Luminogenic HiBiT peptide-based NanoBRET ligand binding assays for melatonin receptors

Florence Gbahou, Sergiy Levin, Irina G Tikhonova, Gloria Somalo Barranco, Charlotte Izabelle, Rachel Friedman Ohana, Ralf Jockers

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3 Citations (Scopus)


The two human melatonin receptors MT and MT , which belong to the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) family, are important drug targets with approved indications for circadian rhythm- and sleep-related disorders and major depression. Currently, most of the pharmacological studies were performed using [ H]melatonin and 2-[ I]iodomelatonin (2-[ I]-MLT) radioligands. Recently, NanoLuc-based bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (NanoBRET) monitoring competitive binding between fluorescent tracers and unmodified test compounds has emerged as a sensitive, nonradioactive alternative for quantifying GPCR ligand engagement on the surface of living cells in equilibrium and real time. However, developing such assays for the two melatonin receptors depends on the availability of fluorescent tracers, which has been challenging predominantly owing to their narrow ligand entry channel and small ligand binding pocket. Here, we generated a set of melatonergic fluorescent tracers and used NanoBRET to evaluate their engagement with MT and MT receptors that are genetically fused to an N-terminal luminogenic HiBiT-peptide. We identified several nonselective and subtype-selective tracers. Among the selective tracers, PBI-8238 exhibited high nanomolar affinity to MT , and PBI-8192 exhibited low nanomolar affinity to MT . The pharmacological profiles of both tracers were in good agreement with those obtained with the current standard 2-[ I]-MLT radioligand. Molecular docking and mutagenesis studies suggested the binding mode of PBI-8192 in MT and its selectivity over MT . In conclusion, we describe the development of the first nonradioactive, real-time binding assays for melatonin receptors expressed at the cell surface of living cells that are likely to accelerate drug discovery for melatonin receptors. [Abstract copyright: © 2022 American Chemical Society.]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-678
Number of pages11
JournalACS Pharmacology & Translational Science
Issue number8
Early online date18 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 American Chemical Society.


  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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