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1.  VBP15: Preclinical characterization of a novel anti-inflammatory delta 9,11 steroid 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2013;21(8):2241-2249.
Δ9,11 modifications of glucocorticoids (21-aminosteroids) have been developed as drugs for protection against cell damage (lipid peroxidation; lazaroids) and inhibition of neovascularization (anecortave). Part of the rationale for developing these compounds has been the loss of glucocorticoid receptor binding due to the Δ9,11 modification, thus avoiding many immunosuppressive activities and deleterious side effect profiles associated with binding to glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors. We recently demonstrated that anecortave acetate and its 21-hydroxy analog (VBP1) do, in fact, show glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor binding activities, with potent translocation of the glucocorticoid receptor to the cell nucleus. We concluded that Δ9,11 steroids showed novel anti-inflammatory properties, retaining NF-κB inhibition, but losing deleterious glucocorticoid side effect profiles. Evidence for this was developed in pre-clinical trials of chronic muscle inflammation. Here, we describe a drug development program aimed at optimizing the Δ9,11 chemistry. Twenty Δ9,11 derivatives were tested in in vitro screens for NF-κB inhibition and GR translocation to the nucleus, and low cell toxicity. VBP15 was selected as the lead compound due to potent NF-κB inhibition and GR translocation similar to prednisone and dexamethasone, lack of transactivation properties, and good bioavailability. Phamacokinetics were similar to traditional glucocorticoid drugs with terminal half-life of 0.35 h (mice), 0.58 h (rats), 5.42 h (dogs), and bioavailability of 74.5% (mice), and 53.2% (dogs). Metabolic stability showed ≥80% remaining at 1 h of VBP6 and VBP15 in human, dog, and monkey liver microsomes. Solubility, permeability and plasma protein binding were within acceptable limits. VBP15 moderately induced CYP3A4 across the three human hepatocyte donors (24–42%), similar to other steroids. VBP15 is currently under development for treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2013.02.009
PMCID: PMC4088988  PMID: 23498916
Glucocorticoids; VBP15; Steroids; Anti-inflammatories; Neuromuscular disease
2.  VBP15, a novel anti-inflammatory and membrane-stabilizer, improves muscular dystrophy without side effects 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(10):1569-1585.
Absence of dystrophin makes skeletal muscle more susceptible to injury, resulting in breaches of the plasma membrane and chronic inflammation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Current management by glucocorticoids has unclear molecular benefits and harsh side effects. It is uncertain whether therapies that avoid hormonal stunting of growth and development, and/or immunosuppression, would be more or less beneficial. Here, we discover an oral drug with mechanisms that provide efficacy through anti-inflammatory signaling and membrane-stabilizing pathways, independent of hormonal or immunosuppressive effects. We find VBP15 protects and promotes efficient repair of skeletal muscle cells upon laser injury, in opposition to prednisolone. Potent inhibition of NF-κB is mediated through protein interactions of the glucocorticoid receptor, however VBP15 shows significantly reduced hormonal receptor transcriptional activity. The translation of these drug mechanisms into DMD model mice improves muscle strength, live-imaging and pathology through both preventive and post-onset intervention regimens. These data demonstrate successful improvement of dystrophy independent of hormonal, growth, or immunosuppressive effects, indicating VBP15 merits clinical investigation for DMD and would benefit other chronic inflammatory diseases.
doi:10.1002/emmm.201302621
PMCID: PMC3799580  PMID: 24014378
anti-inflammatory; dystrophy; mdx; membrane injury; muscle
3.  VBP15, a Glucocorticoid Analogue, Is Effective at Reducing Allergic Lung Inflammation in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63871.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lower respiratory tract associated with airway hyperreactivity and mucus obstruction in which a majority of cases are due to an allergic response to environmental allergens. Glucocorticoids such as prednisone have been standard treatment for many inflammatory diseases for the past 60 years. However, despite their effectiveness, long-term treatment is often limited by adverse side effects believed to be caused by glucocorticoid receptor-mediated gene transcription. This has led to the pursuit of compounds that retain the anti-inflammatory properties yet lack the adverse side effects associated with traditional glucocorticoids. We have developed a novel series of steroidal analogues (VBP compounds) that have been previously shown to maintain anti-inflammatory properties such as NFκB-inhibition without inducing glucocorticoid receptor-mediated gene transcription. This study was undertaken to determine the effectiveness of the lead compound, VBP15, in a mouse model of allergic lung inflammation. We show that VBP15 is as effective as the traditional glucocorticoid, prednisolone, at reducing three major hallmarks of lung inflammation—NFκB activity, leukocyte degranulation, and pro-inflammatory cytokine release from human bronchial epithelial cells obtained from patients with asthma. Moreover, we found that VBP15 is capable of reducing inflammation of the lung in vivo to an extent similar to that of prednisone. We found that prednisolone–but not VBP15 shortens the tibia in mice upon a 5 week treatment regimen suggesting effective dissociation of side effects from efficacy. These findings suggest that VBP15 may represent a potent and safer alternative to traditional glucocorticoids in the treatment of asthma and other inflammatory diseases.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063871
