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1.  Characterization of a series of 4-aminoquinolines that stimulate caspase-7 mediated cleavage of TDP-43 and inhibit its function 
Biochimie  2012;94(9):1974-1981.
Dysfunction of the heterogeneous ribonucleoprotein TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is associated with neurodegeneration in diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Here we examine the effects of a series of 4-aminoquinolines with affinity for TDP-43 upon caspase-7-induced cleavage of TDP-43 and TDP-43 cellular function. These compounds were mixed inhibitors of biotinylated TG6 binding to TDP-43, binding to both free and occupied TDP-43. Incubation of TDP-43 and caspase-7 in the presence of these compounds stimulated caspase-7 mediated cleavage of TDP-43. This effect was antagonized by the oligonucleotide TG12, prevented by denaturing TDP-43, and exhibited a similar relation of structure to function as for the displacement of bt-TG6 binding to TDP-43. In addition, the compounds did not affect caspase-7 enzyme activity. In human neuroglioma H4 cells, these compounds lowered levels of TDP-43 and increased TDP-43 C-terminal fragments via a caspase-dependent mechanism. Subsequent experiments demonstrated that this was due to induction of caspases 3 and 7 leading to increased PARP cleavage in H4 cells with similar rank order of the potency among the compounds tests for displacement of bt-TG6 binding. Exposure to these compounds also reduced HDAC6, ATG7, and increased LC3B, consistent with the effects of TDP-43 siRNA described by other investigators. These data suggest that such compounds may be useful biochemical probes to further understand both the normal and pathological functions of TDP-43, and its cleavage and metabolism promoted by caspases.
PMCID: PMC3402613  PMID: 22659571
TDP-43; caspase activation; mixed inhibition
2.  Identification of Clinically Viable Quinolinol Inhibitors of Botulinum Neurotoxin A Light Chain 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(3):669-676.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are the most potent toxins known and a significant bioterrorist threat. Few small molecule compounds have been identified that are active in cell-based or animal models, potentially due to toxin enzyme plasticity. Here we screened commercially available quinolinols, as well as synthesized hydroxyquinolines. Seventy-two compounds had IC50 values below 10 μM, with the best compound exhibiting submicromolar inhibition (IC50 = 0.8 μM). Structure–activity relationship trends showed that the enzyme tolerates various substitutions at R1 but has a clear preference for bulky aryl amide groups at R2, while methylation at R3 increased inhibitor potency. Evaluation of the most potent compounds in an ADME panel showed that these compounds possess poor solubility at pH 6.8, but display excellent solubility at low pH, suggesting that oral dosing may be possible. Our data show the potential of quinolinol compounds as BoNT therapeutics due to their good in vitro potencies and favorable ADME properties.
PMCID: PMC3983388  PMID: 24387280
3.  Small-Molecule Probes Targeting the Viral PPxY-Host Nedd4 Interface Block Egress of a Broad Range of RNA Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(13):7294-7306.
Budding of filoviruses, arenaviruses, and rhabdoviruses is facilitated by subversion of host proteins, such as Nedd4 E3 ubiquitin ligase, by viral PPxY late (L) budding domains expressed within the matrix proteins of these RNA viruses. As L domains are important for budding and are highly conserved in a wide array of RNA viruses, they represent potential broad-spectrum targets for the development of antiviral drugs. To identify potential competitive blockers, we used the known Nedd4 WW domain-PPxY interaction interface as the basis of an in silico screen. Using PPxY-dependent budding of Marburg (MARV) VP40 virus-like particles (VLPs) as our model system, we identified small-molecule hit 1 that inhibited Nedd4-PPxY interaction and PPxY-dependent budding. This lead candidate was subsequently improved with additional structure-activity relationship (SAR) analog testing which enhanced antibudding activity into the nanomolar range. Current lead compounds 4 and 5 exhibit on-target effects by specifically blocking the MARV VP40 PPxY-host Nedd4 interaction and subsequent PPxY-dependent egress of MARV VP40 VLPs. In addition, lead compounds 4 and 5 exhibited antibudding activity against Ebola and Lassa fever VLPs, as well as vesicular stomatitis and rabies viruses (VSV and RABV, respectively). These data provide target validation and suggest that inhibition of the PPxY-Nedd4 interaction can serve as the basis for the development of a novel class of broad-spectrum, host-oriented antivirals targeting viruses that depend on a functional PPxY L domain for efficient egress.
