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1.  Development of a PET Radiotracer for Noninvasive Imaging of the Reactive Oxygen Species, Superoxide, in vivo 
Organic & biomolecular chemistry  2014;12(25):4421-4431.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of a wide range of human disease states and drug toxicities, but development of imaging tools to study ROS biology in vivo remains a challenge. Here we synthesized and validated a novel PET tracer (12) and its 18F radiolabeled version [18F]12 to allow PET (positron emission tomography) imaging of superoxide in vivo. Initial analysis of ROS reaction kinetics found that compound 12 was rapidly and selectively oxidized by superoxide, but not other ROS. Cell culture studies in EMT6 cells exposed to the cancer chemotherapeutic agent Doxorubicin (DOX), which activates the superoxide-generating enzyme, NADPH oxidase, showed that compound 12 was a sensitive and specific probe for superoxide in cells. The microPET imaging of heart in mice with DOX-induced cardiac inflammation observed 2-fold greater oxidation of [18F]12 in the DOX-treated mice compared to controls (p=0.02), the results were confirmed by distribution studies on organs subsequently removed from the mice and HPLC analysis of [18F] radioactivity compounds. These data indicate that compound 12 is a useful PET tracer to imaging ROS in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4122299  PMID: 24847866
ethidium; dihydroethidium; reactive oxygen species; superoxide; PET imaging
2.  Targeted pancreatic cancer therapy with the small molecule drug conjugate SW IV-134 
Molecular oncology  2014;8(5):956-967.
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is highly resistant to conventional therapeutics and has been shown to evade apoptosis by deregulation of the X-linked and cellular inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (XIAP and cIAP). Second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (Smac) induces and amplifies cell death by reversing the anti-apoptotic activity of IAPs. Thus, Smac-derived peptide analogues (peptidomimetics) have been developed and shown to represent promising cancer therapeutics. Sigma-2 receptors are overexpressed in many proliferating tumor cells including pancreatic cancers. Selected ligands to this receptor are rapidly internalized by cancer cells. These characteristics have made the sigma-2 receptor an attractive target for drug delivery because selective delivery to cancer cells has the potential to increase therapeutic efficacy while minimizing toxicity to normal tissues.
Here, we describe the initial characterization of SW IV-134, a chemically linked drug conjugate between the sigma-2 ligand SW43 and the Smac mimetic SW IV-52 as a novel treatment option for pancreatic adenocarcinoma. The tumor killing characteristics of our dual-domain therapeutic SW IV-134 was far greater than either component in isolation or in an equimolar mix and suggests enhanced cellular delivery when chemically linked to the sigma-2 ligand. One of the key findings was that SW IV-134 retained target selectivity of the Smac cargo with the involvement of the NF-κB /TNFα signaling pathway. Importantly, SW IV-134 slowed tumor growth and improved survival in murine models of pancreatic cancer. Our data support further study of this novel therapeutic and this drug delivery strategy because it may eventually benefit patients with pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC4082741  PMID: 24731702
Sigma-2 receptor; Smac; IAPs; Pancreas cancer; selective delivery
3.  Characterization and Evaluation of Two Novel Fluorescent Sigma-2 Receptor Ligands as Proliferation Probes 
Molecular imaging  2011;10(6):420-433.
We synthesized and characterized two novel fluorescent sigma-2 receptor selective ligands, SW120 and SW116, and evaluated these ligands as potential probes for imaging cell proliferation. Both ligands are highly selective for sigma-2 receptors versus sigma-1 receptors. SW120 and SW116 were internalized into MDA-MB-435 cells, and 50% of the maximum fluorescent intensity was reached in 11 and 24 minutes, respectively. In vitro studies showed that 50% of SW120 or SW116 washed out of cells in 1 hour. The internalization of SW120 was reduced ≈30% by phenylarsine oxide, an inhibitor of endocytosis, suggesting that sigma-2 ligands are internalized, in part, by an endocytotic pathway. Subcellular localization studies using confocal and two-photon microscopy showed that SW120 and SW116 partially colocalized with fluorescent markers of mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, lysosomes, and the plasma membrane, suggesting that sigma-2 receptors localized to the cytoplasmic organelles and plasma membrane. SW120 did not colocalize with the nuclear dye 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole. In vivo studies showed that the uptake of SW120 in solid tumors and peripheral blood mononuclear cells of mice positively correlated with the expression level of the cell proliferation marker Ki-67, suggesting that sigma-2 fluorescent probes may be used to image cell proliferation in mice.
PMCID: PMC4426860  PMID: 22201533
4.  Synthesis, [18F] radiolabeling, and evaluation of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1) inhibitors for in vivo imaging of PARP-1 using positron emission tomography 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2014;22(5):1700-1707.
Imaging of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1) expression in vivo is a potentially powerful tool for developing PARP-1 inhibitors for drug discovery and patient care. We have synthesized several derivatives of benzimidazole carboxamide as PARP-1 inhibitors, which can be 18F-labeled easily for positron emission tomographic (PET) imaging. Of the compounds synthesized, 12 had the highest inhibition potency for PARP-1 (IC50 = 6.3 nM). [18F]12 was synthesized under conventional conditions in high specific activity with 40-50 % decay-corrected yield. MicroPET studies using [18F]12 in MDA-MB-436 tumor-bearing mice demonstrated accumulation of [18F]12 in the tumor that was blocked by olaparib, suggesting that the uptake of [18F]12 in the tumor is specific to PARP-1 expression.
PMCID: PMC4020173  PMID: 24503274
PARP-1; PET; radiolabeling; imaging
5.  The Sigma-2 (σ2) Receptor: A Novel Protein for the Imaging and Treatment of Cancer 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(18):7137-7160.
The sigma-2 (σ2) receptor is an important target for the development of molecular probes in oncology because of its 10-fold higher density in proliferating tumor cells than in quiescent tumor cells, and the observation that σ2 receptor agonists are able to kill tumor cells via apoptotic and non-apoptotic mechanisms. Although recent evidence indicates the σ2 receptor binding site is localized within the progesterone receptor membrane component 1 (PGRMC1), most information regarding this protein has been obtained using either radiolabeled or fluorescent receptor-based probes, and from biochemical analysis of the effect of σ2 selective ligands on cells grown in culture. This article reviews the development of σ2 receptor ligands, and presents an overview of how they have been used in vitro and in vivo to increase our understanding of the role of the σ2 receptor in cancer and proliferation.
PMCID: PMC4064612  PMID: 23734634
Sigma-2 receptors; cell proliferation; radiotracer; fluorescent probe; positron emission tomography
6.  Using SV119-Gold Nanocage Conjugates to Eradicate Cancer Stem Cells through a Combination of Photothermal and Chemo Therapies 
Advanced healthcare materials  2014;3(8):1283-1291.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are believed to be responsible for the long-term growth of a tumor, as well as its metastasis and recurrence after conventional therapies. Here we demonstrated that the sigma-2 receptor was over-expressed on the surface of breast CSCs, and thus could serve as a biomarker for the purpose of targeting. We were able to target breast CSCs with Au nanocages (AuNCs) by functionalizing their surfaces with SV119, a synthetic small molecule capable of binding to the sigma-2 receptor with high specificity. The interiors of the AuNCs could also be loaded with an anticancer drug to be selectively delivered to breast CSCs and released in a controllable fashion. Our results demonstrate that the SV119-AuNC conjugate can serve as a new platform to carry out photothermal and chemo therapies simultaneously, eradicating breast CSCs more effectively through a synergetic effect.
PMCID: PMC4134721  PMID: 24677807
cancer stem cells; gold nanocages; SV119; sigma-2 receptor; synergetic effect
7.  Imaging Pulmonary Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase Expression with PET 
Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) activity increases in acute and chronic inflammatory lung diseases. Imaging iNOS expression may be useful as an inflammation biomarker for monitoring lung disease activity. We developed a novel tracer for PET that binds to iNOS in vivo, 18F-NOS. In this study, we tested whether 18F-NOS could quantify iNOS expression from endotoxin-induced lung inflammation in healthy volunteers.
Healthy volunteers were screened to exclude cardiopulmonary disease. Qualifying volunteers underwent a baseline, 1-h dynamic 18F-NOS PET/CT scan. Endotoxin (4 ng/kg) was then instilled bronchoscopically in the right middle lobe. 18F-NOS imaging was performed again approximately 16 h after endotoxin instillation. Radiolabeled metabolites were determined from blood samples. Cells recovered by bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) after imaging were stained immunohistochemically for iNOS. 18F-NOS uptake was quantified as the distribution volume ratio (DVR) determined by Logan plot graphical analysis in volumes of interest placed over the area of endotoxin instillation and in an equivalent lung region on the left. The mean Hounsfield units (HUs) were also computed using the same volumes of interest to measure density changes.
