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1.  Structure-activity-relationship study of N-acyl-N-phenylpiperazines as potential inhibitors of the Excitatory Amino Acid Transporters (EAATs): improving the potency of a micromolar screening Hit is not truism 
SpringerPlus  2013;2:112.
The excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) are transmembrane proteins responsible for the uptake of (S)-glutamate from the synaptic cleft. To date, five subtypes EAAT1-5 have been identified for which selective inhibitors have been discovered for EAAT1 and EAAT2. By screening of a commercially available compound library consisting of 4,000 compounds, N-acyl-N-phenylpiperazine analog (±)-exo-1 was identified to be a non-selective inhibitor at EAAT1-3 displaying IC50 values in the mid-micromolar range (10 μM, 40 μM and 30 μM at EAAT1, 2 and 3, respectively). Subsequently, we designed and synthesized a series of analogs to explore the structure-activity-relationship of this scaffold in the search for analogs characterized by increased inhibitory potency and/or EAAT subtype selectivity. Despite extensive efforts, all analogs of (±)-exo-1 proved to be either inactive or to have least 3-fold lower inhibitory potency than the lead, and furthermore none of the active analogs displayed selectivity for a particular subtype amongst the EAAT1-3. On the basis of our findings, we speculate that (±)-exo-1 binds to a recess (deepening) on the EAAT proteins than a well-defined pocket.
PMCID: PMC4225009  PMID: 25530930
Excitatory amino acid transporters; EAATs; Rational ligand design; Medicinal chemistry
2.  VGLUT2-Dependent Sensory Neurons in the TRPV1 Population Regulate Pain and Itch 
Neuron  2010;68(3):529-542.
The natural response to itch sensation is to scratch, which relieves the itch through an unknown mechanism. Interaction between pain and itch has been frequently demonstrated, and the selectivity hypothesis of itch, based on data from electrophysiological and behavioral experiments, postulates the existence of primary pain afferents capable of repressing itch. Here, we demonstrate that deletion of vesicular glutamate transporter (VGLUT) 2 in a subpopulation of neurons partly overlapping with the vanilloid receptor (TRPV1) primary afferents resulted in a dramatic increase in itch behavior accompanied by a reduced responsiveness to thermal pain. The increased itch behavior was reduced by administration of antihistaminergic drugs and by genetic deletion of the gastrin-releasing peptide receptor, demonstrating a dependence on VGLUT2 to maintain normal levels of both histaminergic and nonhistaminergic itch. This study establishes that VGLUT2 is a major player in TRPV1 thermal nociception and also serves to regulate a normal itch response.
PMCID: PMC3052264  PMID: 21040852
3.  A multi PDZ-domain protein Pdzd2 contributes to functional expression of sensory neuron-specific sodium channel NaV1.8 
The voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.8 is expressed exclusively in nociceptive sensory neurons and plays an important role in pain pathways. NaV1.8 cannot be functionally expressed in non-neuronal cells even in the presence of β-subunits. We have previously identified Pdzd2, a multi PDZ-domain protein, as a potential interactor for NaV1.8. Here we report that Pdzd2 binds directly to the intracellular loops of NaV1.8 and NaV1.7. The endogenous NaV1.8 current in sensory neurons is inhibited by antisense- and siRNA-mediated downregulation of Pdzd2. However, no marked change in pain behaviours is observed in Pdzd2-decificent mice. This may be due to compensatory upregulation of p11, another regulatory factor for NaV1.8, in dorsal root ganglia of Pdzd2-deficient mice. These findings reveal that Pdzd2 and p11 play collaborative roles in regulation of NaV1.8 expression in sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC2764382  PMID: 19607921
4.  High-Threshold Mechanosensitive Ion Channels Blocked by a Novel Conopeptide Mediate Pressure-Evoked Pain 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(6):e515.
Little is known about the molecular basis of somatosensory mechanotransduction in mammals. We screened a library of peptide toxins for effects on mechanically activated currents in cultured dorsal root ganglion neurons. One conopeptide analogue, termed NMB-1 for noxious mechanosensation blocker 1, selectively inhibits (IC50 1 µM) sustained mechanically activated currents in a subset of sensory neurons. Biotinylated NMB-1 retains activity and binds selectively to peripherin-positive nociceptive sensory neurons. The selectivity of NMB-1 was confirmed by the fact that it has no inhibitory effects on voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels, or ligand-gated channels such as acid-sensing ion channels or TRPA1 channels. Conversely, the tarantula toxin, GsMTx-4, which inhibits stretch-activated ion channels, had no effects on mechanically activated currents in sensory neurons. In behavioral assays, NMB-1 inhibits responses only to high intensity, painful mechanical stimulation and has no effects on low intensity mechanical stimulation or thermosensation. Unexpectedly, NMB-1 was found to also be an inhibitor of rapid FM1-43 loading (a measure of mechanotransduction) in cochlear hair cells. These data demonstrate that pharmacologically distinct channels respond to distinct types of mechanical stimuli and suggest that mechanically activated sustained currents underlie noxious mechanosensation. NMB-1 thus provides a novel diagnostic tool for the molecular definition of channels involved in hearing and pressure-evoked pain.
PMCID: PMC1885214  PMID: 17565368

Results 1-4 (4)