PMCID: PMC3646769  PMID: 23667681
4.  Blocking Cyclophilins in the Chronic Phase of Asthma Reduces the Persistence of Leukocytes and Disease Reactivation 
Allergic asthma is characterized by acute influxes of proinflammatory leukocytes in response to allergen stimulation, followed by quiescent (chronic) periods between allergen challenges, during which sustained, low-level inflammation is evident. These chronic phases of disease are thought to be mediated by populations of leukocytes persisting within airways and tissues. The lack of any in situ proliferation by these cells, along with their limited lifespan, suggests that a continual recruitment of leukocytes from the circulation is needed to maintain disease chronicity. The mechanisms regulating this persistent recruitment of leukocytes are unknown. Although classic leukocyte-attracting chemokines are highly elevated after acute allergen challenge, they return to baseline levels within 24 hours, and remain close to undetectable during the chronic phase. In the present study, we investigated whether an alternative family of chemoattractants, namely, extracellular cyclophilins, might instead play a role in regulating the recruitment and persistence of leukocytes during chronic asthma, because their production is known to be more sustained during inflammatory responses. Using a new murine model of chronic allergic asthma, elevated concentrations of extracellular cyclophilin A, but not classic chemokines, were indeed detected during the chronic phase of asthma. Furthermore, blocking the activity of cyclophilins during this phase reduced the number of persisting leukocytes by up to 80%. This reduction was also associated with a significant inhibition of acute disease reactivation upon subsequent allergen challenge. These findings suggest that blocking the function of cyclophilins during the chronic phase of asthma may provide a novel therapeutic strategy for regulating disease chronicity and severity.
doi:10.1165/rcmb.2011-0007OC
PMCID: PMC3262693  PMID: 21493785
chronic asthma; cyclophilins; cyclosporine A; NIM811
5.  Th1 and Th17 cells 
Autoreactive effector CD4+ T cells have been associated with the pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders. Early studies implicated the interferon (IFN)-γ-producing T helper (Th)1 subset of CD4+ cells as the causal agents in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. However, further studies have suggested a more complex story. In models thought to be driven by Th1 cells, mice lacking the hallmark Th1 cytokine IFN-γ were not protected but tended to have enhanced susceptibility to disease. Identification of the IL-17-producing CD4+ effector cell lineage (Th17) has helped shed light on this issue. Th17 effector cells are induced in parallel to Th1, and, like Th1, polarized Th17 cells have the capacity to cause inflammation and autoimmune disease. This, together with the finding that deficiency of the Th17-related cytokine IL-23 but not the Th1-related cytokine IL-12 causes resistance, led to the notion that Th17 cells are the chief contributors to autoimmune tissue inflammation. Nevertheless, mice lacking IL-17 are not protected from disease and display elevated numbers of IFN-γ-producing CD4+ T cells, and, in some cases, lack of IFN-γ does confer resistance. Recent studies report overlapping as well as differential roles of these cells in tissue inflammation, which suggests the existence of a more complex relationship between these two effector T-cell subsets than has hitherto been suspected. This review will attempt to bring together current information regarding interaction, balance, and collaborative potential between the Th1 and Th17 effector lineages.
doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05133.x
PMCID: PMC2914500  PMID: 20146717
autoimmune disease; inflammation; Th1; Th17
6.  Novel Approach to Inhibit Asthma-Mediated Lung Inflammation Using Anti-CD147 Intervention1 
Extracellular cyclophilins have been well described as chemotactic factors for various leukocyte subsets. This chemotactic capacity is dependent upon interaction of cyclophilins with the cell surface signaling receptor CD147. Elevated levels of extracellular cyclophilins have been documented in several inflammatory diseases. We propose that extracellular cyclophilins, via interaction with CD147, may contribute to the recruitment of leukocytes from the periphery into tissues during inflammatory responses. In this study, we examined whether extracellular cyclophilin-CD147 interactions might influence leukocyte recruitment in the inflammatory disease allergic asthma. Using a mouse model of asthmatic inflammation, we show that 1) extracellular cyclophilins are elevated in the airways of asthmatic mice; 2) mouse eosinophils and CD4+ T cells express CD147, which is up-regulated on CD4+ T cells upon activation; 3) cyclophilins induce CD147-dependent chemotaxis of activated CD4+ T cells in vitro; 4) in vivo treatment with anti-CD147 mAb significantly reduces (by up to 50%) the accumulation of eosinophils and effector/memory CD4+ T lymphocytes, as well as Ag-specific Th2 cytokine secretion, in lung tissues; and 5) anti-CD147 treatment significantly reduces airway epithelial mucin production and bronchial hyperreactivity to methacholine challenge. These findings provide a novel mechanism whereby asthmatic lung inflammation may be reduced by targeting cyclophilin-CD147 interactions.
PMCID: PMC2855298  PMID: 16982929
7.  Preferential chemotaxis of activated human CD4+ T cells by extracellular cyclophilin A 
Journal of leukocyte biology  2007;82(3):613-618.
The recruitment and trafficking of leukocytes are essential aspects of the inflammatory process. Although chemokines are thought to be the main regulators of cell trafficking, extracellular cyclophilins have been shown recently to have potent chemoattracting properties for human leukocytes. Cyclophilins are secreted by a variety of cell types and are detected at high levels in tissues with ongoing inflammation. CD147 has been identified as the main signaling receptor for cyclophilin A (CypA) on human leukocytes. It is interesting that the expression of CD147 is elevated on leukocytes from inflamed tissue, suggesting a correlation among the presence of extracellular cyclophilins, CD147 expression, and inflammatory responses. Thus, cyclophilin-CD147 interactions may contribute directly to the recruitment of leukocytes into inflamed tissues. In the current studies, we show that activated human T lymphocytes express elevated levels of CD147, compared with resting T cells and that these activated T cells migrate more readily to CypA than resting cells. Furthermore, we show that unlike resting CD4+ T cells, the cyclophilin-mediated migration of activated T cells does not require interaction with heparan sulfate receptors but instead, is dependent on CD147 interaction alone. Such findings suggest that cyclophilin-CD147 interactions will be most potent when leukocytes are in an activated state, for example, during inflammatory responses. Thus, targeting cyclophilin-CD147 interactions may provide a novel approach for alleviating tissue inflammation.
doi:10.1189/jlb.0506317
PMCID: PMC2846690  PMID: 17540735
chemokines; inflammation
8.  Lung Inflammation, Injury, and Proliferative Response after Repetitive Particulate Hexavalent Chromium Exposure 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2009;117(12):1896-1902.
Background
Chronic inflammation is implicated in the development of several human cancers, including lung cancer. Certain particulate hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] compounds are well-documented human respiratory carcinogens that release genotoxic soluble chromate and are associated with fibrosis, fibrosarcomas, adenocarcinomas, and squamous cell carcinomas of the lung. Despite this, little is known about the pathologic injury and immune responses after repetitive exposure to particulate chromates.
Objectives
In this study we investigated the lung injury, inflammation, proliferation, and survival signaling responses after repetitive exposure to particulate chromate.
Methods
BALB/c mice were repetitively treated with particulate basic zinc chromate or saline using an intranasal exposure regimen. We assessed lungs for Cr(VI)-induced changes by bronchoalveolar lavage, histologic examination, and immunohistochemistry.
Results
Single exposure to Cr(VI) resulted in inflammation of lung tissue that persists for up to 21 days. Repetitive Cr(VI) exposure induced a neutrophilic inflammatory airway response 24 hr after each treatment. Neutrophils were subsequently replaced by increasing numbers of macrophages by 5 days after treatment. Repetitive Cr(VI) exposure induced chronic peribronchial inflammation with alveolar and interstitial pneumonitis dominated by lymphocytes and macrophages. Moreover, chronic toxic mucosal injury was observed and accompanied by increased airway pro-matrix metalloprotease-9. Injury and inflammation correlated with airways becoming immunoreactive for phosphorylation of the survival signaling protein Akt and the proliferation marker Ki-67. We observed a reactive proliferative response in epithelial cells lining airways of chromate-exposed animals.
Conclusions
These data illustrate that repetitive exposure to particulate chromate induces chronic injury and an inflammatory microenvironment that may promote Cr(VI) carcinogenesis.
doi:10.1289/ehp.0900715
PMCID: PMC2799464  PMID: 20049209
chromium; hexavalent; inflammation; injury; intranasal; lung; proliferation; repair
9.  Binding of Excreted and/or Secreted Products of Adult Hookworms to Human NK Cells in Necator americanus-Infected Individuals from Brazil▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(12):5810-5816.
The impact of the interaction between excreted and/or secreted (ES) Necator americanus products and NK cells from Necator-infected individuals was analyzed. We investigated the binding of ES products to NK cells, the expression of NK cell receptors (CD56, CD159a/NKG2A, CD314/NKG2D, CD335/NKp46, and KLRF1/NKp80), the frequency of gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-producing NK cells after whole-blood in vitro stimulation, and the capacity of N. americanus ES products to induce NK cell chemotaxis. In contrast to those from noninfected individuals, NK cells from Necator-infected individuals demonstrated no binding with N. americanus ES products. This phenomenon was not due to alterations in NK cell receptor expression in infected subjects and could not be reproduced with NK cells from uninfected individuals by incubation with immunoregulatory cytokines (interleukin-10/transforming growth factor β). Further, we found that a significantly greater percentage of NK cells from infected subjects than NK cells from uninfected individuals spontaneously produced IFN-γ upon ex vivo culture. Our findings support a model whereby NK cells from Necator-infected individuals may interact with ES products, making these cells refractory to binding with exogenous ES products. During N. americanus infection, human NK cells are attracted to the site of infection by chemotactic ES products produced by adult Necator worms in the gut mucosa. Binding of ES products causes the NK cells to become activated and secrete IFN-γ locally, thereby contributing to the adult hookworm's ability to evade host immune responses.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00419-08
PMCID: PMC2583555  PMID: 18838519

Results 1-9 (9)