Structure–Activity Relationships of GHRP-6 Azapeptide Ligands of the CD36 Scavenger Receptor by Solid-Phase Submonomer Azapeptide Synthesis

The cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36) class B scavenger receptor binds a variety of biologically endogenous ligands in addition to synthetic peptides (i.e., growth hormone-releasing peptides, GHRPs), which modulate biological function related to anti-angiogenic and anti-atherosclerotic activities. Affinity labeling had previously shown that GHRP-6 analogues such as hexarelin, [2-Me-W<sup>2</sup>]GHRP-6 (<b>1</b>), bind to the lysine-rich domain of the CD36 receptor. Moreover, the azapeptide analogue [aza-F<sup>4</sup>]GHRP-6, <b>2</b>, exhibited a characteristic β-turn conformation as described by CD and NMR spectroscopy and a slightly higher CD36 binding affinity relative to hexarelin (1.34 and 2.37 μM, respectively), suggesting receptor binding was mediated by the conformation and the aromatic residues of these peptide sequences. Ligand-receptor binding interactions were thus explored using azapeptides to examine influences of side-chain diversity and backbone conformation. In particular, considering that aromatic cation interactions may contribute to binding affinity, we have explored the potential of introducing salt bridges to furnish GHRP-6 azapeptide ligands of the CD36 receptor. Fifteen aza-glutamic acid analogues related to <b>2</b> were prepared by submonomer solid-phase synthesis. The azapeptide side chains were installed by novel approaches featuring alkylation of resin-bound semicarbazone with Michael acceptors and activated allylic acetates in the presence of phosphazene base (BTPP). Moreover, certain Michael adducts underwent intramolecular cyclization during semicarbazone deprotection, leading to novel pyrrazoline and aza-pyroglutamate <i>N</i>-terminal residues. Structural studies indicated that contingent on sequence the [aza-Glu]GHRP-6 analogues exhibited CD spectra characteristic of random coil, polyproline type II and β-turn secondary structures in aqueous media. In covalent competition binding studies with the GHRP-6 prototype hexarelin bearing a radiotracer, certain [aza-Glu]GHRP-6 azapeptides retained relatively high (2–27 μM) affinity for the CD36 scavenger receptor.