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1.  Structure-Guided Design of Selective Epac1 and Epac2 Agonists 
PLoS Biology  2015;13(1):e1002038.
The second messenger cAMP is known to augment glucose-induced insulin secretion. However, its downstream targets in pancreatic β-cells have not been unequivocally determined. Therefore, we designed cAMP analogues by a structure-guided approach that act as Epac2-selective agonists both in vitro and in vivo. These analogues activate Epac2 about two orders of magnitude more potently than cAMP. The high potency arises from increased affinity as well as increased maximal activation. Crystallographic studies demonstrate that this is due to unique interactions. At least one of the Epac2-specific agonists, Sp-8-BnT-cAMPS (S-220), enhances glucose-induced insulin secretion in human pancreatic cells. Selective targeting of Epac2 is thus proven possible and may be an option in diabetes treatment.
Author Summary
cAMP is a small molecule produced by cells that activates proteins involved in a wide range of biological processes, including olfaction, pacemaker activity, regulation of gene expression, insulin secretion, and many others. In the case of insulin secretion, cAMP seems to impinge on different stages of the signalling cascade to regulate secretory activity in pancreatic β-cells. Here we have developed a chemically modified version of cAMP that specifically only activates Epac2, one of the cAMP-responsive proteins in this cascade. Furthermore, our cAMP analogue activates Epac2 more potently than cAMP itself does. We have determined several crystal structures of Epac2 in complex with cAMP analogues to help us explain the molecular basis of the observed selectivity and the strong activation potential. In addition, we were able to show that the analogue is able to potentiate glucose-induced secretion of insulin from human pancreatic islets. The principal challenge during this study was identifying and understanding small differences in the cAMP-binding domains of cAMP-regulated proteins and matching these differences with suitable modifications of the cAMP molecule.
A newly developed analogue of cAMP that selectively activates Epac2 can potentiate glucose-induced insulin secretion from human pancreatic β-cells.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002038
PMCID: PMC4300089  PMID: 25603503
2.  Introduction of Aromatic Ring-Containing Substituents in Cyclic Nucleotides Is Associated with Inhibition of Toxin Uptake by the Hepatocyte Transporters OATP 1B1 and 1B3 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94926.
Analogs of the cyclic nucleotides cAMP and cGMP have been extensively used to mimic or modulate cellular events mediated by protein kinase A (PKA), Exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (Epac), or protein kinase G (PKG). We report here that some of the most commonly used cyclic nucleotide analogs inhibit transmembrane transport mediated by the liver specific organic anion transporter peptides OATP1B1 and OATP1B3, unrelated to actions on Epac, PKA or PKG. Several cAMP analogs, particularly with 8-pCPT-substitution, inhibited nodularin (Nod) induced primary rat hepatocyte apoptosis. Inhibition was not mediated by PKA or Epac, since increased endogenous cAMP, and some strong PKA- or Epac-activating analogs failed to protect cells against Nod induced apoptosis. The cAMP analogs inhibiting Nod induced hepatocyte apoptosis also reduced accumulation of radiolabeled Nod or cholic acid in primary rat hepatocytes. They also inhibited Nod induced apoptosis in HEK293 cells with enforced expression of OATP1B1 or 1B3, responsible for Nod transport into cells. Similar results were found with adenosine analogs, disconnecting the inhibitory effect of certain cAMP analogs from PKA or Epac. The most potent inhibitors were 8-pCPT-6-Phe-cAMP and 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP, whereas analogs like 6-MB-cAMP or 8-Br-cAMP did not inhibit Nod uptake. This suggests that the addition of aromatic ring-containing substituents like the chloro-phenyl-thio group to the purines of cyclic nucleotides increases their ability to inhibit the OATP-mediated transport. Taken together, our data show that aromatic ring substituents can add unwanted effects to cyclic nucleotides, and that such nucleotide analogs must be used with care, particularly when working with cells expressing OATP1B1/1B3, like hepatocytes, or intact animals where hepatic metabolism can be an issue, as well as certain cancer cells. On the other hand, cAMP analogs with substituents like bromo, monobutyryl were non-inhibitory, and could be considered an alternative when working with cells expressing OATP1 family members.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094926
PMCID: PMC3989234  PMID: 24740327
5.  Dissociations in the Effects of β2-Adrenergic Receptor Agonists on cAMP Formation and Superoxide Production in Human Neutrophils: Support for the Concept of Functional Selectivity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64556.
