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2017 Publications

A Next Generation Connectivity Map: L1000 Platform and the First 1,000,000 Profiles

We previously piloted the concept of a Connectivity Map (CMap), whereby genes, drugs, and disease states are connected by virtue of common gene-expression signatures. Here, we report more than a 1,000-fold scale-up of the CMap as part of the NIH LINCS Consortium, made possible by a new, low-cost, high-throughput reduced representation expression profiling method that we term L1000. We show that L1000 is highly reproducible, comparable to RNA sequencing, and suitable for computational inference of the expression levels of 81% of non-measured transcripts. We further show that the expanded CMap can be used to discover mechanism of action of small molecules, functionally annotate genetic variants of disease genes, and inform clinical trials. The 1.3 million L1000 profiles described here, as well as tools for their analysis, are available at

An inhibitor of the proteasomal deubiquitinating enzyme USP14 induces tau elimination in cultured neurons

The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is responsible for most selective protein degradation in eukaryotes and regulates numerous cellular processes, including cell cycle control and protein quality control. A component of this system, the deubiquitinating enzyme USP14, associates with the proteasome where it can rescue substrates from degradation by removal of the ubiquitin tag. We previously found that a small-molecule inhibitor of USP14, known as IU1, can increase the rate of degradation of a subset of proteasome substrates. We report here the synthesis and characterization of 87 variants of IU1, which resulted in the identification of a 10-fold more potent USP14 inhibitor that retains specificity for USP14. The capacity of this compound, IU1-47, to enhance protein degradation in cells was tested using as a reporter the microtubule-associated protein tau, which has been implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases. Using primary neuronal cultures, IU1-47 was found to accelerate the rate of degradation of wild-type tau, the pathological tau mutants P301L and P301S, and the A152T tau variant. We also report that a specific residue in tau, lysine 174, is critical for the IU1-47-mediated tau degradation by the proteasome. Finally, we show that IU1-47 stimulates autophagic flux in primary neurons. In summary, these findings provide a powerful research tool for investigating the complex biology of USP14.

Chemogenomic analysis reveals key role for lysine acetylation in regulating Arc stability

The role of Arc in synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation has been investigated for many years with recent evidence that defects in the expression or activity of this immediate-early gene may also contribute to the pathophysiology of brain disorders including schizophrenia and fragile X syndrome. These results bring forward the concept that reversing Arc abnormalities could provide an avenue to improve cognitive or neurological impairments in different disease contexts, but how to achieve this therapeutic objective has remained elusive. Here, we present results from a chemogenomic screen that probed a mechanistically diverse library of small molecules for modulators of BDNF-induced Arc expression in primary cortical neurons. This effort identified compounds with a range of influences on Arc, including promoting its acetylation-a previously uncharacterized post-translational modification of this protein. Together, our data provide insights into the control of Arc that could be targeted to harness neuroplasticity for clinical applications.

Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Haloperidol

The discovery of haloperidol catalyzed a breakthrough in our understanding of the biochemical basis of schizophrenia, improved the treatment of psychosis, and facilitated deinstitutionalization. In doing so, it solidified the role for chemical neuroscience as a means to elucidate the molecular underpinnings of complex neuropsychiatric disorders. In this Review, we will cover aspects of haloperidol's synthesis, manufacturing, metabolism, pharmacology, approved and off-label indications, and adverse effects. We will also convey the fascinating history of this classic molecule and the influence that it has had on the evolution of neuropsychopharmacology and neuroscience.

Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Ketamine

Ketamine, a molecule of many faces, has contributed immeasurably to numerous realms of clinical practice and scientific inquiry. From anesthesia and analgesia to depression and schizophrenia, it continues to shed light on the molecular underpinnings of pain, consciousness, and the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. In particular, research on ketamine's mechanism of action is providing new hope in the search for therapies for treatment-resistant depression and affords insights into disorders of glutamatergic dysfunction. In this Review, we will cover aspects of ketamine's synthesis, manufacturing, metabolism, pharmacology, approved and off-label indications, and adverse effects. We will also discuss the captivating history of this molecule, its influence on neuropsychiatry, and its potential to advance the fields of chemical neuroscience and neuropharmacology.

