Solution Structures of the Prototypical 18 kDa Translocator Protein Ligand, PK 11195, Elucidated with 1H/13C NMR Spectroscopy and Quantum Chemistry

Eighteen kilodalton translocator protein (TSPO) is an important target for drug discovery and for clinical molecular imaging of brain and peripheral inflammatory processes. PK 11195 [1a; 1-(2-chlorophenyl)-N-methyl-(1-methylpropyl)-3-isoquinoline carboxamide] is the major prototypical high-affinity ligand for TSPO. Elucidation of the solution structure of 1a is of interest for understanding small-molecule ligand interactions with the lipophilic binding site of TSPO. Dynamic 1H/13C NMR spectroscopy of 1a revealed four quite stable but interconverting rotamers, due to amide bond and 2-chlorophenyl group rotation. These rotamers have been neglected in previous descriptions of the structure of 1a and of the binding of 1a to TSPO. Here, we used quantum chemistry at the level of B3LYP/6-311+G­(2d,p) to calculate 13C and 1H chemical shifts for the rotamers of 1a and for the very weak TSPO ligand, N-desmethyl-PK 11195 (1b). These data, plus experimental NMR data, were then used to characterize the structures of rotamers of 1a and 1b in organic solution. Energy barriers for both the amide bond and 2′-chlorophenyl group rotation of 1a were determined from dynamic 1H NMR to be similar (ca.17 to 18 kcal/mol), and they compared well with those calculated at the level of B3LYP/6-31G*. Furthermore, the computed barrier for Z to E rotation is considerably lower in 1a (18.7 kcal/mol) than in 1b (25.4 kcal/mol). NMR (NOE) unequivocally demonstrated that the E rotamer of 1a is the more stable in solution by about 0.4 kcal/mol. These detailed structural findings will aid future TSPO ligand design and support the notion that TSPO prefers to bind ligands as amide E-rotamers.