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The quinuclidine scaffold has been extensively used for the development of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonists, with hydrophobic substituents at position 3 of the quinuclidine framework providing selectivity for α7 nAChRs. In this study, six new ligands (4-9) containing a 3-(pyridin-3-yloxy)quinuclidine moiety (ether quinuclidine) were synthesized to gain a better understanding of the structural-functional properties of ether quinuclidines. To evaluate the pharmacological activity of these ligands, two-electrode voltage-clamp and single-channel recordings were performed. Only ligand 4 activated α7 nAChR. Ligands 5 and 7 had no effects on α7 nAChR, but ligands 6, 8, and 9 potentiated the currents evoked by ACh. Ligand 6 was the most potent and efficacious of the potentiating ligands, with an estimated EC50 for potentiation of 12.6 ± 3.32 μM and a maximal potentiation of EC20 ACh responses of 850 ± 120%. Ligand 6 increased the maximal ACh responses without changing the kinetics of the current responses. At the single-channel level, the potentiation exerted by ligand 6 was evidenced in the low micromolar concentration range by the appearance of prolonged bursts of channel openings. Furthermore, computational studies revealed the preference of ligand 6 for an intersubunit site in the transmembrane domain and highlighted some putative key interactions that explain the different profiles of the synthesized ligands. Notably, Met276 in the 15' position of the transmembrane domain 2 almost abolished the effects of ligand 6 when mutated to Leu. We conclude that ligand 6 is a novel type I positive allosteric modulator (PAM-I) of α7 nAChR.

Original publication




Journal article


ACS Chem Neurosci

Publication Date





2876 - 2887


Ether quinuclidines, chemical synthesis, molecular docking, molecular dynamics, positive allosteric modulator, single-channel recordings, voltage-clamp