Of recent clinical interest have been two related human G-protein coupled receptors: formylpeptide receptor (FPR), linked to anti-bacterial inflammation and malignant glioma cell metastasis; and formylpeptide receptor like-1 (FPRL1), linked to chronic inflammation in systemic amyloidosis, Alzheimer’s disease and prion diseases. In association with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Molecular Library Screening Network, we implemented a flow cytometry based high throughput screening (HTS) approach for identifying selective small molecule FPR and FPRL1 ligands.
The screening assay measured the ability of test compounds to competitively displace a high-affinity, fluorescein-labeled peptide ligand from FPR, FPRL1 or both. U937 cells expressing FPR and RBL cells expressing FPRL1 were tested together in a “duplex” format. The U937 cells were color-coded with red fluorescent dye allowing their distinction during analysis. Compounds, cells and fluorescent ligand were sequentially combined (no-wash) in 15 μL assay volumes in 384-well plates. Throughput averaged ∼11 min per plate to analyze ∼4000 cells (∼2000/receptor) in a 2 μL aspirate from each well.
In primary single concentration HTS of 24,304 NIH Small Molecule Repository compounds, 253 resulted in inhibition >30% (181 for FPR, 72 for FPRL1) of which 40 had selective binding inhibition constants (Ki) ≤ 4 μM (34 for FPR and 6 for FPRL1). An additional 1,446 candidate compounds were selected by structure-activity -relationship analysis of the hits and screened to identify novel ligands for FPR (3570-0208, Ki= 95 ± 10 nM) and FPRL1 (BB-V-115, Ki= 270 ± 51 nM). Each was a selective antagonist in calcium response assays and the most potent small molecule antagonist reported for its respective receptor to date. The duplex assay format reduced assay time, minimized reagent requirements, and provided selectivity information at every screening stage, thus proving to be an efficient means to screen for selective receptor ligand probes.