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American Chemical Society

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Drugs do not act solely by canonical ligand–receptor binding interactions. Amphiphilic drugs partition into membranes, thereby perturbing bulk lipid bilayer properties and possibly altering the function of membrane proteins. Distinguishing membrane perturbation from more direct protein–ligand interactions is an ongoing challenge in chemical biology. Herein, we present one strategy for doing so, using dimeric 6-bromo-2-mercaptotryptamine (BrMT) and synthetic analogues. BrMT is a chemically unstable marine snail toxin that has unique effects on voltage-gated K+ channel proteins, making it an attractive medicinal chemistry lead. BrMT is amphiphilic and perturbs lipid bilayers, raising the question of whether its action against K+ channels is merely a manifestation of membrane perturbation. To determine whether medicinal chemistry approaches to improve BrMT might be viable, we synthesized BrMT and 11 analogues and determined their activities in parallel assays measuring K+ channel activity and lipid bilayer properties. Structure–activity relationships were determined for modulation of the Kv1.4 channel, bilayer partitioning, and bilayer perturbation. Neither membrane partitioning nor bilayer perturbation correlates with K+ channel modulation. We conclude that BrMT’s membrane interactions are not critical for its inhibition of Kv1.4 activation. Further, we found that alkyl or ether linkages can replace the chemically labile disulfide bond in the BrMT pharmacophore, and we identified additional regions of the scaffold that are amenable to chemical modification. Our work demonstrates a strategy for determining if drugs act by specific interactions or bilayer-dependent mechanisms, and chemically stable modulators of Kv1 channels are reported.


Accepted version. Biochemistry, Vol. 57, No. 18 *2018): 2733-2743. DOI. © 2018 American Chemical Society. Used with permission.

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