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Copyright © 2019 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Sigma-2 receptors, recently identified as TMEM97, have been implicated in cancer and neurodegenerative disease. Structurally distinct sigma-2 receptor ligands induce cell death in tumor cells, linking sigma-2 receptors to apoptotic pathways. Recently, we reported that sigma-2 receptors can also stimulate glycolytic hallmarks, effects consistent with a prosurvival function and upregulation in cancer cells. Both apoptotic and metabolically stimulative effects were observed with compounds related to the canonical sigma-2 antagonist SN79. Here we investigate a series of 6-substituted SN79 analogs to assess the structural determinants governing these divergent effects. Substitutions on the benzoxazolone ring of the core SN79 structure resulted in high-affinity sigma-2 receptor ligands (Ki 5 0.56–17.9 nM), with replacement of the heterocyclic oxygen by N-methyl (producing N-methylbenzimidazolones) generally decreasing sigma-1 affinity and a sulfur substitution (producing benzothiazolones) imparting high affinity at both subtypes, lowering subtype selectivity. Substitution at the 6-position with COCH3, NO2, NH2, or F resulted in ligands that were not cytotoxic. Five of these ligands induced an increase in metabolic activity, as measured by increased reduction of MTT (3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetra-zolium bromide) in human SK-N-SH neuroblastoma cells, further supporting a role for sigma-2 receptors in metabolism. Substitution with 6-isothiocyanate resulted in ligands that were sigma-2 selective and that irreversibly bound to the sigma-2 receptor, but not to the sigma-1 receptor. These ligands induced cell death upon both acute and continuous treatment (EC50 5 7.6–32.8 mM), suggesting that irreversible receptor binding plays a role in cytotoxicity. These ligands will be useful for further study of these divergent roles of sigma-2 receptors.

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