Differentiating physicochemical properties between NDRIs and sNRIs clinically important for the treatment of ADHD

Biochim Biophys Acta Gen Subj. 2017 Nov;1861(11 Pt A):2766-2777. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2017.07.022. Epub 2017 Jul 27.


Background: Drugs available for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are mainly selective norepinephrine (sNRIs) and dual norepinephrine-dopamine (NDRIs) reuptake inhibitors. The major problem of sNRIs lines in their delayed onset of action and partial- or non-responses, which makes NDRIs distinguished in drug efficacy. Understanding of the differential binding modes of these 2 types of drugs to their corresponding targets can give great insights into the discovery of privileged drug-like scaffolds with improved efficacy. So far, no such study has been carried out.

Methods: A combinatorial computational strategy, integrating homology modeling, molecular docking, molecular dynamics (MD) and binding free energy calculation, was employed to analyze the binding modes of 8 clinically important ADHD drugs in their targets.

Results: Binding modes of 2 types of ADHD drugs (sNRIs and NDRIs) in their targets was identified for the first time by MD simulation, and 15 hot spot residues were discovered as crucial for NDRIs' binding in hNET and hDAT. Comparing to sNRIs, a clear reduction in the hydrophobic property of NDRIs' one functional group was observed, and the depth of drugs' aromatic ring stretched into the pocket of both targets was further identified as key contributors to drugs' selectivity.

Conclusions: The hydrophobic property of NDRI ADHD drugs' one functional group contributes to their selectivity when bind hNET and hDAT.

General significance: These results provide insights into NDRI ADHD drugs' binding mechanisms, which could be utilized as structural blueprints for assessing and discovering more efficacious drugs for ADHD therapy.

Keywords: ADHD; Binding mode; Molecular dynamics; Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors; Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / metabolism
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / pathology
  • Dopamine / chemistry
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine Antagonists / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Norepinephrine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Norepinephrine / chemistry
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors / chemistry*


  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine