Neurodegenerative diseases

Identification of 8-Hydroxyquinoline Derivatives That Decrease Cystathionine Beta Synthase (CBS) Activity

Int. J. Mol. Sci. (2022), 23, 6769. DOI : 10.3390/ijms23126769

CBS encodes a pyridoxal 5′-phosphate-dependent enzyme that catalyses the condensation of homocysteine and serine to form cystathionine. Due to its implication in some cancers and in the cognitive pathophysiology of Down syndrome, the identification of pharmacological inhibitors of this enzyme is urgently required. However, thus far, attempts to identify such molecules have only led to the identification of compounds with low potency and limited selectivity. We consequently developed an original, yeast-based screening method that identified three FDA-approved drugs of the 8-hydroxyquinoline family: clioquinol, chloroxine and nitroxoline. These molecules reduce CBS enzymatic activity in different cellular models, proving that the molecular mechanisms involved in yeast phenotypic rescue are conserved in mammalian cells. A combination of genetic and chemical biology approaches also revealed the importance of copper and zinc intracellular levels in the regulation of CBS enzymatic activity—copper promoting CBS activity and zinc inhibiting its activity. Taken together, these results indicate that our effective screening approach identified three new potent CBS inhibitors and provides new findings for the regulation of CBS activity, which is crucial to develop new therapies for CBS-related human disorders.

Indole-3-guanylhydrazone hydrochloride mitigates long-term cognitive impairment in a neonatal sepsis model with involvement of MAPK and NFκB pathways

Neurochem. Internat. (2020) 134, 104646 (DOI : 10.1016/j.neuint.2019.104647)

Neonatal sepsis is defined as a systemic inflammatory response caused by a suspected or proven infection, occurring in the first month of life, and remains one of the main causes of morbidity and mortality in newborn and preterm infants. Frequently, survivors of neonatal sepsis have serious long-term cognitive impairment and adverse neurologic outcomes. There is currently no specific drug treatment for sepsis. Indole-3-guanylhydrazone hydrochloride (LQM01) is an aminoguanidine derivative that has been described as an anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive and antioxidant with potential applicability in inflammatory diseases. We used a LPS-challenged neonatal sepsis rodent model to investigate the effect of LQM01 on cognitive impairment and anxiety-like behavior in sepsis mice survivors, and examined the possible molecular mechanisms involved. It was found that LQM01 exposure during the neonatal period reduces anxiety-like behavior and cognitive impairment caused by lipopolysaccharides (LPS) in adult life. Additionally, treatment with LQM01 decreased pro-inflammatory cytokine levels and reduced NFκB, COX-2, MAPK and microglia activation in hippocampus of neonatal mice. Furthermore, LQM01 was also able to prevent oxidative damage in hippocampus of neonatal mice and preserve brain barrier integrity. LQM01 attenuated inflammatory reactions in an LPS-challenged neonatal sepsis mice model through the MAPK and NFκB signaling pathways and microglia activation suppression. All these findings are associated with mitigated cognitive impairment in 70 days-old LQM01 treated-mice. We revealed the effect of LQM01 as an anti-septic agent, and the role of crucial molecular pathways in mitigating the potential damage caused by neonatal sepsis.

Mitochondria modulatory effects of new TSPO ligands in a cellular model of tauopathies

