Identification of tetrahydrocarbazoles as novel multifactorial drug candidates for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease from a high-throughput compound screen


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder and the most frequent cause of dementia. To date, there are few approved drugs for AD, which show little or no effect on disease progression. Impaired intracellular calcium homeostasis is believed to occur early in the cascade of events leading to AD. Here we examined the possibility of normalizing the disrupted calcium homeostasis in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) store as an innovative approach for AD drug discovery. High-throughput screening of a small-molecule compound library led to the identification of tetrahydrocarbazoles, a novel multifactorial class of compounds that can normalize the impaired ER calcium homeostasis. We found that the tetrahydrocarbazole lead structure, firstly, dampens the enhanced calcium release from ER in HEK293 cells expressing familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD)-linked presenilin 1 mutations. Secondly, the lead structure also improves mitochondrial function, measured by increased mitochondrial membrane potential. Thirdly, the same lead structure also attenuates the production of amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides by decreasing the cleavage of Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) by β-secretase, without notably affecting α- and γ-secretase cleavage activities. Considering the multiple modes of action of tetrahydrocarbazoles in addressing three key pathological aspects of AD, these compounds hold promise for development of a potentially effective AD drug candidate.

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