Discovery of RC-752, a Novel Sigma-1 Receptor Antagonist with Antinociceptive Activity: A Promising Tool for Fighting Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain (NP) is a chronic condition resulting from damaged pain-signaling pathways. It is a debilitating disorder that affects up to 10% of the world’s population. Although opioid analgesics are effective in reducing pain, they present severe risks; so, there is a pressing need for non-opioid pain-relieving drugs. One potential alternative is represented by sigma-1 receptor (S1R) antagonists due to their promising analgesic effects. Here, we report the synthesis and biological evaluation of a series of S1R antagonists based on a 2-aryl-4-aminobutanol scaffold. After assessing affinity toward the S1R and selectivity over the sigma-2 receptor (S2R), we evaluated the agonist/antagonist profile of the compounds by investigating their effects on nerve growth factor-induced neurite outgrowth and aquaporin-mediated water permeability in the presence and absence of oxidative stress. ( R / S )- RC - 752 emerged as the most interesting compound for S1R affinity ( K i S1R = 6.2 ± 0.9) and functional antagonist activity. Furthermore, it showed no cytotoxic effect in two normal human cell lines or in an in vivo zebrafish model and was stable after incubation in mouse plasma. ( R / S )- RC - 752 was then evaluated in two animal models of NP: the formalin test and the spinal nerve ligation model. The results clearly demonstrated that compound ( R / S )- RC - 752 effectively alleviated pain in both animal models, thus providing the proof of concept of its efficacy as an antinociceptive agent.