The Bioactive Conformation of Aminoalkylindoles at the Cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 Receptors: Insights Gained from (E)- and (Z)-Naphthylidene Indenes

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The aminoalkylindoles (AAIs) are agonists at both the cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors. To determine whether the s-trans or s-cis form of AAIs is their receptor-appropriate conformation, two pairs of rigid AAI analogues were studied. These rigid analogues are naphthylidene-substituted aminoalkylindenes that lack the carbonyl oxygen of the AAIs. Two pairs of (E)- and (Z)-naphthylidene indenes (C-2 H and C-2 Me) were considered. In each pair, the E geometric isomer is intended to mimic the s-trans form of the AAIs, while the Z geometric isomer is intended to mimic the s-cis form. Complete conformational analyses of two AAIs, pravadoline (2) and WIN-55,212-2 (1), and of each indene were performed using the semiempirical method AM1. S-trans and s-cis conformations of 1 and 2 were identified. AM1 single-point energy calculations revealed that when 1 and each indene were overlayed at their corresponding indole/indene rings, the (E)- and (Z)-indenes were able to overlay naphthyl rings with the corresponding s-trans or s-cis conformer of 1 with an energy expense of 1.13/0.69 kcal/mol for the C-2 H (E/Z)-indenes and 0.82/0.74 kcal/mol for the C-2 Me (E/Z)-indenes. On the basis of the hypothesis that aromatic stacking is the predominant interaction of AAIs such as 1 at the CB receptors and on the demonstration that the C-2 H (E/Z)- and C-2 Me (E/Z)-indene isomers can mimic the positions of the aromatic systems in the s-trans and s-cis conformers of 1, the modeling results support the previously established use of indenes as rigid analogues of the AAIs. A synthesis of the naphthylidene indenes was developed using Horner−Wittig chemistry that afforded the Z isomer in the C-2 H series, which was not produced in significant amounts from an earlier reported indene/aldehyde condensation reaction. This approach was extended to the C-2 Me series as well. Photochemical interconversions in both the C-2 H and C-2 Me series were also successful in obtaining the less favored isomer. Thus, the photochemical process can be used to provide quantities of the minor isomers C-2 H/Z and C-2 Me/E. The CB1 and CB2 affinities as well as the activity of each compound in the twitch response of the guinea pig ileum (GPI) assay were assessed. The E isomer in each series was found to have the higher affinity for both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. In the rat brain membrane assay versus [3H]CP-55,940, the Ki's for the C-2 H/C-2 Me series were 2.72/2.89 nM (E isomer) and 148/1945 nM (Z isomer). In membrane assays versus [3H]SR141716A, a two-site model was indicated for the C-2 H/C-2 Me (E isomers) with Ki's of 10.8/9.44 nM for the higher-affinity site and 611/602 nM for the lower-affinity site. For the Z isomers, a one-site model was indicated with Ki's of 928/2178 nM obtained for the C2 H/C-2 Me analogues, respectively. For the C-2 H/C-2 Me series, the CB2 Ki's obtained using a cloned cell line were 2.72/2.05 nM (E isomer) and 132/658 nM (Z isomer). In the GPI assay, the relative order of potency was C-2 H E > C-2 Me E > C-2 H Z > C-2 Me Z. The C-2 H E isomer was found to be equipotent with 1, while the C-2 Me Z isomer was inactive at concentrations up to 3.16 μM. Thus, results indicate that the E geometric isomer in each pair of analogues is the isomer with the higher CB1 and CB2 affinities and the higher pharmacological potency. Taken together, results reported here support the hypothesis that the s-trans conformation of AAIs such as 1 is the preferred conformation for interaction at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors and that aromatic stacking may be an important interaction for AAIs at these receptors.