The sigma 1 receptor (S1R) is an enigmatic ligand-operated chaperone involved in many important biological processes, and its functions are not fully understood yet. Herein, we developed a novel series of bitopic S1R ligands as versatile tools to investigate binding processes, allosteric modulation, and the oligomerization mechanism. These molecules have been prepared in the enantiopure form and subjected to a preliminary biological evaluation, while in silico investigations helped to rationalize the results. Compound 7 emerged as the first bitopic S1R ligand endowed with low nanomolar affinity (K-i = 2.6 nM) reported thus far. Computational analyses suggested that 7 may stabilize the open conformation of the S1R by simultaneously binding the occluded primary binding site and a peripheral site on the cytosol-exposed surface. These findings pave the way to new S1R ligands with enhanced activity and/or selectivity, which could also be used as probes for the identification of a potential allosteric site.
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