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Investigating small-molecule inhibitors of platelet aggregation



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Hajbabaie, Roxanna 


Cardiovascular disease, including myocardial infarction, remains the number one cause of worldwide morbidity and mortality. The major cause of myocardial infarction is arterial thrombosis, driven by platelet aggregation. Adenosine diphosphate (ADP)-induced platelet aggregation is mediated by the Gi-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), P2Y12. Therefore, P2Y12 antagonists are clinically used to prevent thrombotic events. However, current antiplatelet drugs have several drawbacks such as the increased risk of bleeding, difficulty in fine-tuning the antiplatelet effects of irreversible antagonists, and variability in patient response. Furthermore, the nucleoside-based, reversible drug ticagrelor has been reported to cause dyspnoea due to off-target effects. Additionally, the binding modes of the P2Y12 ligands are not fully known. Interestingly, the recently solved crystal structure of P2Y12 has revealed that the orthosteric site is composed of two sub-pockets. This thesis had two complementary aims: 1) to further understand the mechanism of action of cangrelor – the most recently approved, and only intravenously acting P2Y12 antagonist; and 2) to discover novel, competitively acting, non-nucleotide-based reversible inhibitor(s) of ADP-induced platelet aggregation.

A plate-based aggregometry assay and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) isolated from the blood of human donors were used to show that cangrelor (in nM and µM concentrations) may act in a non-competitive manner to ADP (up to mM concentrations). This is in contrast with reports in the literature that cangrelor is a competitive antagonist of the P2Y12 receptor. Interestingly, it acted in a competitive manner when the P2Y12 receptor was stimulated with the synthetic and more potent agonist, 2-methylthio-ADP (2MeSADP). The cangrelor analogue, AR-C66096, acted in a competitive manner with both agonists. Subsequently, a multiplexed flow cytometric assay assessing phosphorylated platelet vasodilator-stimulating phosphoprotein (pVASP) levels in platelets was successfully optimised. For this assay, a technique called barcoding was used with a novel combination of dye and fluorophore-conjugated antibody, opening a new avenue for barcoding. This assay further showed that ADP (up to 1mM) + cangrelor (100nM) Emax did not reach that of ADP (1mM) + vehicle, whereas AR-C66096 did. Electrostatic field potential analysis of the two compounds revealed that AR-C66096 had a field of negative electrostatic potential that was missing in cangrelor. Additionally, these results suggested that there may be mechanistic differences in the activation of the receptor by ADP and 2MeSADP.

To achieve the second aim, ligand-based in silico tools were used to virtually screen over 440,000 molecules to identify novel scaffolds possessing reasonable similarities in 3D shape and electrostatic properties in reference to the experimental P2Y12 antagonist, AZD1283. Docking of the best hits was performed against the recently solved crystal structure of P2Y12. Following the meticulous inspection of docked poses, as well as similarity indices with the query ligand, 33 compounds were purchased for in vitro validation. From these, two competitively acting, novel scaffolds (namely compound B6 and B11) were identified, which showed consistent inhibition of ADP-induced aggregation of platelets from human blood donors. These compounds were predicted to have comparable interactions with the receptor to the co-crystallised antagonist, AZD1283. Of these two best hits, compound B6, which is a 2-aryl benzoxazole derivative, was chosen for further investigation. To establish the structure-activity relationship (SAR) analysis around the B6 scaffold, nine analogues of this compound were purchased and experimentally tested using the assays described above. This led to the identification of another novel inhibitor of ADP-induced platelet aggregation, namely compound S8. However, despite good docking profiles of the compounds against the crystal structure of P2Y12, the latter could not be confirmed as their target upon analysis of pVASP levels. Further work is required to confirm the mechanism by which these compounds inhibit platelet aggregation. To summarise, this thesis has increased our understanding of cangrelor’s mechanism of action, and several 2-aryl benzoxazole derivatives are described as competitive and reversibly acting inhibitors of ADP-induced platelet aggregation.





Rahman, Taufiq
Harper, Matthew


heart disease, drug discovery, arterial thrombosis, cangrelor, myocardial infarction, platelet, virtual screening, P2Y12 inhibitors, platelet aggregation, docking, GPCR, pharmacology, blood, drug effects, signal transduction, cardiovascular disease, pVASP, small-molecule inhibitor, P2Y12, drug mode of action, drug mechanism, antiplatelet drug, antithrombotic drug


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge