Does rigidity in structure of muscarinic agonists and antagonists reflect drug specificity?

A. Fisher*, S. Abraham, C. Lachman, Y. Lass, S. Akselrod, E. Akerman, S. Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present work is an attempt to elucidate: (1) whether highly rigid structural analogs of acetylcholine are still capable of activating the muscarinic receptor; (2) whether such analogs, be they agonists or antagonists, discriminate among the various ACh-mediated functions, thereby providing a tool for the study of a possible receptor heterogeneity; (3) whether structural rigidity is a significant factor in the kinetics of drug-receptor interaction. To this end, we investigated some properties of drugs in the spiro-(1,3-dioxolane-4,3')-quinuclidine system (SDQ) which embodies the muscarinic pharmacophore in a framework of utmost rigidity. Wherever possible, these properties were compared with those of a closely related but more flexible analog. Variation in effect between members of a rigid-flexible pair or among drugs of varying rigidity is considered to reflect varying affinities towards various sites of action. 2-Methyl-spiro-(1,3-dioxolane-4,3')-quinuclidine (AF-30) is a weak but selective muscarinic agonist. It can be viewed as a highly rigid version of 3-acetoxyquinuclidine (3-AcQ) and it can be used as a probe for detection of heterogeneity among muscarinic receptors. AF-30 is equipotent with 3-AcQ in causing tremors (mice), but has 1/17th the activity of 3-AcQ in the guinea-pig ileum, 1/30th in lowering blood pressure (cats) and 1/10th in inducing analgesia (mice). 2-Diphenylmethyl-spiro(1,3-dioxolane-4',3)-quinuclidine (AF-41) and 2.2-diphenyl-spiro-(1,3-dioxolane-4,3')-quinuclidine (AF-32 are potent antagonists and possess KD values in the same range as those of the more flexible congener 3-diphenylacetoxy-quinuclidine (AF-43) and atropine (0.6--2 nM) but with koff = 0.1 msec-1 (AF-41) and koff = 1 msec-1 (AF-43) (carp atrium). Thus, duration of drug action of drug action at the receptor is a function of structural rigidity in the drug molecule, termination of action being fastest with the flexible molecules. Differences in rigidity among various antagonists also find expression in an unequal distribution of potencies in various tests; thus the rigid antagonists differentiate between two central effects in mice, viz., prevention of oxotremorine-induced tremors and fall from the rotating rod by a factor of 1:20 (especially AF-41 versus AF-43), whereas the more flexible antagonists (AF-43, atropine or even 3-quinuclidinyl-benzilate) do not show such as a selectivity. The existence of heterogenous muscarinic receptors can be inferred from data presented. Both theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-54
Number of pages14
JournalMonographs in neural sciences
StatePublished - 1980


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