IMPORTANCE There is an urgent and unmet need for the development of safe and effective therapeutics against biodefense and high-priority pathogens, including filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg) and arenaviruses (e.g., Lassa and Junin) which cause severe hemorrhagic fever syndromes with high mortality rates. We along with others have established that efficient budding of filoviruses, arenaviruses, and other viruses is critically dependent on the subversion of host proteins. As disruption of virus budding would prevent virus dissemination, identification of small-molecule compounds that block these critical viral-host interactions should effectively block disease progression and transmission. Our findings provide validation for targeting these virus-host interactions as we have identified lead inhibitors with broad-spectrum antiviral activity. In addition, such inhibitors might prove useful for newly emerging RNA viruses for which no therapeutics would be available.
PMCID: PMC4054416  PMID: 24741084
4.  Novel, Broad-Spectrum Anticonvulsants Containing a Sulfamide Group: Pharmacological Properties of (S)-N-[(6-Chloro-2,3-dihydrobenzo[1,4]dioxin-2-yl)methyl]sulfamide (JNJ-26489112) 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(22):9019-9030.
Broad-spectrum anticonvulsants are of considerable interest as antiepileptic drugs, especially because of their potential for treating refractory patients. Such “neurostabilizers” have also been used to treat other neurological disorders, including migraine, bipolar disorder, and neuropathic pain. We synthesized a series of sulfamide derivatives (4–9, 10a–i, 11a, 11b, 12) and evaluated their anticonvulsant activity. Thus, we identified promising sulfamide 4 (JNJ-26489112) and explored its pharmacological properties. Compound 4 exhibited excellent anticonvulsant activity in rodents against audiogenic, electrically-induced, and chemically-induced seizures. Mechanistically, 4 inhibited voltage-gated Na+ channels and N-type Ca2+ channels, and was effective as a K+ channel opener. The anticonvulsant profile of 4 suggests that it may be useful for treating multiple forms of epilepsy (generalized tonic-clonic, complex partial, absence seizures), including refractory (or pharmacoresistant) epilepsy, at dose levels that confer a good safety margin. On the basis of its pharmacology and other favorable characteristics, 4 was advanced into human clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC4004761  PMID: 24205976
5.  Ubiquilin-2 (UBQLN2) binds with high affinity to the C-terminal region of TDP-43 and modulates TDP-43 levels in H4 cells: characterization of inhibition by nucleic acids and 4-aminoquinolines 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2013;1834(6):964-971.
Recently, it was reported that mutations in the ubiqutin-like protein ubiquilin-2 (UBQLN2) are associated with X-linked amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and that both wild-type and mutant UBQLN2 can co-localize with aggregates of C-terminal fragments of TAR DNA binding protein (TDP-43). Here, we describe a high affinity interaction between UBQLN2 and TDP-43 and demonstrate that overexpression of both UBQLN2 and TDP-43 reduces levels of both exogenous and endogenous TDP-43 in human H4 cells. UBQLN2 bound with high affinity to both full length TDP-43 and a C-terminal TDP-43 fragment (261-414 aa) with KD values of 6.2 nM and 8.7 nM, respectively. Both DNA oligonucleotides and 4-aminoquinolines, which bind to TDP-43, also inhibited UBQLN2 binding to TDP-43 with similar rank order affinities compared to inhibition of oligonucleotide binding to TDP-43. Inhibitor characterization experiments demonstrated that the DNA oligonucleotides noncompetitively inhibited UBQLN2 binding to TDP-43, which is consistent with UBQLN2 binding to the C-terminal region of TDP-43. Interestingly, the 4-aminoquinolines were competitive inhibitors of UBQLN2 binding to TDP-43, suggesting that these compounds also bind to the C-terminal region of TDP-43. In support of the biochemical data, co-immunoprecipation experiments demonstrated that both TDP-43 and UBQLN2 interact in human neuroglioma H4 cells. Finally, overexpression of UBQLN2 in the presence of overexpressed full length TDP-43 or C-terminal TDP-43 (170-414) dramatically lowered levels of both full length TDP-43 and C-terminal TDP-43 fragments (CTFs). Consequently, these data suggest that UBQLN2 enhances the clearance of TDP-43 and TDP-43 CTFs and therefore may play a role in the development of TDP-43 associated neurotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3960997  PMID: 23541532
TDP-43; UBQLN2; 4-aminoquinolines; protein-protein interactions
6.  Mephedrone (‘bath salt’) pharmacology: insights from invertebrates 
Neuroscience  2012;208:79-84.
