A structure–function study of PACAP using conformationally restricted analogs: Identification of PAC1 receptor-selective PACAP agonists

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Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) has widespread physiological/pathophysiological actions and there is increased interest for its use therapeutically, especially in the CNS (neuroprotection). Unfortunately, no selective PACAP-analogs exist for PACAP-preferring PAC1-receptors, primarily because of its high sequence identity to VIP and particularly, because of the inability of structure–function studies to separate the pharmacophore of PAC1-R from VPAC1-R, which has high affinity for PACAP and VIP. The present study attempted to develop PAC1-R-selective agonists primarily by making conformationally restricted PACAP-analogs in positions important for receptor-selectivity/affinity. Forty-six PACAP-related-analogs were synthesized with substitutions in positions 1–4, 14–17, 20–22, 28, 34, 38 and receptor-selectivity determined in PAC1-R,VPAC1-R,VPAC2-R-transfected or native cells from binding or cAMP-generation experiments. Fifteen PACAP-analogs had 6–78-fold higher affinities for PAC1-R than VPAC1-R and 13 were agonists. Although binding-affinities correlated significantly with agonist potency, the degree of receptor-spareness varied markedly for the different PACAP-analogs, resulting in selective potencies for activating the PAC1 receptor over the VPAC1 receptor from 0- to 103-fold. In addition, a number of PACAP-analogs were identified that had high selectivity for PAC1-R over VPAC2-R as well as PACAP-analogs that could prove more useful therapeutically because of substitutions known to extend their half-lives (substitutions at potential sites of proteolysis and attachment of long-chain fatty acids). This study provides for the first time a separation of the pharmacophores for PAC1-R and VPAC1-R, resulting in PACAP-related analogs that are PAC1-R-preferring. Some of these analogs, or their modifications, could prove useful as therapeutic agents for various diseases.

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