Visualizing pregnenolone sulfate-like modulators of NMDA receptor function reveals intracellular and plasma-membrane localization

Mariangela Chisari, Timothy J. Wilding, Samuel Brunwasser, Kathiresan Krishnan, Mingxing Qian, Ann Benz, James E. Huettner, Charles F. Zorumski, Douglas F. Covey, Steven Mennerick. Neuropharmacology, Volume 144, January 2019, Pages 91-103 Read More


Positive modulators of NMDA receptors are important candidates for therapeutic development to treat psychiatric disorders including autism and schizophrenia. Sulfated neurosteroids have been studied as positive allosteric modulators of NMDA receptors for years, but we understand little about the cellular fate of these compounds, an important consideration for drug development. Here we focus on a visualizable sulfated neurosteroid analogue, KK-169. As expected of a pregnenolone sulfate analogue, the compound strongly potentiates NMDA receptor function, is an antagonist of GABAA receptors, exhibits occlusion with pregnenolone sulfate potentiation, and requires receptor domains important for pregnenolone sulfate potentiation. KK-169 exhibits somewhat higher potency than the natural parent, pregnenolone sulfate. The analogue contains a side-chain alkyne group, which we exploited for retrospective click labeling of neurons. Although the anionic sulfate group is expected to hinder cell entry, we detected significant accumulation of KK-169 in neurons with even brief incubations. Adding a photolabile diazirine group revealed that the expected plasma membrane localization of KK-169 is likely lost during fixation. Overall, our studies reveal new facets of the structure-activity relationship of neurosteroids at NMDA receptors, and their intracellular distribution suggests that sulfated neurosteroids could have unappreciated targets in addition to plasma membrane receptors. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd

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Posted on November 19, 2018
Posted in: Axon Injury & Repair, HPAN, Neurodegeneration, Publications Authors: ,