Bioactivity of the cannabigerol cannabinoid and its analogues – the role of 3-dimensional conformation

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring bioactive compounds with the potential to help treat chronic illnesses including epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and multiple sclerosis. Their general structures and efficient syntheses are well documented in the literature, yet their quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs), particularly 3-dimensional (3-D) conformation-specific bioactivities, are not fully resolved. Cannabigerol (CBG), an antibacterial precursor molecule for the most abundant phytocannabinoids, was characterised herein using density functional theory (DFT), together with selected analogues, to ascertain the influence of the 3D structure on their activity and stability. Results showed that the CBG family’s geranyl chains tend to coil around the central phenol ring while its alkyl side-chains form H-bonds with the para-substituted hydroxyl groups as well as CH⋯π interactions with the aromatic density of the ring itself, among other interactions. Although weakly polar, these interactions are structurally and dynamically influential, effectively ‘stapling’ the ends of the chains to the central ring structure. Molecular docking of the differing 3-D poses of CBG to cytochrome P450 3A4 resulted in lowered inhibitory action by the coiled conformers, relative to their fully-extended counterparts, helping explain the trends in the inhibition of the metabolic activity of the CYP450 3A4. The approach detailed herein represents an effective method for the characterisation of other bioactive molecules, towards improved understanding of their QSARs and in guiding the rational design and synthesis of related compounds.

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