Synthesis and evaluation of bivalent ligands for binding to the human melanocortin-4 receptor

Steve M. Fernandes, Yeon Sun Lee, Robert J. Gillies, Victor J. Hruby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Membrane proteins, especially G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), are interesting and important theragnostic targets since many of them serve in intracellular signaling critical for all aspects of health and disease. The potential utility of designed bivalent ligands as targeting agents for cancer diagnosis and/or therapy can be evaluated by determining their binding to the corresponding receptors. As proof of concept, GPCR cell surface proteins are shown to be targeted specifically using multivalent ligands. We designed, synthesized, and tested a series of bivalent ligands targeting the over-expressed human melanocortin 4 receptor (hMC4R) in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells. Based on our data suggesting an optimal linker length of 25 ± 10 Å inferred from the bivalent melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH) agonist, the truncated heptapeptide, referred to as MSH(7): Ac-Ser-Nle-Glu-His-D-Phe-Arg-Trp-NH2 was used to construct a set of bivalent ligands incorporating a hMC4R antagonist, SHU9119: Ac-Nle-c[Asp-His-2′-D-Nal-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2 and another set of bivalent ligands containing the SHU9119 antagonist pharmacophore on both side of the optimized linkers. These two binding motifs within the bivalent constructs were conjoined by semi-rigid (Pro-Gly)3 units with or without the flexible poly(ethylene glycol) (PEGO) moieties. Lanthanide-based competitive binding assays showed bivalent ligands binds to the hMC4R with up to 240-fold higher affinity than the corresponding linked monovalent ligands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6360-6365
Number of pages6
JournalBioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2014


  • Bivalent ligands
  • Eu-binding assay
  • Linkers
  • Melanocortin receptors
  • Solid phase synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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