Seven healthy volunteers with normal pulmonary function completed the study with evaluable data. The DVR increased by approximately 30%, from a baseline mean of 0.42 ± 0.07 to 0.54 ± 0.12, and the mean HUs by 11% after endotoxin in 6 volunteers who had positive iNOS staining in BAL cells. The DVR did not change in the left lung after endotoxin. In 1 volunteer with low-level iNOS staining in BAL cells, the mean HUs increased by 7% without an increase in DVR. Metabolism was rapid, with approximately 50% of the parent compound at 5 min and 17% at 60 min after injection.
18F-NOS can be used to image iNOS activity in acute lung inflammation in humans and may be a useful PET tracer for imaging iNOS expression in inflammatory lung disease.
PMCID: PMC4501590  PMID: 25525182
endotoxin; inducible nitric oxide synthase; lung inflammation; positron emission tomography
8.  Evaluation of N-Phenyl Homopiperazine Analogs as Potential Dopamine D3 Receptor Selective Ligands 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2013;21(11):2988-2998.
A series of N-(2-methoxyphenyl)homopiperazine analogs was prepared and their affinities for dopamine D2, D3, and D4 receptors were measured using competitive radioligand binding assays. Several ligands exhibited high binding affinity and selectivity for the D3 dopamine receptor compared to the D2 receptor subtype. Compounds 11a, 11b, 11c, 11f, 11j and 11k had Ki values ranging from 0.7–3.9 nM for the D3 receptor with 30- to 170-fold selectivity for the D3 vs. D2 receptor. Calculated log P values (log P = 2.6–3.6) are within the desired range for passive transport across the blood brain barrier. When the binding and the intrinsic efficacy of these phenylhomopiperazines was compared to those of previously published phenylpiperazine analogues, it was found that a) affinity at D2 and D3 dopamine receptors generally decreased, b) the D3 receptor binding selectivity (D2:D3 Ki value ratio) decreased and, c) the intrinsic efficacy, measured using a forskolin-dependent adenylyl cyclase inhibition assay, generally increased.
PMCID: PMC3733449  PMID: 23618707
Dopamine D2-like receptors; D3 dopamine receptors; receptor subtype selective ligands; homopiperazine analogs
9.  Positron emission tomography imaging of dopamine D2 receptors using a highly selective radiolabeled D2 receptor partial agonist 
NeuroImage  2013;71:168-174.
A series of microPET imaging studies were conducted in anesthetized rhesus monkeys using the dopamine D2-selective partial agonist, [11C]SV-III-130. There was a high uptake in regions of brain known to express a high density of D2 receptors under baseline conditions. Rapid displacement in the caudate and putamen, but not in the cerebellum, was observed after injection of the dopamine D2/3 receptor nonselective ligand S(−)-eticlopride at a low dosage (0.025 mg/kg/i.v.); no obvious displacement in the caudate, putamen and cerebellum was observed after the treatment with a dopamine D3 receptor selective ligand WC-34 (0.1 mg/kg/i.v.). Pretreatment with lorazepam (1 mg/kg, i.v. 30 min) to reduce endogenous dopamine prior to tracer injection resulted in unchanged binding potential (BP) values, a measure of D2 receptor binding in vivo, in the caudate and putamen. D-amphetamine challenge studies indicate that there is a significant displacement of [11C]SV-III-130 by d-amphetamine-induced increases in synaptic dopamine levels.
PMCID: PMC3756817  PMID: 23333701
Dopamine; Dopamine D2 receptors; Positron Emission Tomography
10.  Highly efficient click labeling using 2-[18F]fluoroethyl azide and synthesis of an 18F N-hydroxysuccinimide ester as conjugation agent 
Nuclear medicine and biology  2012;39(8):1175-1181.
Click labeling using 2-[18F]fluoroethyl azide has been proven to be promising methods of radiolabeling small molecules and peptides, some of which are undergoing clinical evaluations. However, the previously reported method afforded low yield, poor purities and under desirable reproducibility.
A vacuum distillation method was used to isolate 2-[18F]fluoroethyl azide, and the solvent effect of acetonitrile (ACN) and dimethylformamide (DMF) on the click labeling using Cu(I) from copper sulfate/sodium ascorbate was studied. The labeling conditions were optimized to radiosynthesize a hydroxysuccinimide ester (NHS).
2-[18F]fluoroethyl azide was isolated by the vacuum distillation method with > 80% yield within 10 min in a “pure” and click-ready form. It was found that the amount of DMF was critical for maintaining high levels of Cu(I) from copper sulfate/sodium ascorbate in order to rapidly complete the click labeling reaction. The addition of bathophenanthrolinedisulfonic acid disodium salt (BPDS) to the mixture of copper sulfate/sodium ascorbate also greatly improved the click labeling efficiency. Through exploiting these optimizations, a base-labile N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) ester was rapidly radiosynthesized in 90% isolated yield with good chemical and radiochemical purities.
We have developed a general method to click-label small molecules efficiently using [18F]2 for research and clinical use. This NHS ester can be used for conjugation chemistry to label antibodies, peptides and small molecules as PET tracers.
PMCID: PMC3468714  PMID: 22770647
PET; Fluorine-18; fluoroethyl azide; click chemistry; hydroxysuccinimide ester
11.  Functional assays to define agonists and antagonists of the sigma-2 receptor 
Analytical biochemistry  2013;448:68-74.
The sigma-2 receptor has been identified as a biomarker in proliferating tumors. Up to date there is no well-established functional assay for defining sigma-2 agonists and antagonists. Many sigma-2 ligands with diverse structures have been shown to induce cell death in a variety of cancer cells by triggering caspase-dependent and independent apoptosis. Therefore, in the current study, we used the cell viability assay and the caspase-3 activity assay to determine sigma-2 agonists and antagonists. Three classes of sigma-2 ligands developed in our laboratory were evaluated for their potency to induce cell death in two tumor cell lines, mouse breast cancer cell line EMT-6 and human melanoma cell line MDA-MB-435. The data showed that the EC50 values of the sigma-2 ligands using the cell viability assay ranged from 11.4 μM to >200 μM, which were comparable with the EC50 values obtained using the caspase-3 assay. Based on the cytotoxicity of a sigma-2 ligand relative to that of siramesine, a commonly accepted sigma-2 agonist, we have categorized our sigma-2 ligands into agonists, partial agonists, and antagonists. The establishment of functional assays for defining sigma-2 agonists and antagonists will facilitate functional characterization of sigma-2 receptor ligands and sigma-2 receptors.
PMCID: PMC3923374  PMID: 24333652
Sigma-2 receptor; agonist; antagonist; caspase-3; cell viability; functional assay
12.  Radiosynthesis and in Vivo Evaluation of Two PET Radioligands for Imaging α-Synuclein 
Two α-synuclein ligands, 3-methoxy-7-nitro-10H-phenothiazine (2a, Ki = 32.1 ± 1.3 nM) and 3-(2-fluoroethoxy)-7-nitro-10H-phenothiazine (2b, Ki = 49.0 ± 4.9 nM), were radiolabeled as potential PET imaging agents by respectively introducing 11C and 18F. The syntheses of [11C]2a and [18F]2b were accomplished in a good yield with high specific activity. Ex vivo biodistribution studies in rats revealed that both [11C]2a and [18F]2b crossed the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and demonstrated good brain uptake 5 min post-injection. MicroPET imaging of [11C]2a in a non-human primate (NHP) confirmed that the tracer was able to cross the BBB with rapid washout kinetics from brain regions of a healthy macaque. The initial studies suggested that further structural optimization of [11C]2a and [18F]2b is necessary in order to identify a highly specific positron emission tomography (PET) radioligand for in vivo imaging of α-synuclein aggregation in the central nervous system (CNS).
PMCID: PMC4310556  PMID: 25642331
Lewy bodies; Parkinson's disease; PET; phenothiazine; radiosynthesis; α-synuclein
13.  Epigenetic Priming of Memory Updating during Reconsolidation to Attenuate Remote Fear Memories 
Cell  2014;156(0):261-276.
Traumatic events generate some of the most enduring forms of memories. Despite the elevated lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders, effective strategies to attenuate long-term traumatic memories are scarce. The most efficacious treatments to diminish recent (i.e., day-old) traumata capitalize on memory updating mechanisms during reconsolidation that are initiated upon memory recall. Here, we show that, in mice, successful reconsolidation-updating paradigms for recent memories fail to attenuate remote (i.e., month-old) ones. We find that, whereas recent memory recall induces a limited period of hippocampal neuroplasticity mediated, in part, by S-nitrosylation of HDAC2 and histone acetylation, such plasticity is absent for remote memories. However, by using an HDAC2-targeting inhibitor (HDACi) during reconsolidation, even remote memories can be persistently attenuated. This intervention epigenetically primes the expression of neuroplasticity-related genes, which is accompanied by higher metabolic, synaptic, and structural plasticity. Thus, applying HDACis during memory reconsolidation might constitute a treatment option for remote traumata.