Psychoactive bath salts (also called meph, drone, meow meow, m-CAT, bounce, bubbles, mad cow, etc.) contain a substance called mephedrone (4-methylcathinone) that may share psychostimulant properties with amphetamine and cocaine. However, there are only limited studies of the neuropharmacological profile of mephedrone. The present study used an established invertebrate (planarian) assay to test the hypothesis that acute and repeated mephedrone exposure produces psychostimulant-like behavioral effects. Acute mephedrone administration (50 – 1000 µM) produced stereotyped movements that were attenuated by a dopamine receptor antagonist (SCH 23390) (0.3 µM). Spontaneous discontinuation of mephedrone exposure (1, 10 µM) (60 min) resulted in an abstinence-induced withdrawal response (i.e., reduced motility). In place conditioning experiments, planarians in which mephedrone (100, 500 µM) was paired with the non-preferred environment during conditioning displayed a shift in preference upon subsequent testing. These results suggest that mephedrone produces three behavioral effects associated with psychostimulant drugs, namely dopamine-sensitive stereotyped movements, abstinence-induced withdrawal, and environmental place conditioning.
PMCID: PMC3984045  PMID: 22300981
mephedrone; withdrawal; dopamine; motility; place preference; planarians
7.  Mephedrone (‘bath salt’) elicits conditioned place preference and dopamine-sensitive motor activation 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2012;126(1-2):257-262.
Abuse of a dangerous street drug called mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone) has become commonplace in the United States. Mephedrone is hypothesized to possess abuse liability, share pharmacological properties with psychostimulants, and display toxicity that has been linked to fatalities and non-fatal overdoses. Knowledge about the pharmacology of mephedrone has been obtained primarily from surveys of drug abusers and emergency room visits rather than experimental studies. The present study used motor activity and conditioned place preference (CPP) assays to investigate behavioral effects of mephedrone. Acute mephedrone (3, 5, 10, 30 mg/kg, ip) administration increased ambulatory activity in rats. Mephedrone (5 mg/kg, ip)-induced ambulation was inhibited by pretreatment with a dopamine D1 receptor antagonist (SCH 23390) (0.5, 1, 2 mg/kg, ip) and enhanced by pretreatment with a dopamine D2 receptor antagonist (sulpiride) (2 mg/kg, ip). Rats injected for 5 days with low dose mephedrone (0.5 mg/kg, ip) and then challenged with mephedrone (0.5 mg/kg, ip) following 10 days of abstinence displayed sensitization of ambulatory activity. In CPP experiments, mephedrone (30 mg/kg, ip) conditioning elicited a preference shift in both rats and mice. The CPP and dopamine-sensitive motor activation produced by mephedrone is suggestive of abuse liability and indicates commonalities between the neuropharmacological profiles of mephedrone and established drugs of abuse.
PMCID: PMC3478431  PMID: 22652295
mephedrone; dopamine; locomotor; conditioned place preference; SCH 23390; sulpiride; bath salts
8.  Riluzole prodrugs for melanoma and ALS: design, synthesis, and in vitro metabolic profiling 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2012;20(18):5642-5648.
Riluzole (1) is an approved therapeutic for the treatment of ALS and has also demonstrated antimelanoma activity in metabotropic glutamate GRM1 positive cell lines, a mouse xenograft assay and human clinical trials. Highly variable drug exposure following oral administration among patients, likely due to variable first pass effects from heterogeneous CYP1A2 expression, hinders its clinical use. In an effort to mitigate effects of this clearance pathway and uniformly administer riluzole at efficacious exposure levels, several classes of prodrugs of riluzole were designed, synthesized, and evaluated in multiple in vitro stability assays to predict in vivo drug levels. The optimal prodrug would possess the following profile: stability while transiting the digestive system, stability towards first pass metabolism, and metabolic lability in the plasma releasing riluzole. (S)-O-Benzyl serine derivative 9 was identified as the most promising therapeutically acceptable prodrug.
PMCID: PMC3495316  PMID: 22892214
Riluzole; Prodrug; Cancer; Melanoma; Cyp1A2
9.  Facile Synthesis of Mutagen X (MX): 3-Chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-5H-furan-2-one 
Tetrahedron letters  2012;53(25):3144-3146.
3-Chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-5H-furan-2-one (Mutagen X, MX) was synthesized in six steps from commercially-available and inexpensive starting materials (27% overall yield). This synthesis enables the preparation of MX analogs and does not require the use of chlorine gas, as do previously reported methods.
PMCID: PMC3398704  PMID: 22822274
Mutagen X; Furanone; Chlorine; Mucochloric Acid; Mutagenicity
10.  Reexamining hydroxamate inhibitors of botulinum neurotoxin serotype A: Extending towards the β-exosite 
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are the most toxic proteins known to man, exposure to which results in flaccid paralysis. Given their extreme potency, these proteins have become studied as possible weapons of bioterrorism; however, effective treatments that function after intoxication have not progressed to the clinic. Here, we have reexamined one of the most effective inhibitors, 2,4-dichlorocinnamyl hydroxamate, in the context of the known plasticity of the BoNT/A light chain metalloprotease. Our studies have shown that modifications of this compound are tolerated and result in improved inhibitors, with the best compound having an IC50 of 0.23 μM. Given the inconsistency of structure-activity relationship trends observed across similar compounds, this data argues for caution in extrapolating across structural series.
