Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Matthias Brewer


Recent studies have identified the Class B g-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide type 1 (PAC1R) as a key component in physiological stress management. Over-activity of neurological stress response systems due to prolonged or extreme exposure to traumatic events has led researchers to investigate PAC1R inhibition as a possible treatment for anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In 2008, Beebe and coworkers identified two such small molecule hydrazide antagonists and a general pharmacaphore for PAC1R inhibition. However, a relative dearth of information about Class B GPCRs in general, and PAC1R in specific, has significantly hindered progress toward the development of small molecule antagonists of PAC1R. The recent crystallization of the homologically similar glucagon receptor (GCGR) by Siu and coworkers in 2013, also a Class B receptor, has provided an experimentally resolved template from which to base computationally derived models of PAC1R.

Initially, this research was focused towards synthesizing small molecule antagonists for PAC1R which were to be biologically screened via a qualitative western blot assay followed by a radioisotope binding assay for those hydrazides exhibiting down-stream signaling inhibitory capabilities. However, the resolution of the GCGR crystal structure shifted research objectives towards developing a homology model of PAC1R and evaluating that computationally created model with Beebe's known small molecule antagonists. Created using academic versions of on-line resources including UniProtKB, Swiss-Model and Maestro, a homology model for PAC1R is presented here. The model is validated and evaluated for the presence of conserved Class B GPCR residues and motifs, including expected disulfide bridges, a conserved tyrosine residue, a GWGxP motif, a conserved glutamic acid residue and the extension of the transmembrane helix 1 (TM1) into the extra-cellular domain.

Having determined this virtual PAC1R an acceptable model, ligand docking studies of known antagonists to the receptor were undertaken using AutoDock Vina in conjunction with AutoDock Tools and PyMol. Computational docking results were evaluated via comparison of theoretical binding affinity results to Beebe's experimental data. Based on hydrogen bonding capabilities, several residues possibly key to the ligand-receptor binding complex are identified and include ASN 240, TYR 241 and HIST 365. Although the docking software does not identify non-bonding interactions other than hydrogen-bonding, the roles of additional proposed binding pocket residues are discussed in terms of hydrophobic interactions, π-π interactions and halogen bonding. These residues include TYR 161, PHE 196, VAL 203, PHE 204, ILE 209, LEU 210, VAL 237, TRP 297, PHE 362 and LEU 386. Although theoretical in nature, this reported homology modeling and docking exercise details a proposed binding site that may potentially further the development of drugs designed for the treatment of PTSD.



Number of Pages

84 p.

Included in

Chemistry Commons