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Multiplex quantitative assays indicate a need for reevaluating reported small-molecule TrkB agonists

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Science Signaling  22 Aug 2017:
Vol. 10, Issue 493, eaal1670
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aal1670
  • Fig. 1 TrkB signaling and reported small-molecule agonists.

    (A) TrkB contains several domains, including a ligand-binding site in the extracellular portion, a single-transmembrane α helix, a juxtamembrane region, and an intracellular tyrosine kinase domain. Homodimers of BDNF, NT3, or NT4 induce TrkB dimerization and kinase activation through a series of autophosphorylation events at Tyr515, Tyr705–706, and Tyr816 (64). (B and C) SHC1 and other signaling and adaptor proteins are recruited to TrkB that is phosphorylated at Tyr515 (pTyr515) and trigger signaling through the RAS-ERK (RAS–extracellular signal–regulated kinase) (B) and PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase)–AKT (C) cascades. (D) Phosphorylation of TrkB at Tyr816 elicits activation of PLCγ (phospholipase C–γ), which triggers PKC (protein kinase C)–Ca2+ signaling. These pathways collectively account for anti-apoptotic signaling, local protein synthesis, and gene regulation that ultimately lead to increased neurogenesis, neuronal growth and differentiation, synaptogenesis, synaptic plasticity, and other physiological effects of BDNF and other neurotrophic factors. (E) It has been reported that Zn2+ transactivates TrkB through an indirect mechanism (40) in which Zn2+ ions inhibit the kinase CSK (C-terminal SRC kinase), thus preventing it from inhibiting the kinase SRC. Disinhibited SRC then phosphorylates TrkB at Tyr706–707, which in turn activates the TrkB kinase domain, leading to phosphorylation of other tyrosine residues required for signaling through the ERK and AKT pathways. SRC and TrkB also mutually activate each other (42). (F) K252a is a compound that inhibits TrkB by binding to the tyrosine kinase domain (41). (G) Several small molecules have been reported to activate TrkB by acting as agonists.

  • Fig. 2 Sandwich ELISA reliably measures the amount of TrkB phosphorylation in primary cortical neuron cultures.

    (A) Quantification of TrkB phosphorylation induced by BDNF, NT4, NT3, and NGF by sandwich ELISA. (B) Quantification of TrkB phosphorylation induced by ZPT (zinc pyrithione) by sandwich ELISA. (C) Effect of K252a on dose-dependent inhibition of BDNF-induced and ZPT-induced TrkB phosphorylation. (D) Quantification of TrkB phosphorylation in the presence of reported small-molecule TrkB agonists. The reported agonists were tested at the concentrations reported to elicit the greatest response. Data are normalized to BDNF maximal response and represent means ± SD of three independent experiments. Two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used, followed by Dunnett’s t test [compared to dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)]: *P < 0.05, ****P < 0.0001.

  • Fig. 3 ELFI reliably and quantitatively indicates the amount of ERK and AKT phosphorylation in primary cortical neuron cultures.

    (A) Quantification of AKT phosphorylation in response to treatment with BDNF, NT4, NT3, and NGF. (B) Quantification of ERK1/2 phosphorylation in response to treatment with BDNF, NT4, NT3, and NGF. (C) Phosphorylation of AKT, ERK1/2, and TrkB in response to BDNF treatment. (D) Phosphorylation of AKT and ERK1/2 in response to treatment with BDNF and ZPT. (E) Phosphorylation of AKT and ERK1/2 in response to reported small-molecule agonists of TrkB used at the indicated concentrations over a time course. Data are normalized to BDNF maximal response and represent means ± SD of three independent experiments. Two-way ANOVA was used, followed by Dunnett’s t test (compared to DMSO): *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01, ***P < 0.001, ****P < 0.0001.

  • Fig. 4 Schematic representation of TrkB-dependent signal generation in engineered cells.

