Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Medicinal Chemistry

First Advisor

Richard Westkaemper

Second Advisor

Glen Kellogg

Third Advisor

Richard Young

Fourth Advisor

Laura Sim-Selley

Fifth Advisor

Qibing Zhou


Salvinorin A is a non-nitrogenous, selective kappa opioid receptor agonist with potent hallucinogenic properties. Because Salvinorin A has no basic nitrogen, it does not readily adhere to the “message-address” concept of selectivity for the opioid receptors. Therefore, a better understanding of how salvinorin A and its analogs interact with the kappa opioid receptor may shed some light on how salvinorin A obtains its potency and selectivity. The structure-affinity relationships (SAFIR) of salvinorin A and its analogs along with a discussion of the selectivity of the opioid receptors, is presented. A fragment of salvinorin A, methyl-3-acetoxy-4-oxocyclohexanecarboxylate, was synthesized to determine if the B, C and D rings are or are not necessary for binding to the opioid receptors. The fragment was found not to bind to the kappa, delta or mu receptor which reinforces the importance of the B, C and D rings in the binding of salvinorin A to the kappa opioid receptor. Homology models of the kappa, delta and mu opioid receptors were constructed based on inactive bovine rhodopsin, light-activated bovine rhodopsin and the human beta-2 adrenergic receptors. The program MODELLER was also used to construct the kappa opioid receptor. Two comparative molecular field analysis (CoMFA) studies are then presented which compared three different types of alignment methods. The alignment methods employed included a receptor-docked alignment in which the salvinorin A analogs were docked into a model of the kappa opioid receptor using the program GOLD. The docked poses for this alignment were chosen based on their similarity to our postulated model of salvinorin A in the kappa opioid receptor. In our model the furan oxygen forms hydrogen bonds with Q115(2.60) and Y320(7.43), the methoxy oxygen of the C-4 position ester group may form a hydrogen bond with Y312(7.35) and the methyl group of the C-2 position acetoxy moiety forms a hydrophobic interaction with Y313(7.36). These interactions are consistent with mutagenesis studies. The other alignment methods employed were a FlexS alignment and a realignment of the receptor-docked poses using the Fit Atoms function within SYBYL. Only the receptor-docked alignment method resulted in robust and predictive CoMFA models which indicates that the analogs may bind to the kappa opioid receptor in a similar but non-identical way. In addition, information from the CoMFA models based on the receptor-docked alignment led to a postulated binding mode for a set of amine analogs of salvinorin A which were not part of the original data set. Docking studies have the positively charged C-2 position amine group interacting with E209(XL2.49) while the furan oxygen and C-4 position ester group interacts with the same residues as in our model of salvinorin A in the kappa opioid receptor. The studies presented here not only support our postulated model of salvinorin A binding to the kappa opioid receptor but may also explain the trend of the beta epimers of the amine analogs to have a higher affinity than the corresponding alpha epimers. Site-directed mutagenesis studies could provide data to support or refute the postulated models of the amines docked in the kappa opioid receptor presented here.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

July 2009