PMCID: PMC3352981  PMID: 22542019
botulinum neurotoxin; hydroxamic acids; bioterrorism; rational inhibitor design
11.  Small Molecule Anticonvulsant Agents with Potent In Vitro Neuroprotection 
Journal of Molecular Neuroscience  2012;47(2):368-379.
Severe seizure activity is associated with recurring cycles of excitotoxicity and oxidative stress that result in progressive neuronal damage and death. Intervention to halt these pathological processes is a compelling disease-modifying strategy for the treatment of seizure disorders. In the present study, a core small molecule with anticonvulsant activity has been structurally optimized for neuroprotection. Phenotypic screening of rat hippocampal cultures with nutrient medium depleted of antioxidants was utilized as a disease model. Increased cell death and decreased neuronal viability produced by acute treatment with glutamate or hydrogen peroxide were prevented by our novel molecules. The neuroprotection associated with this chemical series has marked structure activity relationships that focus on modification of the benzylic position of a 2-phenyl-2-hydroxyethyl sulfamide core structure. Complete separation between anticonvulsant activity and neuroprotective action was dependent on substitution at the benzylic carbon. Chiral selectivity was evident in that the S-enantiomer of the benzylic hydroxy group had neither neuroprotective nor anticonvulsant activity, while the R-enantiomer of the lead compound had full neuroprotective action at ≤40 nM and antiseizure activity in three animal models. These studies indicate that potent, multifunctional neuroprotective anticonvulsants are feasible within a single molecular entity.
PMCID: PMC3377984  PMID: 22535312
Neuroprotection; Glutamate toxicity; Oxidative stress; Hippocampal cultures; Epilepsy; Anticonvulsant
12.  Future Horizons in Drug Discovery Research 
PMCID: PMC4025813  PMID: 24900438
13.  Development of a Novel Nonradiometric Assay for Nucleic Acid Binding to TDP-43 Suitable for High-Throughput Screening Using AlphaScreen® Technology 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2010;15(9):1099-1106.
TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is a nucleic acid binding protein that is associated with the pathology of cystic fibrosis and neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar dementia. We have developed a robust, quantitative, nonradiometric high-throughput assay measuring oligonucleotide binding to TDP-43 using AlphaScreen® technology. Biotinylated single-stranded TAR DNA (bt-TAR-32) and 6 TG repeats (bt-TG6) bound with high affinity to TDP-43, with KD values of 0.75 nM and 0.63 nM, respectively. Both oligonucleotides exhibited slow dissociation rates, with half-lives of 750 min for bt-TAR-32 and 150 min for bt-TG6. The affinities of unlabeled oligonucleotides, as determined by displacement of either bt-TAR-32 or bt-TG6, were consistent with previous reports of nucleic acid interactions with TDP-43, where increasing TG or UG repeats yield greater affinity. A diversity library of 7360 compounds was screened for inhibition of TDP-43 binding to bt-TAR-32, and a series of compounds was discovered with nascent SAR and IC50 values ranging from 100 nM to 10 μM. These compounds may prove to be useful biochemical tools to elucidate the function of TDP-43 and may lead to novel therapeutics for indications where the TDP-43 nucleic acid interaction is causal to the associated pathology.
PMCID: PMC3426361  PMID: 20855563
TDP-43; AlphaScreen; TAR DNA; ALS; cystic fibrosis
14.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa porphobilinogen synthase assembly state regulators: hit discovery and initial SAR studies 
Porphobilinogen synthase (PBGS) catalyzes the first common step in the biosynthesis of the essential heme, chlorophyll and vitamin B12 heme pigments. PBGS activity is regulated by assembly state, with certain oligomers exhibiting biological activity and others either partially or completely inactive, affording an innovative means of allosteric drug action. Pseudomonas aeruginosa PBGS is functionally active as an octamer, and inactive as a dimer. We have identified a series of compounds that stabilize the inactive P. aeruginosa dimer by a computational prescreen followed by native PAGE gel mobility shift analysis. From those results, we have prepared related thiadiazoles and evaluated their ability to regulate P. aeruginosa PBGS assembly state.
PMCID: PMC3106444  PMID: 21643541
Protein assembly state; porphobilinogen synthase (PBGS); Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Results 1-14 (14)