Discovery of Highly Potent Serotonin 5-HT2Receptor Agonists Inspired by Heteroyohimbine Natural Products

Meghan J. Orr, Andrew B. Cao, Charles Tiancheng Wang, Arsen Gaisin, Adam Csakai, Alec P. Friswold, Herbert Y. Meltzer, John D. McCorvy, Karl A. Scheidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The serotonin 5-HT2receptors are important pharmaceutical targets involved in signaling pathways underlying various neurological, psychiatric, and cardiac functions and dysfunctions. As such, numerous ligands for the investigation of these receptors' activity and downstream effects have been developed synthetically or discovered in nature. For example, the heteroyohimbine natural product alstonine exhibits antispychotic activity mediated by 5-HT2A/2Cagonism. In this work, we identified a heteroyohimbine metabolite containing a serotonin pharmacophore and truncated the scaffold, leading to the discovery of potent agonist activity of substituted tetrahydro-β-carbolines across the 5-HT2receptor family. Extensive SAR development resulted in compound 106 with EC50values of 1.7, 0.58, and 0.50 nM at 5-HT2A, 5-HT2B, and 5-HT2C, respectively. Docking studies suggest a πstacking interaction between the tetrahydro-β-carboline core and conserved residue Trp6.48as the structural basis for this activity. This work lays a foundation for future investigation of these compounds in neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)648-657
Number of pages10
JournalACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 14 2022


  • Serotonin 5-HTreceptors
  • heteroyohimbine metabolism
  • small molecule agonists
  • tetrahydro-β-carbolines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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