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1.  Human Nasal Olfactory Epithelium as a Dynamic Marker for CNS Therapy Development 
Experimental neurology  2011;232(2):203-211.
Discovery of new central nervous system (CNS) acting therapeutics has been slowed down by the lack of useful applicable biomarkers of disease or drug action often due to inaccessibility of relevant human CNS tissue and cell types. In recent years, non-neuronal cells, such as astrocytes, have been reported to play a highly significant role in neurodegenerative diseases, CNS trauma, as well as psychiatric disease and have become a target for small molecule and biologic therapies. We report the development of a method for measuring pharmacodynamic changes induced by potential CNS therapeutics using nasal olfactory neural tissue biopsy. We validated this approach using a potential astrocyte-targeted therapeutic, thiamphenicol, in a pre-clinical rodent study as well as a phase 1 human trial. In both settings, analysis of the olfactory epithelial tissue revealed biological activity of thiamphenicol at the drug target, the excitatory amino acid transporter 2 (EAAT2). Therefore, this biomarker approach may provide a reliable evaluation of CNS glial-directed therapies and hopefully improve throughput for nervous system drug discovery.
doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2011.09.002
PMCID: PMC3220936  PMID: 21945230
Nasal biopsy; olfactory epithelial tissue; glutamate transporter; ALS; astroglia; astrocyte; surrogate marker
2.  Harmine, A Natural Beta-Carboline Alkaloid, Upregulates Astroglial Glutamate Transporter Expression 
Neuropharmacology  2010;60(7-8):1168-1175.
Glutamate is the predominant excitatory amino acid neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS). Glutamate transporter EAAT2 /GLT-1 is the physiologically dominant astroglial protein that inactivates synaptic glutamate. Previous studies have shown that EAAT2 dysfunction leads to excessive extracellular glutamate and may contribute to various neurological disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The recent discovery of the neuroprotective properties of ceftriaxone, a beta lactam antibiotic, suggested that increasing EAAT2 /GLT-1 gene expression might be beneficial in ALS and other neurological/psychiatric disorders by augmenting astrocytic glutamate uptake. Here we report our efforts to develop a new screening assay for identifying compounds that activate EAAT2 gene expression. We generated fetal derived-human immortalized astroglial cells that are stably expressing a firefly luciferase reporter under the control of the human EAAT2 promoter. When screening a library of 1040 FDA approved compounds and natural products, we identified harmine, a naturally occurring beta-carboline alkaloid, as one of the top hits for activating the EAAT2 promoter. We further tested harmine in our in vitro cell culture systems and confirmed its ability to increase EAAT2/GLT1 gene expression and functional glutamate uptake activity. We next tested its efficacy in both wild type animals and in an ALS animal model of disease and demonstrated that harmine effectively increased GLT-1 protein and glutamate transporter activity in vivo. Our studies provide potential novel neurotherapeutics by modulating the activity of glutamate transporters via gene activation.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2010.10.016
PMCID: PMC3220934  PMID: 21034752
harmine; GLT-1; EAAT2; glutamate transporter; astroglia; ALS

Results 1-2 (2)