Journal of Neuroendocrinology (2019) DOI: 10.1111/jne.12796

Translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO) is a mitochondrial protein located in the outer membrane and involved in cholesterol translocation, a prerequisite for steroid biosynthesis. TSPO modulation also appears to play a role in other mitochondrial functions, including mitochondrial respiration and cell survival. In the central nervous system, its expression is up-regulated in neuropathology such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Previously, we demonstrated that two new TSPO ligands, named 2a and 2b, stimulated pregnenolone synthesis and ATP production in a cellular model of AD overproducing β-amyloid peptide. The present study aimed to evaluate the impact of the new TSPO ligands on mitochondrial dysfunction in a cellular model of AD-related tauopathy (human neuroblastoma cells SH-SY5Y stably overexpressing the P301L-mutant Tau) presenting mitochondrial impairments, including a decreased ATP synthesis and mitochondrial membrane potential, as well as a decrease in pregnenolone synthesis compared to control cells. The effects of our new ligands were compared with those of TSPO ligands described in the literature (XBD173, SSR-180,575 and Ro5-4864). The TSPO ligands 2a and 2b exerted beneficial mitochondrial modulatory effects by increasing ATP levels and mitochondrial membrane potential, paralleled by an increase of pregnenolone levels in mutant Tau cells, as well as in control cells. The compounds 2a and 2b showed effects on mitochondrial activity similar to those obtained with the TSPO ligands of reference. These findings indicate that the new TSPO ligands modulate the mitochondrial bioenergetic phenotype as well as the de novo synthesis of neurosteroids in a cellular model of AD-related tauopathy, suggesting that these compounds could be potential new therapeutic tools for the treatment of AD.

TSPO Ligands Boost Mitochondrial Function and Pregnenolone Synthesis

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (2019) DOI: 10.3233/JAD-190127

Translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO) is located in the mitochondrial outer membrane and plays an important role in steroidogenesis and cell survival. In the central nervous system (CNS), its expression is upregulated in neuropathologies such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Previously, we demonstrated that two new TSPO ligands based on an imidazoquinazolinone termed 2a and 2b, stimulated pregnenolone synthesis and ATP production in vitro. In the present study, we compared their effects to those of TSPO ligands described in the literature (XBD173, SSR-180,575, and Ro5-4864) by profiling the mitochondrial bioenergetic phenotype before and after treatment and investigating the protective effects of these ligands after oxidative injury in a cellular model of AD overexpressing amyloid-β (Aβ). Of note, ATP levels increased with rising pregnenolone levels suggesting that the energetic performance of mitochondria is linked to an increased production of this neurosteroid via TSPO modulation. Our results further demonstrate that the TSPO ligands 2a and 2b exerted neuroprotective effects by improving mitochondrial respiration, reducing reactive oxygen species and thereby decreasing oxidative stress-induced cell death as well as lowering Aβ levels. The compounds 2a and 2b show similar or even better functional effects than those obtained with the reference TSPO ligands XBD173 and SSR-180.575. These findings indicate that the new TSPO ligands modulate mitochondrial bioenergetic phenotype and protect against oxidative injury probably through the de novo synthesis of neurosteroids, suggesting that these compounds could be potential new therapeutic tools for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.

Discovery of Imidazoquinazolinone Derivatives as TSPO Ligands Modulating Neurosteroidogenesis and Cellular Bioenergetics in Neuroblastoma Cells Expressing Amyloid Precursor Protein

ChemistrySelect, 2017, 2, 22, 6452-6457

Starting from the central benzodiazepine receptor (CBR) ligand CGS‐13767, we designed a series of imidazoquinazolinone derivatives acting as 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO) ligands, and deprived of affinity for CBR. These compounds, as well as ligands of reference (Ro5‐4864, XBD173, SSR180575), were assessed for their ability to restore neurosteroidogenesis and energy production in SH‐SY5Y neuroblastoma cell lines expressing amyloid protein precursor (APP). Our results show the potential neuroprotective effect of TSPO ligands, but highlight a strong discrepancy in the active concentrations, nanomolar for ATP production while pregnenolone production is restored in the micromolar range.

The translocator protein ligand XBD173 improves clinical symptoms and neuropathological markers in the SJL/J mouse model of multiple sclerosis

Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) Molecular Basis of Disease, 2017, 1863, 12, 3016-3027

