for structure-guided drug design. Design strategies are augmented by a wide variety of peptide, alkaloid and terpenoid toxins from various marine and terrestrial species that interact with nicotinic receptors. Also, acetylcholine-binding proteins from mollusks, as structural surrogates of the receptor that mimic its extracellular domain, provide atomic resolution templates for analysis of structure and response. Herein, we describe a structure-guided approach to nicotinic ligand design that employs crystallography of this protein as the basic template, but also takes into consideration the dynamic properties of the receptor molecules in their biological media. We present the crystallographic structures of several complexes of various agonists and antagonists that associate with the agonist site and can competitively block the action of acetylcholine. In so far as the extracellular domain is involved, we identify additional non-competitive sites at those subunit interfaces where agonists do not preferentially bind. Ligand association at these interface sites may modulate receptor function. Ligand binding is also shown by solution-based spectroscopic and spectrometric methods to affect the dynamics of discrete domains of the receptor molecule. The surrogate receptor molecules can then be employed to design ligands selective for receptor subtype through the novel methods of freeze-frame, click chemistry that uses the very structure of the target molecule as a template for synthesis of the inhibitor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1164-1171
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 2007


  • Acetylcholine-binding protein
  • Allosteric modulators
  • Channel vestibule
  • Competitive ligand site
  • Crystal structure
  • Fluorescence anisotropy
  • Freeze-frame click chemistry
  • Isotope exchange
  • Nicotinic receptor structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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