PloS one

Distinct ETA receptor binding mode of macitentan as determined by site directed mutagenesis.

PMID 25226600


The competitive endothelin receptor antagonists (ERA) bosentan and ambrisentan, which have long been approved for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension, are characterized by very short (1 min) occupancy half-lives at the ET(A) receptor. The novel ERA macitentan, displays a 20-fold increased receptor occupancy half-life, causing insurmountable antagonism of ET-1-induced signaling in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells. We show here that the slow ET(A) receptor dissociation rate of macitentan was shared with a set of structural analogs, whereas compounds structurally related to bosentan displayed fast dissociation kinetics. NMR analysis showed that macitentan adopts a compact structure in aqueous solution and molecular modeling suggests that this conformation tightly fits into a well-defined ET(A) receptor binding pocket. In contrast the structurally different and negatively charged bosentan-type molecules only partially filled this pocket and expanded into an extended endothelin binding site. To further investigate these different ET(A) receptor-antagonist interaction modes, we performed functional studies using ET(A) receptor variants harboring amino acid point mutations in the presumed ERA interaction site. Three ET(A) receptor residues significantly and differentially affected ERA activity: Mutation R326Q did not affect the antagonist activity of macitentan, however the potencies of bosentan and ambrisentan were significantly reduced; mutation L322A rendered macitentan less potent, whereas bosentan and ambrisentan were unaffected; mutation I355A significantly reduced bosentan potency, but not ambrisentan and macitentan potencies. This suggests that--in contrast to bosentan and ambrisentan--macitentan-ET(A) receptor binding is not dependent on strong charge-charge interactions, but depends predominantly on hydrophobic interactions. This different binding mode could be the reason for macitentan's sustained target occupancy and insurmountable antagonism.