Drug design, in vitro pharmacology, and structure-activity relationships of 3-acylamino-2-aminopropionic acid derivatives, a novel class of partial agonists at the glycine site on the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor complex

J Med Chem. 2009 Aug 27;52(16):5093-107. doi: 10.1021/jm900363q.


Retaining agonistic activity at the glycine coagonist site of the NMDA receptor in molecules derived from glycine or d-serine has proven to be difficult because in the vicinity of the alpha-amino acid group little substitution is tolerated. We have solved this problem by replacing the hydroxy group of d-serine with an amido group, thus keeping the hydrogen donor function and allowing for further substitution and exploration of the adjacent space. Heterocyclic substitutions resulted in a series of 3-acylamino-2-aminopropionic acid derivatives, with high affinities in a binding assay for the glycine site. In a functional assay assessing the activation of the glycine site, these compounds displayed a wide range of intrinsic efficacies, from antagonism to a high degree of partial agonism. Structure-activity relationships reveal that lipophilic substituents, presumably filling an additional hydrophobic pocket, are accepted by the glycine site, provided that they are separated from the alpha-amino acid group by a short linker.

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Alanine / chemical synthesis*
  • Alanine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Partial Agonism
  • Glycine / metabolism*
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Models, Molecular
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Rats
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / agonists*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Alanine
  • Glycine