PMCID: PMC3986862  PMID: 24439381
15.  Regulation of dopamine presynaptic markers and receptors in the striatum of DJ-1 and Pink1 knockout rats 
Neuroscience letters  2013;557(0 0):123-128.
Pathogenic autosomal recessive mutations in the DJ-1 (Park7) or the PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (Pink1 or PARK6) genes are associated with familial Parkinson’s disease (PD). It is not well known regarding the pathological mechanisms involving the DJ-1 and Pink1 mutations. Here we characterized DJ-1 and Pink1 knockout rats both through expression profiling and using quantitative autoradiography to measure the densities of the dopamine D1, D2, D3 receptors, vesicular monoamine transporter type-2 (VMAT2) and dopamine transporter (DAT) in the striatum of transgenic rats and wild type controls. Expression profiling with a commercially available array of 84 genes known to be involved in PD indicated that only the target gene was significantly downregulated in each transgenic rat model. D1 receptor, VMAT2, and DAT were measured using [3H]SCH23390, [3H]dihydrotetrabenazine, and [3H]WIN35428, respectively. No significant changes were observed in the density of DAT in either model. Although the densities of VMAT2 and D1 receptor were unchanged in Pink1 knockout, but both were increased in DJ-1 knockout rats. The densities of D2 and D3 receptors, determined by mathematical analysis of binding of radioligands [3H]WC-10 and [3H]raclopride, were significantly increased in both knockout models. These distinctive changes in the expression of dopamine presynaptic markers and receptors in the striatum may reflect different compensatory regulation of dopamine system in DJ-1 versus Pink1 knockout rat models of familial PD.
PMCID: PMC4144334  PMID: 24157858
DJ-1; Pink1; Parkinson’s disease; dopamine receptors; autoradiography
16.  Identification of the PGRMC1 protein complex as the putative sigma-2 receptor binding site 
Nature communications  2011;2:380.
The sigma-2 receptor, whose gene remains to be cloned, has been validated as a biomarker for tumor cell proliferation. Here we report the use of a novel photoaffinity probe, WC-21, to identify the sigma-2 receptor binding site. WC-21, a sigma-2 ligand containing both a photoactive moiety azide and a fluorescein isothiocyanate group, irreversibly labels sigma-2 receptors in rat liver; the membrane-bound protein was then identified as PGRMC1 (progesterone receptor membrane component-1). Immunocytochemistry reveals that both PGRMC1 and SW120, a fluorescent sigma-2 receptor ligand, colocalizes with molecular markers of the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria in HeLa cells. Overexpression and knockdown of the PGRMC1 protein results in an increase and a decrease in binding of a sigma-2 selective radioligand, respectively. The identification of the putative sigma-2 receptor binding site as PGRMC1 should stimulate the development of unique imaging agents and cancer therapeutics that target the sigma-2 receptor/PGRMC1 complex.
PMCID: PMC3624020  PMID: 21730960
17.  Fos expression in response to dopamine D3-preferring phenylpiperazine drugs given with and without cocaine 
Synapse (New York, N.Y.)  2013;67(12):847-855.
WC 44 and WC 10 are phenylpiperazines with low (23 fold) to moderate (42 fold) selectivity for dopamine D3 receptors (D3Rs) over D2Rs, respectively. WC 44 is a full D3R agonist in the forskolin-stimulated adenylyl cyclase (AC) assay, whereas WC 10 has little efficacy. In contrast to their opposite effects in the AC assay, these drugs often produce similar behavioral effects, suggesting that the AC assay does not predict the efficacy of these drugs in vivo. Here we examined whether Fos protein expression induced by these drugs would be more consistent with their behavioral effects in vivo. Rats received either vehicle, WC 10 (5.6 mg/kg, i.p.), WC 44 (10.0 mg/kg, i.p), cocaine (10.0 mg/kg, i.p.), or cocaine with WC 10 (5.6 mg/kg, i.p.) or with WC 44 (10.0 mg/kg, i.p). Locomotion was monitored for 90 min and the brains were harvested for immunohistochemistry. Both WC 10 and WC 44 decreased spontaneous and cocaine-induced locomotion. Both compounds also increased Fos expression relative to saline in the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens core and shell, and relative to cocaine alone in the nucleus accumbens shell. The findings suggest that even though these compounds have different efficacy in the AC bioassy, they produce similar brain activation and attenuation of cocaine hyperlocomotion. Together with our previous research demonstrating that these compounds down-shift the cocaine self-administration dose-effect function, the findings support the idea that D3R-selective compounds may be useful for cocaine dependence medications development.