    (A) The DiscoverX PathHunter assay is based on U2OS cells transfected with the TrkB and SHC1 proteins, each fused with complementary fragments of the enzyme β-galactosidase. When brought together, the fragments reconstitute enzymatic activity and cleave the substrate to generate a luminescent product. To measure the ability of TrkB to recruit SHC1, which depends on TrkB phosphorylation, TrkB was fused to a peptide fragment (PF) and SHC1 to an enzyme fragment (EF). (B) Luminescence in relative light units (RLU) in the PathHunter assay when cells were treated with BDNF, LM22A-4, and 7,8-DHF. (C) NFAT-bla-TrkB-CHO CellSensor assay reports on TrkB activation through the expression of the β-lactamase (LACTB)–encoding gene BLA under the control of PLCγ-PKC-NFAT signaling. TrkB phosphorylation results in PLCγ activation, leading to an increase in Ca2+ concentration and subsequent NFAT activation (65), which controls production of β-lactamase in these cells. β-Lactamase in turn separates the coumarin and fluorescein derivative FRET (fluorescence resonance energy transfer) partners linked by the β-lactam system. (D) β-Lactamase activity in the CellSensor assay induced by BDNF, LM22A-4, and 7,8-DHF. Data are normalized to BDNF maximal response and represent means ± SD of a representative experiment.

Supplementary Materials

  • www.sciencesignaling.org/cgi/content/full/10/493/eaal1670/DC1

    Fig. S1. Antibody screen for sandwich ELISA.

    Fig. S2. Characterization of assays in TrkB-expressing cells.

    Fig. S3. Characterization of reported agonists in TrkB-expressing cells and HTS results.

    Fig. S4. Western blot analysis of reported agonists in HEK-TrkB cells.

    Fig. S5. Western blot analysis of reported agonists in cortical neuron culture.

    Fig. S6. Activity of 7,8-DHF and LM22A-4 in cortical neuron culture under different conditions.

    Fig. S7. K252a inhibition of ERK1/2 in cortical neuron culture.

    Fig. S8. K252a inhibition in CellSensor assay.

    Table S1. S/B values of ELISA and ELFI in cortical neuron culture.

    Table S2. EC50 values of neurotrophic factors.

    Table S3. List of antibodies used in this study.

    Reference (66)

  • Supplementary Materials for:

    Multiplex quantitative assays indicate a need for re-evaluating reported small-molecule TrkB agonists

    Umed Boltaev, Yves Meyer, Farangis Tolibzoda, Teresa Jacques, Madalee Gassaway, Qihong Xu, Florence Wagner, Yan-Ling Zhang, Michelle Palmer, Edward Holson, Dalibor Sames*

    *Corresponding author. Email: sames{at}chem.columbia.edu

    This PDF file includes:

    • Fig. S1. Antibody screen for sandwich ELISA.
    • Fig. S2. Characterization of assays in TrkB-expressing cells.
    • Fig. S3. Characterization of reported agonists in TrkB-expressing cells and HTS results.
    • Fig. S4. Western blot analysis of reported agonists in HEK-TrkB cells.
    • Fig. S5. Western blot analysis of reported agonists in cortical neuron culture.
    • Fig. S6. Activity of 7,8-DHF and LM22A-4 in cortical neuron culture under different conditions.
    • Fig. S7. K252a inhibition of ERK1/2 in cortical neuron culture.
    • Fig. S8. K252a inhibition in CellSensor assay.
    • Table S1. S/B values of ELISA and ELFI in cortical neuron culture.
    • Table S2. EC50 values of neurotrophic factors.
    • Table S3. List of antibodies used in this study.
    • Reference (66)

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    Citation: U. Boltaev, Y. Meyer, F. Tolibzoda, T. Jacques, M. Gassaway, Q. Xu, F. Wagner, Y.-L. Zhang, M. Palmer, E. Holson, D. Sames, Multiplex quantitative assays indicate a need for re-evaluating reported small-molecule TrkB agonists. Sci. Signal. 10, eaal1670 (2017).

    © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

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