Many organisms possess “secondary” compounds to avoid consumption or to immobilize prey. While the most abundant or active compounds are initially investigated, more extensive analyses reveal other “minor” compounds with distinctive properties that may also be of biomedical and pharmaceutical significance. Here, we present an initial in vitro investigation of the actions of two isomeric tetrahydropyridyl ring-containing anabasine analogs: isoanatabine, an alkaloid isolated from a marine worm, and anatabine, a relatively abundant minor alkaloid in commercial tobacco plants. Both compounds have a double bond that is distal to the piperidine ring nitrogen of anabasine. Racemic isoanatabine and anatabine were synthesized and their S- and R-enantiomers were isolated by chiral high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Both isoanatabines displayed higher efficacies at α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) relative to the anatabines; R-isoanatabine was most potent. Radioligand binding experiments revealed similar α4β2 nAChR binding affinities for the isoanatabines, but R-anatabine affinity was twice that of S-anatabine. While the two anatabines and S-isoanatabine were highly efficacious agonists at α7 nAChRs, R-isoanatabine was only a weak partial agonist. The four compounds share an ability to stimulate both α4β2 and α7 nAChRs, a property that may be useful in developing more efficacious drugs to treat neurodegenerative and other medical disorders.
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