A series of pyridomorphinans derived from naloxone, oxymorphone, and hydromorphone (7a-k) were synthesized and evaluated for binding affinity at the opioid delta, micro, and kappa receptors in brain membranes using radioligand binding assays and for functional activity in vitro using [(35)S]GTP-gamma-S binding assays in brain tissues and bioassays using guinea pig ileum (GPI) and mouse vas deferens (MVD) smooth muscle preparations. The pyridine ring unsubstituted pyridomorphinans possessing the oxymorphone and hydromorphone framework displayed nearly equal binding affinity at the micro and delta receptors. Their affinities at the kappa site were nearly 10-fold less than their binding affinities at the micro and delta sites. Introduction of aryl substituents at the 5'-position on the pyridine ring improved the binding affinity at the delta site while decreasing the binding affinity at the micro site. Nearly all of the ligands possessing an N-methyl group at the17-position with or without a hydroxyl group at the 14-position of the morphinan moiety displayed agonist activity at the micro receptor with varying potencies and efficacies. In the [(35)S]GTP-gamma-S binding assays, most of these pyridomorphinans were devoid of any significant agonist activity at the delta and kappa receptors but displayed moderate to potent antagonist activity at the delta receptors. In antinociceptive evaluations using the warm-water tail-withdrawal assay in mice, the pyridomorphinans produced analgesic effects with varying potencies and efficacies when administered by the intracerebroventricular route. Among the ligands studied, the hydromorphone-derived 4-chlorophenylpyridomorphinan 7h was identified as a ligand possessing a promising profile of mixed micro agonist/delta antagonist activity in vitro and in vivo. In a repeated administration paradigm in which the standard micro agonist morphine produces significant tolerance, repeated administration of the micro agonist/delta antagonist ligand 7h produced no tolerance. These results indicate that appropriate molecular manipulations of the morphinan templates could provide ligands with mixed micro agonist/delta antagonist profiles and such ligands may have the potential of emerging as novel analgesic drugs devoid of tolerance, dependence, and related side effects.
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