Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Yan Zhang

Second Advisor

Kellogg Glen


The assessment of target protein molecular structure provides a distinct advantage in the rational drug design process. The increasing number of available G protein-coupled receptor crystal structures has enabled utilization of a varied number of computational approaches for understanding the ligand-receptor interactions, ligand selectivity and even receptor response upon ligand binding. The following dissertation examines the results from three different projects with varied objectives – i) structural modeling of human C-C chemokine receptor type 5 (CCR5) and assessment of the ligand binding pocket of the receptor, ii) assessment of the selectivity profile of naltrexone derivatives on the three opioid receptors (μ-opioid, κ-opioid, δ-opioid) with an aim towards designing selective μ-opioid receptor antagonists, and iii) structural modeling of the ‘active’ state conformation of the κ-opioid receptor in response to agonist binding and determination of a plausible molecular mechanism involved in activation ‘switch’ of the κ-opioid receptor. In absence of a crystal-based molecular structure of CCR5, a homology model of the receptor was built and the ligand binding pocket was validated. On the basis of evaluation of the ligand-receptor interactions on the validated binding pocket, structural and chemical modifications to anibamine, a natural plant product, were proposed to enhance its receptor binding. The selectivity of naltrexone (a universal antagonist) was assessed with respect to the three opioid receptors by employing ligand docking studies and the ‘message-address’ concept. Multiple address sites were identified on the opioid receptors and structural modifications were proposed for the naltrexone derivatives for their enhanced selectivity. In the third project, structural modeling of the active state conformation of the κ-opioid receptor covalently bound to a salvinorin A derivative (agonist) was attempted via molecular dynamics simulations. Although the obtained molecular model lacked the signature ‘agonist-like’ conformations, the result provides a template for such studies in the future.


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