The cholecystokinin receptor subtype 2 (CCK-2R) is an important target for diagnostic imaging and targeted radionuclide therapy (TRNT) due to its overexpression in certain cancers (e.g., medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)), thus matching with a theranostic principle. Several peptide conjugates suitable for the TRNT of MTC have been synthesized, including a very promising minigastrin analogue DOTA-(DGlu)6-Ala-Tyr-Gly-Trp-Met-Asp-Phe-NH2 (CP04). In this contribution, we wanted to see whether CP04 binding affinity for CCK-2R is sensitive to the type of the complexed radiometal, as well as to get insights into the structure of CP04-CCK2R complex by molecular modeling.
In vitro studies demonstrated that there is no significant difference in CCK-2R binding affinity and specific cellular uptake between the CP04 conjugates complexed with [68Ga]Ga3+ or [177Lu]Lu3+. In order to investigate the background of this observation, we proposed a binding model of CP04 with CCK-2R based on homology modeling and molecular docking. In this model, the C-terminal part of the molecule enters the cavity formed between the receptor helices, while the N-terminus (including DOTA and the metal) is located at the binding site outlet, exposed in large extent to the solvent. The radiometals do not influence the conformation of the molecule except for the direct neighborhood of the chelating moiety.
The model seems to be in agreement with much of structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies reported for cholecystokinin and for CCK-2R-targeting radiopharmaceuticals. It also explains relative insensitivity of CCK-2R affinity for the change of the metal. The proposed model partially fits the reported site-directed mutagenesis data.