Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Carmen W. Dessauer

Committee Member

Jeffrey A. Frost

Committee Member

Richard B. Clark

Committee Member

Alemayehu A. Gorfe

Committee Member

John S. McMurray


The nine membrane-bound isoforms of adenylyl cyclase (AC), via synthesis of the signaling molecule cyclic AMP (cAMP), are involved in many isoform specific physiological functions. Decreasing AC5 activity has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefit, including reduced stress on the heart, pain relief, and attenuation of morphine dependence and withdrawal behaviors. However, AC structure is well conserved, and there are currently no isoform selective AC inhibitors in clinical use.

P-site inhibitors inhibit AC directly at the catalytic site, but with an uncompetitive or noncompetitive mechanism. Due to this mechanism and nanomolar potency in cell-free systems, attempts at ligand-based drug design of novel AC inhibitors frequently use P-site inhibitors as a starting template. One small molecule inhibitor designed through this process, NKY80, is described as an AC5 selective inhibitor with low micromolar potency in vitro. P-site inhibitors reveal important ligand binding “pockets” in the AC catalytic site, but specific interactions that give NKY80 selectivity are unclear. Identifying and characterizing unique interactions between NKY80 and AC isoforms would significantly aid the development of isoform selective AC inhibitors. I hypothesized that NKY80’s selective inhibition is conferred by AC isoform specific interactions with the compound within the catalytic site.

A structure-based virtual screen of the AC catalytic site was used to identify novel small molecule AC inhibitors. Identified novel inhibitors are isoform selective, supporting the catalytic site as a region capable of more potent isoform selective inhibition. Although NKY80 is touted commercially as an AC5 selective inhibitor, its characterization suggests strong inhibition of both AC5 and the closely related AC6. NKY80 was also virtually docked to AC to determine how NKY80 binds to the catalytic site. My results show a difference between NKY80 binding and the conformation of classic P-site inhibitors. The selectivity and notable differences in NKY80 binding to the AC catalytic site suggest a catalytic subregion more flexible in AC5 and AC6 that can be targeted by selective small molecule inhibitors.


cyclic AMP, adenylyl cyclase, P-site inhibitors, NKY80, virtual docking, novel inhibitor screening, ligand-protein selectivity



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