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Inflammatory pain, adenylyl cyclase, cAMP signaling, high throughput screen (HTS), Ca2+, calmodulin (CAM), drug discovery


Genetic and preclinical studies have implicated adenylyl cyclase 1 (AC1) as a potential target for the treatment of chronic inflammatory pain. AC1 activity is increased following inflammatory pain stimuli and AC1 knockout mice show a marked reduction in responses to inflammatory pain. Previous drug discovery efforts have centered around the inhibition of AC1 activity in cell-based assays. In the present study, we used an in vitro approach focused on inhibition of the protein-protein interaction (PPI) between Ca2+/calmodulin (CaM) and AC1, an interaction that is required for activation of AC1. We developed a novel fluorescence polarization (FP) assay focused on the PPI between an AC1 peptide and CaM and used this assay to screen over 23,000 compounds for inhibitors of the AC1-CaM PPI. Next, we used a cellular NanoBiT assay to validate 21 FP hits for inhibition of the AC1-CaM PPI in a cellular context with full-length proteins. Based on efficacy, potency, and selectivity for AC1, hits 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, and 21 were prioritized. We then tested these compounds for inhibition of AC1 activity in cyclic AMP (cAMP) accumulation assays, using HEK293 cells stably expressing AC1. Hit 15 contained a dithiophene scaffold and was of particular interest because it shared structural similarities with our recently reported benzamide series of AC1 inhibitors. We next tested a small set of 13 compounds containing the dithiophene scaffold for structure-activity relationship studies. Although many compounds were non-selective, we observed trends for tuning AC1/AC8 selectivity based on heterocycle type and substituents. Having an ethyl on the central thiophene caused the scaffold to be more selective for AC8. Cyclization of the alkyl substituent fused to the thiophene significantly reduced activity and also shifted selectivity toward AC8. Notably, combining the fused cyclohexane-thiophene ring system with a morpholine heterocycle significantly increased potency at both AC1 and AC8. Through designing a novel FP screen and NanoBiT assay, and evaluating hits in cAMP accumulation assays, we have discovered a novel, potent, dithiophene scaffold for inhibition of the AC1- and AC8-CaM PPI. We also report the most potent fully efficacious inhibitor of AC8 activity known to-date.


This is the publisher's version of Dwyer TS, O’Brien JB, Ptak CP, LaVigne JE, Flaherty DP, Watts VJ and Roman DL (2022) Protein-protein interaction-based high throughput screening for adenylyl cyclase 1 inhibitors: Design, implementation, and discovery of a novel chemotype. Front. Pharmacol. 13:977742. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.977742

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