In neutrophils, activation of the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR), a Gs-coupled receptor, inhibits inflammatory responses, which could be therapeutically exploited. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of various β2AR ligands on adenosine-3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) accumulation and N-formyl-L-methionyl-L-leucyl-L-phenylalanine (fMLP)-induced superoxide anion (O2•−) production in human neutrophils and to probe the concept of ligand-specific receptor conformations (also referred to as functional selectivity or biased signaling) in a native cell system. This is an important question because so far, evidence for functional selectivity has been predominantly obtained with recombinant systems, due to the inherent difficulties to genetically manipulate human native cells. cAMP concentration was determined by HPLC/tandem mass spectrometry, and O2•− formation was assessed by superoxide dismutase-inhibitable reduction of ferricytochrome c. β2AR agonists were generally more potent in inhibiting fMLP-induced O2•− production than in stimulating cAMP accumulation. (−)-Ephedrine and dichloroisoproterenol were devoid of any agonistic activity in the cAMP assay, but partially inhibited fMLP-induced O2•− production. Moreover, (−)-adrenaline was equi-efficacious in both assays whereas the efficacy of salbutamol was more than two-fold higher in the O2•− assay. Functional selectivity was visualized by deviations of ligand potencies and efficacies from linear correlations for various parameters. We obtained no evidence for involvement of protein kinase A in the inhibition of fMLP-induced O2•− production after β2AR-stimulation although cAMP-increasing substances inhibited O2•− production. Taken together, our data corroborate the concept of ligand-specific receptor conformations with unique signaling capabilities in native human cells and suggest that the β2AR inhibits O2•− production in a cAMP-independent manner.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064556
PMCID: PMC3669315  PMID: 23741338
6.  Analysis of Substrate Specificity and Kinetics of Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases with N’-Methylanthraniloyl-Substituted Purine and Pyrimidine 3′,5′-Cyclic Nucleotides by Fluorescence Spectrometry 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54158.
As second messengers, the cyclic purine nucleotides adenosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) and guanosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cGMP) play an essential role in intracellular signaling. Recent data suggest that the cyclic pyrimidine nucleotides cytidine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cCMP) and uridine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cUMP) also act as second messengers. Hydrolysis by phosphodiesterases (PDEs) is the most important degradation mechanism for cAMP and cGMP. Elimination of cUMP and cCMP is not completely understood, though. We have shown that human PDEs hydrolyze not only cAMP and cGMP but also cyclic pyrimidine nucleotides, indicating that these enzymes may be important for termination of cCMP- and cUMP effects as well. However, these findings were acquired using a rather expensive HPLC/mass spectrometry assay, the technical requirements of which are available only to few laboratories. N’-Methylanthraniloyl-(MANT-)labeled nucleotides are endogenously fluorescent and suitable tools to study diverse protein/nucleotide interactions. In the present study, we report the synthesis of new MANT-substituted cyclic purine- and pyrimidine nucleotides that are appropriate to analyze substrate specificity and kinetics of PDEs with more moderate technical requirements. MANT-labeled nucleoside 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphates (MANT-cNMPs) are shown to be substrates of various human PDEs and to undergo a significant change in fluorescence upon cleavage, thus allowing direct, quantitative and continuous determination of hydrolysis via fluorescence detection. As substrates of several PDEs, MANT-cNMPs show similar kinetics to native nucleotides, with some exceptions. Finally, they are shown to be also appropriate tools for PDE inhibitor studies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054158
PMCID: PMC3544816  PMID: 23342095
7.  Epac-selective cAMP Analog 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP as a Stimulus for Ca2+-induced Ca2+ Release and Exocytosis in Pancreatic β-Cells* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2002;278(10):8279-8285.
