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Small-molecule inhibitors of NMO-IgG binding to aquaporin-4 reduce astrocyte cytotoxicity in neuromyelitis optica

, : Small-molecule inhibitors of NMO-IgG binding to aquaporin-4 reduce astrocyte cytotoxicity in neuromyelitis optica. Faseb Journal 26(5): 2197-2208

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of spinal cord and optic nerve caused by pathogenic autoantibodies (NMO-IgG) against astrocyte aquaporin-4 (AQP4). We developed a high-throughput screen to identify blockers of NMO-IgG binding to human AQP4 using a human recombinant monoclonal NMO-IgG and transfected Fisher rat thyroid cells stably expressing human M23-AQP4. Screening of ∼60,000 compounds yielded the antiviral arbidol, the flavonoid tamarixetin, and several plant-derived berbamine alkaloids, each of which blocked NMO-IgG binding to AQP4 without affecting AQP4 expression, array assembly, or water permeability. The compounds inhibited NMO-IgG binding to AQP4 in NMO patient sera and blocked NMO-IgG-dependent complement- and cell-mediated cytotoxicity with IC(50) down to ∼5 μM. Docking computations identified putative sites of blocker binding at the extracellular surface of AQP4. The blockers did not affect complement-dependent cytotoxicity caused by anti-GD3 antibody binding to ganglioside GD3. The blockers reduced by >80% the severity of NMO lesions in an ex vivo spinal cord slice culture model of NMO and in mice in vivo. Our results provide proof of concept for a small-molecule blocker strategy to reduce NMO pathology. Small-molecule blockers may also be useful for other autoimmune diseases caused by binding of pathogenic autoantibodies to defined targets.


PMID: 22319008

DOI: 10.1096/fj.11-201608

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