Development of [ 18 F]Maleimide-Based Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3β Ligands for Positron Emission Tomography Imaging

Dysregulation of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) is implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. Thus, development of GSK-3β radiotracers for positron emission tomography (PET) imaging is of paramount importance, because such a noninvasive imaging technique would allow better understanding of the link between the activity of GSK-3β and central nervous system disorders in living organisms, and it would enable early detection of the enzyme's aberrant activity. Herein, we report the synthesis and biological evaluation of a series of fluorine-substituted maleimide derivatives that are high-affinity GSK-3β inhibitors. Radiosynthesis of a potential GSK-3β tracer [18F]10a is achieved. Preliminary in vivo PET imaging studies in rodents show moderate brain uptake, although no saturable binding was observed in the brain. Further refinement of the lead scaffold to develop potent [18F]-labeled GSK-3 radiotracers for PET imaging of the central nervous system is warranted.

HDAC6 Brain Mapping with [ 18 F]Bavarostat Enabled by a Ru-Mediated Deoxyfluorination

Histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6) function and dysregulation have been implicated in the etiology of certain cancers and more recently in central nervous system (CNS) disorders including Rett syndrome, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and major depressive disorder. HDAC6-selective inhibitors have therapeutic potential, but in the CNS drug space the development of highly brain penetrant HDAC inhibitors has been a persistent challenge. Moreover, no tool exists to directly characterize HDAC6 and its related biology in the living human brain. Here, we report a highly brain penetrant HDAC6 inhibitor, Bavarostat, that exhibits excellent HDAC6 selectivity (>80-fold over all other Zn-containing HDAC paralogues), modulates tubulin acetylation selectively over histone acetylation, and has excellent brain penetrance. We further demonstrate that Bavarostat can be radiolabeled with 18F by deoxyfluorination through in situ formation of a ruthenium π-complex of the corresponding phenol precursor: the only method currently suitable for synthesis of [18F]Bavarostat. Finally, by using [18F]Bavarostat in a series of rodent and nonhuman primate imaging experiments, we demonstrate its utility for mapping HDAC6 in the living brain, which sets the stage for first-in-human neurochemical imaging of this important target.

Highly Expandable Human iPS Cell-Derived Neural Progenitor Cells (NPC) and Neurons for Central Nervous System Disease Modeling and High-Throughput Screening

Reprogramming of human somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells has greatly expanded the set of research tools available to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying central nervous system (CNS) disorders. Realizing the promise of iPS cell technology for the identification of novel therapeutic targets and for high-throughput drug screening requires implementation of methods for the large-scale production of defined CNS cell types. Here we describe a protocol for generating stable, highly expandable, iPS cell-derived CNS neural progenitor cells (NPC) using multi-dimensional fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) to purify NPC defined by cell surface markers. In addition, we describe a rapid, efficient, and reproducible method for generating excitatory cortical-like neurons from these NPC through inducible expression of the pro-neural transcription factor Neurogenin 2 (iNgn2-NPC). Finally, we describe methodology for the use of iNgn2-NPC for probing human neuroplasticity and mechanisms underlying CNS disorders using high-content, single-cell-level automated microscopy assays.

Inhibition of p25/Cdk5 Attenuates Tauopathy in Mouse and iPSC Models of Frontotemporal Dementia

Increased p25, a proteolytic fragment of the regulatory subunit p35, is known to induce aberrant activity of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5), which is associated with neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease. Previously, we showed that replacing endogenous p35 with the noncleavable mutant p35 (Δp35) attenuated amyloidosis and improved cognitive function in a familial Alzheimer's disease mouse model. Here, to address the role of p25/Cdk5 in tauopathy, we generated double-transgenic mice by crossing mice overexpressing mutant human tau (P301S) with Δp35KI mice. We observed significant reduction of phosphorylated tau and its seeding activity in the brain of double transgenic mice compared with the P301S mice. Furthermore, synaptic loss and impaired LTP at hippocampal CA3 region of P301S mice were attenuated by blocking p25 generation. To further validate the role of p25/Cdk5 in tauopathy, we used frontotemporal dementia patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) carrying the Tau P301L mutation and generated P301L:Δp35KI isogenic iPSC lines using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. We created cerebral organoids from the isogenic iPSCs and found that blockade of p25 generation reduced levels of phosphorylated tau and increased expression of synaptophysin. Together, these data demonstrate a crucial role for p25/Cdk5 in mediating tau-associated pathology and suggest that inhibition of this kinase can remedy neurodegenerative processes in the presence of pathogenic tau mutation

Lysine Deacetylation by HDAC6 Regulates the Kinase Activity of AKT in Human Neural Progenitor Cells

