Molecular dynamics of conformation-specific dopamine transporter-inhibitor complexes



Document Type

Journal Article

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Publication Title

Journal of Molecular Graphics and Modelling



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Cocaine, Dopamine, Inhibitor-stabilized conformation, Molecular dynamics, Neurotransmitter transporter, Psychostimulant


The recreational psychostimulant cocaine inhibits dopamine reuptake from the synapse, resulting in excessive stimulation of postsynaptic dopamine receptors in brain areas associated with reward and addiction. Cocaine binds to and stabilizes the outward- (extracellular-) facing conformation of the dopamine transporter (DAT) protein, while the low abuse potential DAT inhibitor benztropine prefers the inward- (cytoplasmic-) facing conformation. A correlation has been previously postulated between psychostimulant abuse potential and preference for the outward-facing DAT conformation. The 3β-aryltropane cocaine analogs LX10 and LX11, however, differ only in stereochemistry and share a preference for the outward-facing DAT, yet are reported to vary widely in abuse potential in an animal model. In search of the molecular basis for DAT conformation preference, complexes of cocaine, benztropine, LX10 or LX11 bound to each DAT conformation were subjected to 100 ns of all-atom molecular dynamics simulation. Results were consistent with previous findings from cysteine accessibility assays used to assess an inhibitor's DAT conformation preference. The respective 2β- and 2α-substituted phenyltropanes of LX10 and LX11 interacted with hydrophobic regions of the DAT S1 binding site that were inaccessible to cocaine. Solvent accessibility measurements also revealed subtle differences in inhibitor positioning within a given DAT conformation. This work serves to advance our understanding of the conformational selectivity of DAT inhibitors and suggests that MD may be useful in antipsychostimulant therapeutic design.

Open Access

Green Accepted