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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Complete differentiation between enkephalinase and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition by retro-thiorphan.

Thiorphan, N-[(R,S)-3-mercapto-2-benzylpropanoyl]glycine is a highly potent inhibitor (Ki = 3.5 nM) of "enkephalinase," a metalloendopeptidase cleaving the Gly-Phe bond (positions 3 and 4) of enkephalins in brain tissue. In accordance with this property, thiorphan displays antinociceptive activity after systemic administration. However, thiorphan also inhibits to a lesser extent (Ki = 140 nM) the widely distributed angiotensin-converting enzyme, a carboxydipeptidase implicated in blood pressure regulation. Therefore, in view of an eventual clinical use of enkephalinase inhibitors, it was very important to develop fully specific compounds. Such derivatives were obtained taking into account that N-methylation of the ultimate amide bond of dipeptides strongly decreases enkephalinase affinity without affecting angiotension-converting enzyme recognition, whereas retro-inversion of the amide bond leads to the inverse effect. Thus, the retro-inverso dipeptide (R)-H2N-CH(CH2 phi)-NHCO-CH2-CO2H exhibits an inhibitory potency on enkephalinase (IC50 approximately equal to 12 muM) close to that of the natural dipeptide L-Phe-Gly (IC50 approximately equal to 3 muM). This result shows the topological analogy between the crucial components involved in enkephalinase recognition both in active dipeptides and structurally related retro-inverso isomers. Taking into account these observations, retro-thiorphan, (R,S)-HS-CH2-CH-(CH2 phi)-NHCO-CH2-COOH, was prepared. As compared to thiorphan, the retro isomer is 50% as potent (Ki = 6 nM) on enkephalinase but displays a drastic loss of potency on angiotension-converting enzyme (IC50 greater than 10,000 nM). This specificity was interpreted as a consequence of differences in the stereochemical constraints involving enzyme-inhibitor hydrogen bonding. This hypothesis is supported by reported crystallographic studies on related enzymes such as thermolysin and carboxypeptidase A. As expected, retro-thiorphan exhibits about the same analgesic potency as thiorphan on the hot plate and writhing tests in mice. Therefore, the topological concept of retro-inverso isomers could be extended to other enkephalinase inhibitors, allowing the design of potent and highly selective compounds occurring as new classes of analgesic and psychoactive agents.[1]


  1. Complete differentiation between enkephalinase and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition by retro-thiorphan. Roques, B.P., Lucas-Soroca, E., Chaillet, P., Costentin, J., Fournié-Zaluski, M.C. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (1983) [Pubmed]
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