PMCID: PMC4041163  PMID: 23766142
c-fos; immediate early gene; striatum; nucleus accumbens
18.  Alzheimer's Therapeutics Targeting Amyloid Beta 1–42 Oligomers II: Sigma-2/PGRMC1 Receptors Mediate Abeta 42 Oligomer Binding and Synaptotoxicity 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111899.
Amyloid beta (Abeta) 1–42 oligomers accumulate in brains of patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and disrupt synaptic plasticity processes that underlie memory formation. Synaptic binding of Abeta oligomers to several putative receptor proteins is reported to inhibit long-term potentiation, affect membrane trafficking and induce reversible spine loss in neurons, leading to impaired cognitive performance and ultimately to anterograde amnesia in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). We have identified a receptor not previously associated with AD that mediates the binding of Abeta oligomers to neurons, and describe novel therapeutic antagonists of this receptor capable of blocking Abeta toxic effects on synapses in vitro and cognitive deficits in vivo. Knockdown of sigma-2/PGRMC1 (progesterone receptor membrane component 1) protein expression in vitro using siRNA results in a highly correlated reduction in binding of exogenous Abeta oligomers to neurons of more than 90%. Expression of sigma-2/PGRMC1 is upregulated in vitro by treatment with Abeta oligomers, and is dysregulated in Alzheimer's disease patients' brain compared to age-matched, normal individuals. Specific, high affinity small molecule receptor antagonists and antibodies raised against specific regions on this receptor can displace synthetic Abeta oligomer binding to synaptic puncta in vitro and displace endogenous human AD patient oligomers from brain tissue sections in a dose-dependent manner. These receptor antagonists prevent and reverse the effects of Abeta oligomers on membrane trafficking and synapse loss in vitro and cognitive deficits in AD mouse models. These findings suggest sigma-2/PGRMC1 receptors mediate saturable oligomer binding to synaptic puncta on neurons and that brain penetrant, small molecules can displace endogenous and synthetic oligomers and improve cognitive deficits in AD models. We propose that sigma-2/PGRMC1 is a key mediator of the pathological effects of Abeta oligomers in AD and is a tractable target for small molecule disease-modifying therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4229119  PMID: 25390692
19.  Synthesis and evaluation of 18F-labeled PPARγ antagonists 
Nuclear Medicine and Biology  2011;39(1):77-87.
Peroxisome proliferator activated-receptor gamma (PPARγ) transcriptionally modulates fat metabolism and also plays a role in pathological conditions such as cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and inflammation. PPARγ imaging agents are potential tools for investigating these diseases.
Four analogs of GW9662, a PPARγ antagonist, with different fluorine-containing substituents at the para-position of the aniline ring were synthesized and evaluated using two different receptor binding assays for measuring PPARγ affinity. MicroPET imaging studies were performed in a transgenic mouse model having a heart specific overexpression of PPARγ.
All four analogs were found to have binding affinities that were comparable to or better than the reference antagonist, GW9662, using a scintillation proximity assay. However, only the chloro-based analogs (compounds 3 and 4) had activity in a whole cell assay measuring activation of the PPARγ / RXR receptor complex. MicroPET imaging studies in a MHC-PPARγ transgenic mouse model showed high uptake and PPARγ specific binding for the irreversible antagonist [18F]3, whereas the corresponding reversible methoxy analog ([18F]5) displayed only nonspecific uptake in heart.
The results of this preliminary study show that the irreversible antagonist [18F]3 may represent a novel strategy for imaging PPARγ in vivo with PET. 1.
PMCID: PMC3248633  PMID: 21907585
PPARγ; peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ; antagonist; imaging agent
20.  Regulation of dopamine D3 receptor in the striatal regions and substantia nigra in diffuse Lewy body disease (DLBD) 
Neuroscience  2013;0:112-126.
