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Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), a monoamine neurotransmitter of the central nervous and peripheral systems (CNS), plays a critical role in a wide variety of physiological and behavioral processes. In the serotonergic system, deregulation of the tightly controlled extracellular concentration of 5-HT appears to be at the origin of a host of metabolic and psychiatric disorders. A key step that regulates 5-HT external level is the re-uptake of 5-HT into cells by the 5-HT transporter (SERT), which is besides the target of numerous drugs interacting with the serotonergic system. Therapeutic strategies have mainly focused on the development of compounds that block the activity of SERT, for instance reuptake inhibitors (e.g. tricyclics, “selective” serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and in the past, specific substrate-type releasers (e.g. amphetamine and cocaine derivatives). Today, generation of new drugs targetting SERT with enhanced selectivity and reduced toxicity is one of the most challenging tasks in drug design. In this context, studies aiming at characterizing the physicochemical properties of 5-HT as well as the biological active conformation of SERT are a prerequisite to the design of new leads. However, the absence of a high-resolution 3D-structure for SERT has hampered the design of new transporter inhibitors. Using computational approaches, numerous efforts were made to shed light on the structure of 5-HT and its transporter. In this review, we compared several in silico methods dedicated to the modeling of 5-HT and SERT with an emphasis on i) quantum chemistry for study of 5-HT conformation and ii) ligand-based (QSAR and pharmacophore models) and transporter-based (homology models) approaches for studying SERT molecule. In addition, we discuss some methodological aspects of the computational work in connection with the construction of putative but reliable 3D structural models of SERT that may help to predict the mechanisms of neurotransmitter transport.
Service de Biochimie et de Biologie Moleculaire, Hopital Lariboisiere, 2 rue Ambroise Pare, 75475 Paris Cedex 10, France.
Publication date: December 1, 2008
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Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.