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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Oct 2022 - 4 Nov 2022

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 09 30




Editor's Pick

Structure-based discovery of nonopioid analgesics acting through the α-adrenergic receptor.


Fink EA, Xu J, Hübner H, Braz JM, Seemann P, Avet C, Craik V, Weikert D, Schmidt MF, Webb CM, Tolmachova NA, Moroz YS, Huang X-P, Kalyanaraman C, Gahbauer S, Chen G, Liu Z, Jacobson MP, Irwin JJ, Bouvier M, et al.
Science. 2022 09 30; 377(6614):eabn7065.
PMID: 36173843.


Because nonopioid analgesics are much sought after, we computationally docked more than 301 million virtual molecules against a validated pain target, the α-adrenergic receptor (αAR), seeking new αAR agonists chemotypes that lack the sedation conferred by known αAR drugs, such as dexmedetomidine. We identified 17 ligands with potencies as low as 12 nanomolar, many with partial agonism and preferential G and G signaling. Experimental structures of αAR complexed with two of these agonists confirmed the docking predictions and templated further optimization. Several compounds, including the initial docking hit '9087 [mean effective concentration (EC) of 52 nanomolar] and two analogs, '7075 and PS75 (EC 4.1 and 4.8 nanomolar), exerted on-target analgesic activity in multiple in vivo pain models without sedation. These newly discovered agonists are interesting as therapeutic leads that lack the liabilities of opioids and the sedation of dexmedetomidine.