The regulation of D3 receptor has not been well documented in diffuse Lewy body disease (DLBD). In this study, a novel D3 preferring radioligand [3H]WC-10 and a D2-preferring radioligand [3H]raclopride were used and the absolute densities of the dopamine D3 and D2 receptors were determined in the striatal regions and substantia nigra (SN) from postmortem brains from 5 cases DLBD, which included dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB, n=4) and Parkinson disease dementia (PDD, n=1). The densities of the dopamine D1 receptor, vesicular monoamine transporter 2(VMAT2), and dopamine transporter (DAT) were also measured by quantitative autoradiography using [3H]SCH23390, [3H]dihydrotetrabenazine, and [3H]WIN35428, respectively. The densities of these dopaminergic markers were also measured in the same brain regions in 10 age-matched control cases. Dopamine D3 receptor density was significantly increased in the striatal regions including caudate, putamen and nucleus accumbens (NAc). There were no significant changes in the dopamine D1 and D2 receptor densities in any brain regions measured. VMAT2 and DAT densities were reduced in all the brain regions measured in DLB/PDD, however the significant reduction was found in putamen for DAT and in the NAc and SN for VMAT2. The decrease of dopamine pre-synaptic markers implies neuronal loss in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) in these DLB/PDD cases, while the increase of D3 receptors in striatal regions could be attributed to dopaminergic medication history and psychiatric state such as hallucinations. Whether it also reflects compensatory regulation upon dopaminergic denervation warrants further confirmations on larger populations.
PMCID: PMC3796121  PMID: 23732230
21.  Endogenous Dopamine Competes with the Binding of a Radiolabeled D3 Receptor Partial Agonist In Vivo: A Positron Emission Tomography Study 
Synapse (New York, N.Y.)  2011;65(8):724-732.
A series of microPET imaging studies were conducted in anesthetized rhesus monkeys using the dopamine D3-selective partial agonist, [18F]5. There was variable uptake in regions of brain known to express a high density of D3 receptors under baseline conditions. Pretreatment with lorazepam (1 mg/kg, i.v. 30 min) to reduce endogenous dopamine activity prior to tracer injection resulted in a dramatic increase in uptake in the caudate, putamen, and thalamus, and an increase in the binding potential (BP) values, a measure of D3 receptor binding in vivo. These data indicate that there is a high level of competition between [18F]5 and endogenous dopamine for D3 receptors in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3107898  PMID: 21132811
D3 receptors; Positron Emission Tomography; endogenous dopamine
22.  Effect of Cyclosporin A on the Uptake of D3-Selective PET Radiotracers in Rat Brain 
Nuclear medicine and biology  2011;38(5):725-739.
Four benzamide analogs having a high affinity and selectivity for D3 versus D2 receptors were radiolabeled with 11C or 18F for in vivo evaluation.
Precursors were synthesized and the four D3 selective benzamide analogs were radiolabeled. The tissue distribution and brain uptake of the four compounds were evaluated in control rats and rats pretreated with cyclosporin A, a modulator of P-glycoprotein and an inhibitor of other ABC efflux transporters that contribute to the blood brain barrier. MicroPET imaging was carried out for [11C]6 in a control and a cyclosporin A pre-treated rat.
All four compounds showed low brain uptake in control rats at 5 and 30 min post-injection; despite recently reported rat behavioral studies conducted on analogs 6 (WC-10) and 7 (WC-44). Following administration of cyclosporin A, increased brain uptake was observed with all four PET radiotracers at both 5 and 30 min post-i.v. injection. An increase in brain uptake following modulation/inhibition of the ABC transporters was also observed in the microPET study.
These data suggest that D3 selective conformationally-flexible benzamide analogs which contain a N-2-methoxyphenylpiperazine moiety are substrates for P-glycoprotein or other ABC transporters expressed at the blood-brain barrier, and that PET radiotracers containing this pharmacophore may display low brain uptake in rodents due to the action of these efflux transporters.
PMCID: PMC3128788  PMID: 21718948
D3 receptors; PET; radiotracer; P-glycoprotein
23.  Synthesis and Evaluation of Isatin Analogs as Caspase-3 Inhibitors: Introduction of a Hydrophilic Group Increases Potency in a Whole Cell Assay 
A series of isatin analogs containing a hydrophilic group, including a pyridine ring, ethylene glycol group, and a triazole ring, have been synthesized, and their inhibition potency for caspase-3 was measured both in vitro (i.e. recombinant enzyme) and in whole cells (HeLa cells). The analogs having a hydrophilic group, including 12, 13, 16, 38, and 40, have dramatically increased activity in vitro and in HeLa cells compared to the corresponding unsubstituted N-phenyl isatin analogs.
PMCID: PMC3075238  PMID: 21441025
caspase-3; apoptosis; cell death
24.  Evaluation of D2 and D3 Dopamine Receptor Selective Compounds on L-Dopa Dependent Abnormal Involuntary Movements in Rats 
Neuropharmacology  2009;56(0):956-969.
A panel of novel D2 and D3 dopamine receptor selective antagonists, partial agonists and full agonists have been evaluated for the ability to attenuate L-dopa associated abnormal involuntary movements (AIMs) in 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) unilaterally lesioned male Sprague Dawley rats, which is an animal model of L-dopa-induced dyskinesia (LID). LID is often observed in patients with Parkinson’s Disease following chronic treatment with L-dopa. The intrinsic activity of these dopaminergic compounds was determined using a forskolin-dependent adenylyl cyclase inhibition assay with transfected HEK 293 cells expressing either the human D2Long or D3 dopamine receptor subtype. For the initial experiments the 5-HT1A receptor selective partial agonist buspirone was used to verify our ability to quantitate changes in total AIMs and AIMs minus locomotor scores. Two D2 dopamine receptor selective antagonists, SV156 and SV293, were evaluated and found to minimally attenuate AIM scores in these animals. Four members of our WC series of D3 dopamine receptor selective compounds of varying intrinsic activity at the D3 dopamine receptor subtype, WC 10, WC 21, WC 26 and WC 44, were also evaluated and found to attenuate AIM scores in a dose dependent manner. The in vivo efficacy of the compounds increased when they were administered simultaneously with L-dopa, as compared to when the compounds were administered 60 minutes prior to the L-dopa/benserazide. It was also found that the D3 receptor antagonist WC 10 could inhibit the involuntary movements after they had achieved maximum intensity. Unlike the D1-like dopamine receptor selective agonist SKF 81297 and the D2-like dopamine receptor agonist bromocriptine which can precipitate abnormal involuntary movements in these unilaterally lesioned animals, abnormal involuntary movements were not observed after administration of our D3 receptor selective agonist WC 44. In addition, we evaluated the effect of these four D3 dopamine receptor selective compounds for their effect on a) spontaneous locomotion and b) coordination and agility using a rotarod apparatus. We also used a cylinder test to assess the effect of L-dopa on spontaneous and independent use of each of the rat’s forelimbs in the presence or absence of test compound. The results of these studies suggest that substituted phenylpiperazine D3 dopamine receptor selective compounds are potential pharmacotherapeutic agents for the treatment of L-dopa-associated dyskinesia in patients with Parkinson’s Disease.
PMCID: PMC4106465  PMID: 19371586
Parkinson’s Disease; dyskinesia; L-dopa; dopamine receptors; D3 dopamine receptors
25.  Synthesis and Pharmacological Evaluation of Fluorine Containing D3 Dopamine Receptor Ligands 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(6):1555-1564.
A series of fluorine containing N-(2-methoxyphenyl)piperazine and N-(2-fluoroethoxy)piperazine analogues were synthesized and their affinities for human dopamine D2, D3 and D4 receptors were determined. Radioligand binding studies identified five compounds, 18a, 20a, 20c, 20e and 21e, which bind with high affinity at D3 (Ki = 0.17 to 5 nM) and moderate to high selectivity for D3 vs. D2 receptors (ranging from ∼25 to 163-fold). These compounds were also evaluated for intrinsic activity at D2 and D3 receptors using a forskolin-dependent adenylyl cyclase assay. This panel of compounds exhibits varying receptor subtype binding selectivity and intrinsic activity at D2 vs. D3 receptors. These compounds may be useful for behavioral pharmacology studies on the role of D2-like dopamine receptors in neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders. Furthermore, compound 20e, which has the highest binding affinity and selectivity for the D3 receptor (Ki = 0.17 nM for D3, 163-fold selectivity for D3 vs. D2 receptors) represents a candidate fluorine-18 radiotracer for in vivo PET imaging studies on the regulation of D3 receptor expression.
PMCID: PMC3066655  PMID: 21348515

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