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2018 Publications

Class I Histone Deacetylase Inhibition by Tianeptinaline Modulates Neuroplasticity and Enhances Memory

Through epigenetic and other regulatory functions, the histone deacetylase (HDAC) family of enzymes has emerged as a promising therapeutic target for central nervous system and other disorders. Here we report on the synthesis and functional characterization of new HDAC inhibitors based structurally on tianeptine, a drug used primarily to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) that has a poorly understood mechanism of action. Since the chemical structure of tianeptine resembles certain HDAC inhibitors, we profiled the in vitro HDAC inhibitory activity of tianeptine and demonstrated its ability to inhibit the lysine deacetylase activity of a subset of class I HDACs. Consistent with a model of active site Zn2+ chelation by the carboxylic acid present in tianeptine, newly synthesized analogues containing either a hydroxamic acid or ortho-aminoanilide exhibited increased potency and selectivity among the HDAC family. This in vitro potency translated to improved efficacy in a panel of high-content imaging assays designed to assess HDAC target engagement and functional effects on critical pathways involved in neuroplasticity in both primary mouse neurons and, for the first time, human neurons differentiated from pluripotent stem cells. Most notably, tianeptinaline, a class I HDAC-selective analogue of tianeptine, but not tianeptine itself, increased histone acetylation, and enhanced CREB-mediated transcription and the expression of Arc (activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein). Systemic in vivo administration of tianeptinaline to mice confirmed its brain penetration and was found to enhance contextual fear conditioning, a behavioral test of hippocampal-dependent memory. Tianeptinaline and its derivatives provide new pharmacological tools to dissect chromatin-mediated neuroplasticity underlying memory and other epigenetically related processes implicated in health and disease.

Disruption of the psychiatric risk gene Ankyrin 3 enhances microtubule dynamics through GSK3/CRMP2 signaling

The ankyrin 3 gene (ANK3) is a well-established risk gene for psychiatric illness, but the mechanisms underlying its pathophysiology remain elusive. We examined the molecular effects of disrupting brain-specific Ank3 isoforms in mouse and neuronal model systems. RNA sequencing of hippocampus from Ank3+/- and Ank3+/+ mice identified altered expression of 282 genes that were enriched for microtubule-related functions. Results were supported by increased expression of microtubule end-binding protein 3 (EB3), an indicator of microtubule dynamics, in Ank3+/- mouse hippocampus. Live-cell imaging of EB3 movement in primary neurons from Ank3+/- mice revealed impaired elongation of microtubules. Using a CRISPR-dCas9-KRAB transcriptional repressor in mouse neuro-2a cells, we determined that repression of brain-specific Ank3 increased EB3 expression, decreased tubulin acetylation, and increased the soluble:polymerized tubulin ratio, indicating enhanced microtubule dynamics. These changes were rescued by inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) with lithium or CHIR99021, a highly selective GSK3 inhibitor. Brain-specific Ank3 repression in neuro-2a cells increased GSK3 activity (reduced inhibitory phosphorylation) and elevated collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP2) phosphorylation, a known GSK3 substrate and microtubule-binding protein. Pharmacological inhibition of CRMP2 activity attenuated the rescue of EB3 expression and tubulin polymerization in Ank3-repressed cells by lithium or CHIR99021, suggesting microtubule instability induced by Ank3 repression is dependent on CRMP2 activity. Taken together, our data indicate that ANK3 functions in neuronal microtubule dynamics through GSK3 and its downstream substrate CRMP2. These findings reveal cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying brain-specific ANK3 disruption that may be related to its role in psychiatric illness.

EPH receptor signaling as a novel therapeutic target in NF2-deficient meningioma

Meningiomas are the most common primary brain tumor in adults, and somatic loss of the neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) tumor suppressor gene is a frequent genetic event. There is no effective treatment for tumors that recur or continue to grow despite surgery and/or radiation. Therefore, targeted therapies that either delay tumor progression or cause tumor shrinkage are much needed. Our earlier work established mammalian target of rapamycin complex mTORC1/mTORC2 activation in NF2-deficient meningiomas.

High-throughput brain activity mapping and machine learning as a foundation for systems neuropharmacology

Technologies for mapping the spatial and temporal patterns of neural activity have advanced our understanding of brain function in both health and disease. An important application of these technologies is the discovery of next-generation neurotherapeutics for neurological and psychiatric disorders. Here, we describe an in vivo drug screening strategy that combines high-throughput technology to generate large-scale brain activity maps (BAMs) with machine learning for predictive analysis. This platform enables evaluation of compounds' mechanisms of action and potential therapeutic uses based on information-rich BAMs derived from drug-treated zebrafish larvae. From a screen of clinically used drugs, we found intrinsically coherent drug clusters that are associated with known therapeutic categories. Using BAM-based clusters as a functional classifier, we identify anti-seizure-like drug leads from non-clinical compounds and validate their therapeutic effects in the pentylenetetrazole zebrafish seizure model. Collectively, this study provides a framework to advance the field of systems neuropharmacology.

Traditional and systems biology based drug discovery for the rare tumor syndrome neurofibromatosis type 2

Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) is a rare tumor suppressor syndrome that manifests with multiple schwannomas and meningiomas. There are no effective drug therapies for these benign tumors and conventional therapies have limited efficacy. Various model systems have been created and several drug targets have been implicated in NF2-driven tumorigenesis based on known effects of the absence of merlin, the product of the NF2 gene. We tested priority compounds based on known biology with traditional dose-concentration studies in meningioma and schwann cell systems. Concurrently, we studied functional kinome and gene expression in these cells pre- and post-treatment to determine merlin deficient molecular phenotypes. Cell viability results showed that three agents (GSK2126458, Panobinostat, CUDC-907) had the greatest activity across schwannoma and meningioma cell systems, but merlin status did not significantly influence response. In vivo, drug effect was tumor specific with meningioma, but not schwannoma, showing response to GSK2126458 and Panobinostat. In culture, changes in both the transcriptome and kinome in response to treatment clustered predominantly based on tumor type. However, there were differences in both gene expression and functional kinome at baseline between meningioma and schwannoma cell systems that may form the basis for future selective therapies. This work has created an openly accessible resource ( of fully characterized isogenic schwannoma and meningioma cell systems as well as a rich data source of kinome and transcriptome data from these assay systems before and after treatment that enables single and combination drug discovery based on molecular phenotype.

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