Chemokine receptors are involved in trafficking of leukocytes and represent targets for autoimmune conditions, inflammatory diseases, viral infections, and cancer. We recently published CCR1, CCR8, and CCR5 agonists and positive modulators based on a three metal-ion chelator series: 2,2'-bipyridine, 1,10-phenanthroline, and 2,2';6',2″-terpyridine. Here, we have performed an in-depth structure-activity relationship study and tested eight new optimized analogs. Using density functional theory calculations we demonstrate that the chelator zinc affinities depend on how electron-donating and -withdrawing substituents modulate the partial charges of chelating nitrogens. The zinc affinity was found to constitute the major factor for receptor potency, although the activity of some chelators deviate suggesting favorable or unfavorable interactions. Hydrophobic and halogen substituents are generally better accommodated in the receptors than polar groups. The new analog brominated terpyridine (29) resulted in the highest chelator potencies observed so far CCR1 (EC50: 0.49 μM) and CCR8 (EC50: 0.28 μM). Furthermore, we identified the first selective CCR5 agonist chelator, meta dithiomethylated bipyridine (23). The structure-activity relationships contribute to small-molecule drug development, and the novel chelators constitute valuable tools for studies of structural mechanisms for chemokine receptor activation.
Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, 2013, Vol 53, Issue 11, p. 2863-2873