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a severe autoimmune disease characterized by inflammatory, demyelinating and neurodegenerative components causing motor, sensory, visual and/or cognitive symptoms. The relapsing-remitting MS affecting 85% of patients is reliably mimicked by the proteolipid-protein (PLP)-induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) SJL/J-mouse model. Significant progress was made for MS treatment but the development of effective therapies devoid of severe side-effects remains a great challenge. Here, we combine clinical, behavioral, histopathological, biochemical and molecular approaches to demonstrate that low and well tolerated doses (10–20 mg/kg) of TSPO ligand XBD173 (Emapunil) efficiently ameliorate clinical signs and neuropathology of PLP-EAE mice. In addition to the conventional clinical scoring of symptoms, we applied the robust behavioral Catwalk-method to confirm that XBD173 (10 mg/kg) increases the maximum contact area parameter at EAE-disease peak, indicating an improvement/recovery of motor functions. Consistently, histopathological studies coupled with microscope-cellSens quantification and RT-qPCR analyzes showed that XBD173 prevented demyelination by restoring normal protein and mRNA levels of myelin basic protein that was significantly repressed in PLP-EAE mice spinal cord and brain. Interestingly, ELISA-based measurement revealed that XBD173 increased allopregnanolone concentrations in PLP-EAE mice spinal and brain tissues. Furthermore, flow cytometry assessment demonstrated that XBD173 therapy decreased serum level of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including interleukin-17AInterleukin-6 and tumor-necrosis-factor alpha in PLP-EAE mice. As the optimal XBD173 dosing exerting the maximal beneficial action in EAE mice is the lower 10 mg/kg dose, the paper opens interesting perspectives for the development of efficient and safe therapies against MS with slight or no side-effects.

Structure-Activity Relationship Study around Guanabenz Identifies Two Derivatives Retaining Antiprion Activity but Having Lost alpha 2-Adrenergic Receptor Agonistic Activity

ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 2014, 5(10), 1075-1082

Guanabenz (GA) is an orally active α2-adrenergic agonist that has been used for many years for the treatment of hypertension. We recently described that GA is also active against both yeast and mammalian prions in an α2-adrenergic receptor-independent manner. These data suggest that this side-activity of GA could be explored for the treatment of prion-based diseases and other amyloid-based disorders. In this perspective, the potent antihypertensive activity of GA happens to be an annoying side-effect that could limit its use. In order to get rid of GA agonist activity at α2-adrenergic receptors, we performed a structure–activity relationship study around GA based on changes of the chlorine positions on the benzene moiety and then on the modifications of the guanidine group. Hence, we identified the two derivatives 6 and 7 that still possess a potent antiprion activity but were totally devoid of any agonist activity at α2-adrenergic receptors. Similarly to GA, 6 and 7 were also able to inhibit the protein folding activity of the ribosome (PFAR) which has been suggested to be involved in prion appearance/maintenance. Therefore, these two GA derivatives are worth being considered as drug candidates.

 Graphical abstract

The neuroprotector kynurenic acid increases neuronal cell survival through neprilysin induction

Neuropharmacology, 2013, 70, 254-260

Kynurenic acid (KYNA), one of the main product of the kynurenine pathway originating from tryptophan, is considered to be neuroprotective. Dysregulation of KYNA activity is thought to be involved in neurodegenerative diseases, the physiopathology of which evokes excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and/or protein aggregation. The neuroprotective effect of KYNA is generally attributed to its antagonistic action on NMDA receptors. However, this single target action appears insufficient to support KYNA beneficial effects against complex neurodegenerative processes including neuroinflammation, β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) toxicity and apoptosis. Novel insights are therefore required to elucidate KYNA neuroprotective mechanisms. Here, we combined cellular, biochemical, molecular and pharmacological approaches to demonstrate that low micromolar concentrations of KYNA strongly induce neprilysin (NEP) gene expression, protein level and enzymatic activity increase in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. Furthermore, our studies revealed that KYNA exerts a protective effect on SH-SY5Y cells by increasing their viability through a mechanism independent from NMDA receptors. Interestingly, KYNA also induced NEP activity and neuroprotection in mouse cortical neuron cultures the viability of which was more promoted than SH-SY5Y cell survival under KYNA treatment. KYNA-evoked neuroprotection disappeared in the presence of thiorphan, an inhibitor of NEP activity. NEP is a well characterized metallopeptidase whose deregulation leads to cerebral Aβ accumulation and neuronal death in Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, our results suggest that a part of the neuroprotective role of KYNA may depend on its ability to induce the expression and/or activity of the amyloid-degrading enzyme NEP in nerve cells.