Simulations of promising indolizidine—α6-β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor complexes

Francis A. Acquah, Matthew Paramel, Adama Kuta, Syed R. Hussaini, David R. Wallace, Blaine H.M. Mooers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Smoking-cessation drugs bind many off-target nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and cause severe side effects if they are based on nicotine. New drugs that bind only those recep-tors, such as α6β2* nAChR, implicated in nicotine addiction would avoid the off-target binding. Indolizidine (-)-237D (IND (-)-237D), a bicyclic alkaloid, has been shown to block α6β2* containing nAChRs and functionally inhibit the nicotine-evoked dopamine release. To improve the affinity of indolizidine (-)-237D for α6β2*, we built a library of 2226 analogs. We screened virtually the library against a homology model of α6β2 nAChR that we derived from the recent crystal structure of α4β2 nAChR. We also screened the crystal structure of α4β2 nAChR as a control on specificity. We ranked the compounds based on their predicted free energy of binding. We selected the top eight compounds bound in their best pose and subjected the complexes to 100 ns molecular dynamics simulations to assess the stability of the complexes. All eight analogs formed stable complexes for the duration of the simulations. The results from this work highlight nine distinct analogs of IND (-)-237D with high affinity towards α6β2* nAChR. These leads can be synthesized and tested in in vitro and in vivo studies as lead candidates for drugs to treat nicotine addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7934
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Antagonists
  • Drug discovery
  • Hetero-oligomer membrane protein modeling
  • Lead compounds
  • Lung cancer
  • Membrane protein dynamics simulations
  • Membrane protein-drug complexes
  • Pore dynamics
  • Smoking cessation
  • Validation of virtual screening


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