Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Chemistry and Biochemistry


Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Committee Chair

Jeffry D. Madura

Committee Member

Jeffrey D. Evanseck

Committee Member

Rita Mihailescu

Committee Member

Christopher K. Surratt


Homology model, MEK 5 Kinase, Monoamine transporter, Serotonin transporter, Structure based pharmacophore, Virtual screening


Depression is a major psychological disorder that affects a person's mental and physical abilities. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) classified it as a serious medical illness. It causes huge economic, as well as financial impact on the people, and it is also becoming a major public health issue. Antidepressant drugs are prescribed to mitigate the suffering caused by this disorder. Different generations of antidepressants have been developed with dissimilar mechanisms of action. According to the Center for Disease Control, the usage of antidepressants has skyrocketed by 400 percent increase over 2005- 2008 survey period. This dramatic rise in usage indicates that these are the most prescribed drugs in the US. Even with the FDA mandated "black box" warning of increased suicidal thoughts upon use of selected antidepressants, these drugs are still being used at a higher rate.

All classes of antidepressants are plagued by side effects with mainly sexual dysfunction common among them. To avoid the adverse effects, an emphasis is to discover novel structural drug scaffolds that can be further developed as a new generation of antidepressants. The importance of this research is to discover structurally novel antidepressants by performing in silico virtual screening (VS) of chemical databases using the serotonin transporter (SERT). In the absence of a SERT crystal structure, a homology model was developed. The homology model was utilized to develop the first structure-based pharmacophore for the extracellular facing secondary ligand binding pocket. The pharmacophore captured the necessary drug-SERT interaction pattern for SERT inhibitory action. This pharmacophore was employed as one of the filters for VS of candidate ligands. The ten compounds identified were purchased and tested pharmacologically. Out of the ten hits, three structurally novel ligands were identified as lead compounds. Two of these compounds exhibited selectivity towards SERT; the remaining lead compound was selective towards the dopamine transporter and displayed cocaine inhibition. The two SERT selective compounds will provide new opportunities in the development of novel therapeutics to treat depression.

For dopamine transporter (DAT), the study was based on recently developed structurally diverse photo probes. In an effort to better understand the binding profile similarities among these different scaffolds, the photo probes were docked into DAT. The finger print analysis of the interaction pattern of docked poses was performed to identify the inhibitor-binding sites.

For mitogen activated protein kinase 5 (MEK5), given the lack of structural information, a homology model of MEK5 was developed to guide the rational design of inhibitors. Docking of known MEK5 inhibitors into the homology model was performed to understand the inhibitory interaction profile. Several series of analogues were designed utilizing the generated interaction profile.