The second messenger cAMP exerts powerful stimulatory effects on Ca2+ signaling and insulin secretion in pancreatic β-cells. Previous studies of β-cells focused on protein kinase A (PKA) as a downstream effector of cAMP action. However, it is now apparent that cAMP also exerts its effects by binding to cAMP-regulated guanine nucleotide exchange factors (Epac). Although one effector of Epac is the Ras-related G protein Rap1, it is not fully understood what the functional consequences of Epac-mediated signal transduction are at the cellular level. 8-(4-chloro-phenylthio)-2′-O-methyladenosine-3′-5′-cyclic monophosphate (8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP) is a newly described cAMP analog, and it activates Epac but not PKA. Here we demonstrate that 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP acts in human pancreatic β-cells and INS-1 insulin-secreting cells to mobilize Ca2+ from intracellular Ca2+ stores via Epac-mediated Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release (CICR). The cAMP-dependent increase of [Ca2+]i that accompanies CICR is shown to be coupled to exocytosis. We propose that the interaction of cAMP and Epac to trigger CICR explains, at least in part, the blood glucose-lowering properties of an insulinotropic hormone (glucagon-like peptide-1, also known as GLP-1) now under investigation for use in the treatment of type-2 diabetes mellitus.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M211682200
PMCID: PMC3516291  PMID: 12496249
8.  Molecular Physiology of Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Insulin Secretagogue Action in Pancreatic β Cells 
Insulin secretion from pancreatic β cells is stimulated by glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a blood glucose-lowering hormone that is released from enteroendocrine L cells of the distal intestine after the ingestion of a meal. GLP-1 mimetics (e.g., Byetta) and GLP-1 analogs (e.g., Victoza) activate the β cell GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R), and these compounds stimulate insulin secretion while also lowering levels of blood glucose in patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). An additional therapeutic option for the treatment of T2DM involves the administration of dipeptidyl peptidase-IV (DPP-IV) inhibitors (e.g., Januvia, Galvus). These compounds slow metabolic degradation of intestinally released GLP-1, thereby raising post-prandial levels of circulating GLP-1 substantially. Investigational compounds that stimulate GLP-1 secretion also exist, and in this regard a noteworthy advance is the demonstration that small molecule GPR119 agonists (e.g., AR231453) stimulate L cell GLP-1 secretion while also directly stimulating β cell insulin release. In this review, we summarize what is currently known concerning the signal transduction properties of the β cell GLP-1R as they relate to insulin secretion. Emphasized are the cyclic AMP, protein kinase A, and Epac2 mediated actions of GLP-1 to regulate ATP-sensitive K+ channels, voltage-dependent K+ channels, TRPM2 cation channels, intracellular Ca2+ release channels, and Ca2+-dependent exocytosis. We also discuss new evidence that provides a conceptual framework with which to understand why GLP-1R agonists are less likely to induce hypoglycemia when they are administered for the treatment of T2DM.
doi:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2011.07.005
PMCID: PMC3200499  PMID: 21782840
GLP-1; glucose; insulin; exocytosis
9.  Binding of Regulatory Subunits of Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinase to Cyclic CMP Agarose 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39848.
The bacterial adenylyl cyclase toxins CyaA from Bordetella pertussis and edema factor from Bacillus anthracis as well as soluble guanylyl cyclase α1β1 synthesize the cyclic pyrimidine nucleotide cCMP. These data raise the question to which effector proteins cCMP binds. Recently, we reported that cCMP activates the regulatory subunits RIα and RIIα of cAMP-dependent protein kinase. In this study, we used two cCMP agarose matrices as novel tools in combination with immunoblotting and mass spectrometry to identify cCMP-binding proteins. In agreement with our functional data, RIα and RIIα were identified as cCMP-binding proteins. These data corroborate the notion that cAMP-dependent protein kinase may serve as a cCMP target.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039848
PMCID: PMC3392273  PMID: 22808067
13.  Quantification of cAMP and cGMP analogs in intact cells: pitfalls in enzyme immunoassays for cyclic nucleotides 
Immunoassays are routinely used as research tools to measure intracellular cAMP and cGMP concentrations. Ideally, this application requires antibodies with high sensitivity and specificity. The present work evaluates the cross-reactivity of commercially available cyclic nucleotide analogs with two non-radioactive and one radioactive cAMP and cGMP immunoassay. Most of the tested cyclic nucleotide analogs showed low degree competition with the antibodies; however, with Rp-cAMPS, 8-Br-cGMP and 8-pCPT-cGMP, a strong cross-reactivity with the corresponding cAMP and cGMP, respectively, immunoassays was observed. The determined EIA-binding constants enabled the measurement of the intracellular cyclic nucleotide concentrations and revealed a time- and lipophilicity-dependent cell membrane permeability of the compounds in the range of 10–30% of the extracellular applied concentration, thus allowing a more accurate prediction of the intracellular analog levels in a given experiment.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00210-011-0662-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00210-011-0662-6
PMCID: PMC3145891  PMID: 21713381
Cyclic nucleotides; Enzyme immunoassay; Lipophilicity; Cell permeability
14.  Phospholipase C-ε links Epac2 activation to the potentiation of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from mouse islets of Langerhans 
Islets  2011;3(3):121-128.
Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) from pancreatic β-cells is potentiated by cAMP-elevating agents, such as the incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and cAMP exerts its insulin secretagogue action by activating both protein kinase A (PKA) and the cAMP-regulated guanine nucleotide exchange factor designated as Epac2. Although prior studies of mouse islets demonstrated that Epac2 acts via Rap1 GTPase to potentiate GSIS, it is not understood which downstream targets of Rap1 promote the exocytosis of insulin. Here, we measured insulin secretion stimulated by a cAMP analog that is a selective activator of Epac proteins in order to demonstrate that a Rap1-regulated phospholipase C-epsilon (PLC-ε) links Epac2 activation to the potentiation of GSIS. Our analysis demonstrates that the Epac activator 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP-AM potentiates GSIS from the islets of wild-type (WT) mice, whereas it has a greatly reduced insulin secretagogue action in the islets of Epac2 (−/−) and PLC-ε (−/−) knockout (KO) mice. Importantly, the insulin secretagogue action of 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP-AM in WT mouse islets cannot be explained by an unexpected action of this cAMP analog to activate PKA, as verified through the use of a FRET-based A-kinase activity reporter (AKAR3) that reports PKA activation. Since the KO of PLC-ε disrupts the ability of 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP-AM to potentiate GSIS, while also disrupting its ability to stimulate an increase of β-cell [Ca2+]i, the available evidence indicates that it is a Rap1-regulated PLC-ε that links Epac2 activation to Ca2+-dependent exocytosis of insulin.
doi:10.4161/isl.3.3.15507
PMCID: PMC3116928  PMID: 21478675
PLC-ε; Epac2; Rap1; calcium; insulin secretion; islet
15.  Facilitation of β-cell KATP channel sulfonylurea sensitivity by a cAMP analog selective for the cAMP-regulated guanine nucleotide exchange factor Epac 
Islets  2010;2(2):72-81.
Clinical studies demonstrate that combined administration of sulfonylureas with exenatide can induce hypoglycemia in type 2 diabetic subjects. Whereas sulfonylureas inhibit β-cell KATP channels by binding to the sulfonylurea receptor-1 (SUR1), exenatide binds to the GLP-1 receptor, stimulates β-cell cAMP production, and activates both PKA and Epac. In this study, we hypothesized that the adverse in vivo interaction of sulfonylureas and exenatide to produce hypoglycemia might be explained by Epac-mediated facilitation of KATP channel sulfonylurea sensitivity. We now report that the inhibitory action of a sulfonylurea (tolbutamide) at KATP channels was facilitated by 2’-O-Me-cAMP, a selective activator of Epac. Thus, under conditions of excised patch recording, the dose-response relationship describing the inhibitory action of tolbutamide at human β-cell or rat INS-1 cell KATP channels was left-shifted in the presence of 2’-O-Me-cAMP, and this effect was abolished in INS-1 cells expressing a dominant-negative Epac2. Using an acetoxymethyl ester prodrug of an Epac-selective cAMP analog (8-pcPT-2’-O-Me-cAMP-AM), the synergistic interaction of an Epac activator and tolbutamide to depolarize INS-1 cells and to raise [Ca2+]i was also measured. This effect of 8-pCPT-2’-O-Me-cAMP-AM correlated with its ability to stimulate phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate hydrolysis that might contribute to the changes in KATP channel sulfonylurea-sensitivity reported here. On the basis of such findings, we propose that the adverse interaction of sulfonylureas and exenatide to induce hypoglycemia involves at least in part, a functional interaction of these two compounds to close KATP channels, to depolarize β-cells, and to promote insulin secretion.
PMCID: PMC2860288  PMID: 20428467
K-ATP channel; Epac; cAMP; sulfonylurea; GLP-1; drug interaction
16.  Glucose-dependent potentiation of mouse islet insulin secretion by Epac activator 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP-AM 
Islets  2009;1(3):260-265.
PMCID: PMC2859731  PMID: 21099281
cAMP; Epac2; protein kinase A; insulin secretion; islet of Langerhans
17.  Chemical tools selectively target components of the PKA system 
Background
In the eukaryotic cell the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) is a key enzyme in signal transduction and represents the main target of the second messenger cAMP. Here we describe the design, synthesis and characterisation of specifically tailored cAMP analogs which can be utilised as a tool for affinity enrichment and purification as well as for proteomics based analyses of cAMP binding proteins.
Results
Two sets of chemical binders were developed based on the phosphorothioate derivatives of cAMP, Sp-cAMPS and Rp-cAMPS acting as cAMP-agonists and -antagonists, respectively. These compounds were tested via direct surface plasmon resonance (SPR) analyses for their binding properties to PKA R-subunits and holoenzyme. Furthermore, these analogs were used in an affinity purification approach to analyse their binding and elution properties for the enrichment and improvement of cAMP binding proteins exemplified by the PKA R-subunits. As determined by SPR, all tested Sp-analogs provide valuable tools for affinity chromatography. However, Sp-8-AEA-cAMPS displayed (i) superior enrichment properties while maintaining low unspecific binding to other proteins in crude cell lysates, (ii) allowing mild elution conditions and (iii) providing the capability to efficiently purify all four isoforms of active PKA R-subunit in milligram quantities within 8 h. In a chemical proteomics approach both sets of binders, Rp- and Sp-cAMPS derivatives, can be employed. Whereas Sp-8-AEA-cAMPS preferentially binds free R-subunit, Rp-AHDAA-cAMPS, displaying antagonist properties, not only binds to the free PKA R-subunits but also to the intact PKA holoenzyme both from recombinant and endogenous sources.
