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Serotonin receptors are extensively examined by academic and industrial researchers, due to their vital roles, which they play in the organism and constituting therefore important drug targets. Up to very recently, it was assumed that the basic nitrogen in compound structure is a necessary component to make it active within this receptor system. Such nitrogen interacts in its protonated form with the aspartic acid from the third transmembrane helix (D3x32) forming a hydrogen bond tightly fitting the ligand in the protein binding site. However, there are several recent studies that report strong serotonin receptor affinity also for compounds without a basic moiety in their structures. In the study, we carried out a comprehensive in silico analysis of the low-basicity phenomenon of the selected serotonin receptor ligands. We focused on the crystallized representatives of the proteins of 5-HT1B, 5-HT2A, 5-HT2B, and 5-HT2C receptors, and examined the problem both from the ligand- and structure-based perspectives. The study was performed for the native proteins, and for D3x32A mutants. The investigation resulted in the determination of nonstandard structural requirements for activity towards serotonin receptors, which can be used in the design of new nonbasic ligands.


Sabina Podlewska, Ryszard Bugno, Enza Lacivita, Marcello Leopoldo, Andrzej J Bojarski, Jadwiga Handzlik. Low Basicity as a Characteristic for Atypical Ligands of Serotonin Receptor 5-HT2. International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Jan 21;22(3)

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PMID: 33494248

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