Monoamine oxidases: the biochemistry of the proteins as targets in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery

Rona R. Ramsay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


Monoamine oxidase (MAO, EC. has been a drug target for 60 years, with the primary rationale of developing drugs to treat neuropsychiatric disorders. The biological importance of MAO is to regulate amine levels is the brain and to metabolize amines and drugs in the periphery. This review of the biochemistry of MAO A and MAO B describes the functional properties of the two enzymes integrated with knowledge of the structures of the many MAOinhibitor complexes published in the last 10 years. The analysis of activity, and the chemical and kinetic mechanisms are discussed. Inhibition studies on human MAO in vitro are now facilitated by assays using readily available materials but the kinetics of MAO involving alternative oxidative pathways and sensitivity to the oxygen concentration mean that careful analysis of the data is required as well as the good practice of determining mechanism of inhibition and kinetic constants. Kinetic constants can then be compared with thermodynamic calculations. Inhibitors bind to both the oxidized and reduced forms of MAO present during turnover so both forms should be considered when using molecular dynamics to facilitate drug design. Interaction of inhibitors with the active site can be detected as changes in the visible spectrum and these changes can provide clues about the flavin adduct formed for irreversible inhibitors or about the proximity to the flavin for reversible inhibitors. Developing areas (knock-out mice for behavior, the imidazoline binding site, and imaging to monitor the activity and the inhibition of MAO in the patient) are mentioned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2189-2209
Number of pages21
JournalCurrent Topics in Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • Anti-depressants
  • Kinetic assays
  • Monoamine oxidases
  • Neurotransmitter levels
  • Redox state
  • Flavoprotein


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