Conclusion
In summary, all tested cAMP analogs were useful for their respective application as an affinity reagent which can enhance purification of cAMP binding proteins. Sp-8-AEA-cAMPS was considered the most efficient analog since Sp-8-AHA-cAMPS and Sp-2-AHA-cAMPS, demonstrated incomplete elution from the matrix, as well as retaining notable amounts of bound protein contaminants. Furthermore it could be demonstrated that an affinity resin based on Rp-8-AHDAA-cAMPS provides a valuable tool for chemical proteomics approaches.
doi:10.1186/1472-6769-9-3
PMCID: PMC2660902  PMID: 19216744
18.  Epac-Selective cAMP Analogs: New Tools With Which To Evaluate The Signal Transduction Properties Of cAMP-Regulated Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors 
Cellular signalling  2007;20(1):10-20.
The identification of 2′-O-methyl substituted adenosine-3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) analogs that activate the Epac family of cAMP-regulated guanine nucleotide exchange factors (cAMP-GEFs, also known as Epac1 and Epac2), has ushered in a new era of cyclic nucleotide research in which previously unrecognized signalling properties of the second messenger cAMP have been revealed. These Epac-Selective Cyclic AMP Analogs (ESCAs) incorporate a 2′-O-methyl substitution on the ribose ring of cAMP, a modification that impairs their ability to activate protein kinase A (PKA), while leaving intact their ability to activate Epac (the Exchange Protein directly Activated by Cyclic AMP). One such ESCA in wide-spread use is 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP. It is a cell-permeant derivative of 2′-O-Me-cAMP, and it is a super activator of Epac. A wealth of newly published studies demonstrate that 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP is a unique tool with which to asses atypical actions of cAMP that are PKA-independent. Particularly intriguing are recent reports demonstrating that ESCAs reproduce the PKA-independent actions of ligands known to stimulate Class I (Family A) and Class II (Family B) GTP-binding protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). This topical review summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding the molecular pharmacology and signal transduction properties of Epac-selective cAMP analogs. Special attention is focused on the rational drug design of ESCAs in order to improve their Epac selectivity, membrane permeability, and stability. Also emphasized is the usefulness of ESCAs as new tools with which to assess the role of Epac as a determinant of intracellular Ca2+ signalling, ion channel function, neurotransmitter release, and hormone secretion.
doi:10.1016/j.cellsig.2007.07.009
PMCID: PMC2215344  PMID: 17716863
cAMP; Epac; PKA; rational drug design
19.  Cyclic AMP induces integrin-mediated cell adhesion through Epac and Rap1 upon stimulation of the β2-adrenergic receptor 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2003;160(4):487-493.
cAMP controls many cellular processes mainly through the activation of protein kinase A (PKA). However, more recently PKA-independent pathways have been established through the exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (Epac), a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for the small GTPases Rap1 and Rap2. In this report, we show that cAMP can induce integrin-mediated cell adhesion through Epac and Rap1. Indeed, when Ovcar3 cells were treated with cAMP, cells adhered more rapidly to fibronectin. This cAMP effect was insensitive to the PKA inhibitor H-89. A similar increase was observed when the cells were transfected with Epac. Both the cAMP effect and the Epac effect on cell adhesion were abolished by the expression of Rap1–GTPase-activating protein, indicating the involvement of Rap1 in the signaling pathway. Importantly, a recently characterized cAMP analogue, 8-(4-chloro-phenylthio)-2′-O-methyladenosine-3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate, which specifically activates Epac but not PKA, induced Rap-dependent cell adhesion. Finally, we demonstrate that external stimuli of cAMP signaling, i.e., isoproterenol, which activates the Gαs-coupled β2-adrenergic receptor can induce integrin-mediated cell adhesion through the Epac-Rap1 pathway. From these results we conclude that cAMP mediates receptor-induced integrin-mediated cell adhesion to fibronectin through the Epac-Rap1 signaling pathway.
doi:10.1083/jcb.200209105
PMCID: PMC2173739  PMID: 12578910
integrins; cyclic nucleotides; GTPases; guanine nucleotide exchange factor; cell adhesion

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