Effect of N-methyl substitution of the peptide bonds in luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists

J Med Chem. 1993 Feb 5;36(3):363-9. doi: 10.1021/jm00055a007.


Each peptide bond in leuprolide (1), deslorelin (13), and nafarelin (24) was separately substituted with N-methyl. The synthesized compounds were tested for in vitro receptor binding, LH release, and stability against chymotrypsin and intestinal degradation. The NMe-Ser4 (30), NMe-Leu7 (33), and Sar10 (35) analogues of nafarelin had pD2 values 2-, 20-, 9-fold higher than their respective parent. All the other N-methyl agonists were less active. For the first time, conversion of LHRH agonists to antagonists was observed as a result of N-methyl substitution in the peptide backbone. [NMe-Phe2,DLeu6,Pro9NHEt]LHRH (4), [NMe-1Nal3,DLeu6,Pro9NHEt]LHRH (6), [NMe-His2,DTrp6,Pro9NHEt]LHRH (14), [NMe-Phe2,DNal6]LHRH (27), and [D2Nal6,NMe-Arg8]LHRH (34) exhibited antagonist responses. Substitutions of NMe-1Nal3, NMe-Ser4, or NMe-Tyr5 in leuprolide rendered the 3-4 peptide bond in these compounds completely stable to chymotrypsin. Examination of the three-dimensional structure of leuprolide when bound to the active site of chymotrypsin, reveals the NH's of residues 3 and 5 are involved in hydrogen bond interactions with the enzyme. N-Methylation at these positions is not only disrupting the hydrogen bond interactions, but is also sterically preventing the substrate from fitting in the enzyme's active site. All the compounds in the leuprolide series were also tested against intestinal degradation using an in vitro rat jejunum sac assay. In this model the pattern of stabilization was similar, but not identical, to that against chymotrypsin. The pharmacokinetics of all the analogues in the leuprolide series and of several others in the deslorelin and nafarelin series were determined. The clearance values of all the three NMe-Tyr5 analogues, 8, 20, and 31 were lower than their respective parents. These slower clearances suggest lower rates of metabolism.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Chymotrypsin / metabolism
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / chemical synthesis
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / pharmacology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Leuprolide / analogs & derivatives
  • Leuprolide / pharmacology
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Methylation
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nafarelin / analogs & derivatives
  • Nafarelin / pharmacology
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, LHRH / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Triptorelin Pamoate / analogs & derivatives


  • Peptides
  • Receptors, LHRH
  • Triptorelin Pamoate
  • Nafarelin
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Chymotrypsin
  • Leuprolide
  • deslorelin