Anna Chaly

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name




Committee Chair

Christopher Surratt

Committee Member

Jeffry Madura

Committee Member

Lauren O'Donnell


Drug design, Ligand-Based, MOE, Monoamine transporters, Norepinephrine transporter, Pharmacophore model


Monoamine transporter (MAT) proteins are responsible for regulating cellular signal transduction through control of neurotransmitter reuptake in the synapse, and are therefore relevant to diseases including addiction, psychosis, anxiety and depression. MATs, specifically the serotonin transporter (SERT or 5-HTT), norepinephrine transporter (NET), and dopamine transporter (DAT), serve as the principal targets for antidepressant drugs, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), NRIs (norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) and TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants), as well as psychostimulant drugs of abuse such as cocaine and the amphetamines. Due to a lack of crystallographic MAT data, it is unclear as to which of two MAT protein ligand binding sites these drugs bind, hindering knowledge of the specific binding modes of MAT ligands. In this study an in silico pharmacophore model was created using a ligand-based method aimed at drug screening for the ability to specifically inhibit NET, using Molecular Operating Environment software. A group of four structurally-diverse compounds with high NET binding affinities comprised the training set used to generate the model. A test set, which included ten compounds with a range of known NET affinities, served in the validation of the model. The constructed pharmacophore model selected all high affinity NET inhibitors and one relatively inactive compound from the test set. Following model validation, the ZINC small molecule structural database was virtually screened to identify novel MAT inhibitor candidates. "Hit" compounds were ranked by an overlay score, which calculated how well novel compounds aligned to the original training set alignment. Six top-ranking compounds were purchased and evaluated via in vitro pharmacology to determine the binding affinity at the MATs. Although no significant inhibition was observed at the MATs, compound AC-1 showed a 15% inhibition at the DAT in radioligand binding assays. This result suggests that with further refinement of key pharmacophore features or alteration of the AC-1 structure, more potent MAT inhibitors could be discovered. Pharmacophore-based drug design has become one of the most important tools in drug discovery. Using the molecular modeling approaches described in this study, it is possible to rationally design novel and more selective central nervous system drugs.