The AKT family of serine-threonine kinases functions downstream of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) to transmit signals by direct phosphorylation of a number of targets, including the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), and β-catenin. AKT binds to phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-triphosphate (PIP3) generated by PI3K activation, which results in its membrane localization and subsequent activation through phosphorylation by phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1 (PDK1). Together, the PI3K-AKT signaling pathway plays pivotal roles in many cellular systems, including in the central nervous system where it governs both neurodevelopment and neuroplasticity. Recently, lysine residues (Lys14 and Lys20) on AKT, located within its pleckstrin homology (PH) domain that binds to membrane-bound PIP3, have been found to be acetylated under certain cellular contexts in various cancer cell lines. These acetylation modifications are removed by the enzymatic action of the class III lysine deacetylases, SIRT1 and SIRT2, of the sirtuin family. The extent to which reversible acetylation regulates AKT function in other cell types remains poorly understood. We report here that AKT kinase activity is modulated by a class IIb lysine deacetylase, histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6), in human neural progenitor cells (NPCs). We find that HDAC6 and AKT physically interact with each other in the neuronal cells, and in the presence of selective HDAC6 inhibition, AKT is acetylated at Lys163 and Lys377 located in the kinase domain, two novel sites distinct from the acetylation sites in the PH-domain modulated by the sirtuins. Measurement of the functional effect of HDAC6 inhibition on AKT revealed decreased binding to PIP3, a correlated decrease in AKT kinase activity, decreased phosphorylation of Ser552 on β-catenin, and modulation of neuronal differentiation trajectories. Taken together, our studies implicate the deacetylase activity of HDAC6 as a novel regulator of AKT signaling and point to novel mechanisms for regulating AKT activity with small-molecule inhibitors of HDAC6 currently under clinical development.

Probing the lithium-response pathway in hiPSCs implicates the phosphoregulatory set-point for a cytoskeletal modulator in bipolar pathogenesis

The molecular pathogenesis of bipolar disorder (BPD) is poorly understood. Using human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to unravel such mechanisms in polygenic diseases is generally challenging. However, hiPSCs from BPD patients responsive to lithium offered unique opportunities to discern lithium's target and hence gain molecular insight into BPD. By profiling the proteomics of BDP-hiPSC-derived neurons, we found that lithium alters the phosphorylation state of collapsin response mediator protein-2 (CRMP2). Active nonphosphorylated CRMP2, which binds cytoskeleton, is present throughout the neuron; inactive phosphorylated CRMP2, which dissociates from cytoskeleton, exits dendritic spines. CRMP2 elimination yields aberrant dendritogenesis with diminished spine density and lost lithium responsiveness (LiR). The "set-point" for the ratio of pCRMP2:CRMP2 is elevated uniquely in hiPSC-derived neurons from LiR BPD patients, but not with other psychiatric (including lithium-nonresponsive BPD) and neurological disorders. Lithium (and other pathway modulators) lowers pCRMP2, increasing spine area and density. Human BPD brains show similarly elevated ratios and diminished spine densities; lithium therapy normalizes the ratios and spines. Consistent with such "spine-opathies," human LiR BPD neurons with abnormal ratios evince abnormally steep slopes for calcium flux; lithium normalizes both. Behaviorally, transgenic mice that reproduce lithium's postulated site-of-action in dephosphorylating CRMP2 emulate LiR in BPD. These data suggest that the "lithium response pathway" in BPD governs CRMP2's phosphorylation, which regulates cytoskeletal organization, particularly in spines, modulating neural networks. Aberrations in the posttranslational regulation of this developmentally critical molecule may underlie LiR BPD pathogenesis. Instructively, examining the proteomic profile in hiPSCs of a functional agent-even one whose mechanism-of-action is unknown-might reveal otherwise inscrutable intracellular pathogenic pathways.

Selectivity and Kinetic Requirements of HDAC Inhibitors as Progranulin Enhancers for Treating Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) arises from neurodegeneration in the frontal, insular, and anterior temporal lobes. Autosomal dominant causes of FTD include heterozygous mutations in the GRN gene causing haploinsufficiency of progranulin (PGRN) protein. Recently, histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors have been identified as enhancers of PGRN expression, although the mechanisms through which GRN is epigenetically regulated remain poorly understood. Using a chemogenomic toolkit, including optoepigenetic probes, we show that inhibition of class I HDACs is sufficient to upregulate PGRN in human neurons, and only inhibitors with apparent fast binding to their target HDAC complexes are capable of enhancing PGRN expression. Moreover, we identify regions in the GRN promoter in which elevated H3K27 acetylation and transcription factor EB (TFEB) occupancy correlate with HDAC-inhibitor-mediated upregulation of PGRN. These findings have implications for epigenetic and cis-regulatory mechanisms controlling human GRN expression and may advance translational efforts to develop targeted therapeutics for treating PGRN-deficient FTD.

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