Highly Potent and Selective MT2 Melatonin Receptor Full Agonists from Conformational Analysis of 1‑Benzyl-2-acylaminomethyl-tetrahydroquinolines

Molecular superposition models guided the design of novel melatonin receptor ligands characterized by a 2-acylaminomethyltetrahydroquinoline scaffold. Starting from the structure of N-anilinoethylamide ligands, the flexible chain was conformationally constrained to reproduce the bioactive conformation of melatonin. Structure–activity relationships were investigated, focusing on the substituent at the nitrogen atom, the position of the methoxy group, and the replacement of the amide side chain by urea and thiourea groups. The compounds were tested for binding affinity and intrinsic activity at human MT1 and MT2 receptors. Structural optimization resulted in N-[(1-benzyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-5-methoxyquinolin-2-yl)­methyl]­propionamide (UCM1014), with picomolar MT2 binding affinity (Ki = 0.001 nM), more than 10000-fold selectivity over the MT1 receptor, and a full agonist profile (GTPγS test), being the most potent MT2-selective full agonist reported to date. Molecular dynamics simulations provided a rationale for high binding affinity, stereoselectivity, and agonist behavior of these novel melatonin receptor ligands based on superposition models and conformational preference.