Cannabinoid structure-activity relationships: correlation of receptor binding and in vivo activities

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1993 Apr;265(1):218-26.


Although a receptor exists for cannabinoid drugs, it is uncertain which pharmacological actions this receptor mediates. This structure-activity relationship investigation was initiated to determine which effects might correspond to binding affinity for the cannabinoid receptor, as well as to explore the binding requirements of this site. The ability of nearly 60 cannabinoids to displace [3H]CP-55,940 [(-)-3-[2-hydroxy-4-(1,1-dimethylheptyl) phenyl]-4-[3-hydroxy propyl] cyclohexan-1-ol] was determined before establishing correlations between receptor affinity and in vivo pharmacological potency. Analysis of [3H]CP-55,940 binding indicated a Hill coefficient of 0.97, a Bmax of 499 pM (3.3 pmol/mg of protein) and an apparent Kd of 924 pM. Closer inspection indicated the binding assay exhibited "zone B" characteristics, and use of correction equations indicated a true Kd for CP-55,940 of 675 pM. The structure-activity relationship indicated the importance of side chain structure to high-affinity binding, with the most potent analogs (K1 < 10 nM) possessing either a dimethylheptyl side-chain, a similarly complex branched side chain or a halogen substituent at the 5' position. Comparative analysis of K1 values to in vivo potency in a mouse model indicated a high degree of correlation between parameters for the depression of spontaneous locomotor activity (r = 0.91) and for the production of antinociception (r = 0.90), hypothermia (r = 0.89) and catalepsy (r = 0.85). Similarly high correlations were demonstrated between binding affinity and in vivo potency in both the rat drug discrimination model (r = 0.81) and for psychotomimetic activity in humans (r = 0.88).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Cannabinoids / chemistry
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cyclohexanols / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Cannabinoids
  • Cyclohexanols
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug
  • 3-(2-hydroxy-4-(1,1-dimethylheptyl)phenyl)-4-(3-hydroxypropyl)cyclohexanol