Privileged scaffold-based design to identify a novel drug-like 5-HT7 receptor-preferring agonist to target Fragile X syndrome
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Recent preclinical studies have shown that activation of the serotonin 5-HT7 receptor has the potential to treat neurodevelopmental disorders such as Fragile X syndrome, a rare disease characterized by autistic features. With the aim to provide the scientific community with diversified drug-like 5-HT7 receptor-preferring agonists, we designed a set of new long-chain arylpiperazines by exploiting structural fragments present in clinically approved drugs or in preclinical candidates (privileged scaffolds). The new compounds were synthesized, tested for their affinity at 5-HT7 and 5-HT1A receptors, and screened for their in vitro stability to microsomal degradation and toxicity. Selected compounds were characterized as 5-HT7 receptor-preferring ligands, endowed with high metabolic stability and low toxicity. Compound 7g emerged as a drug-like 5-HT7 receptor-preferring agonist capable to rescue synaptic plasticity and attenuate stereotyped behavior in a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome.