[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Under physiological conditions, the melanocortin system is a crucial part of the complex network regulating food intake and energy expenditure. In pathological states, like cachexia, these two parameters are deregulated, i.e., food intake is decreased and energy expenditure is increased-a vicious combination leading to catabolism. Agouti-related protein (AgRP), the endogenous antagonist at the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC-4R), was found to increase food intake and to reduce energy expenditure. This qualifies MC-4R blockade as an attractive mode of action for the treatment of cachexia. Based on this rationale, a novel series of small-molecule MC-4R antagonists was designed, from which the orally active compound BL-6020/979 (formerly known as SNT207979) emerged as the first promising development candidate showing encouraging pre-clinical efficacy and safety properties which are presented here. METHODS AND RESULTS: BL-6020/979 is an orally available, selective and potent MC-4R antagonist with a drug-like profile. It increased food intake and decreased energy expenditure in healthy wild-type but not in MC-4R deficient mice. More importantly, it ameliorated cachexia-like symptoms in the murine C26 adenocarcinoma model; with an effect on body mass and body composition and on the expression of catabolic genes. Moreover, BL-6020/979 showed antidepressant-like properties in the chronic mild stress model in rats and exhibits a favorable safety profile. CONCLUSION: The properties of BL-6020/979 demonstrated in animal models and presented here make it a promising candidate suitable for further development towards a first-in-class treatment option for cachexia that potentially opens up the opportunity to treat two hallmarks of the disease, i.e., decreased food intake and increased energy expenditure, with one drug.
Journal of cachexia, sarcopenia and muscle. 09/2011; 2(3):163-174.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dystrophin deficiency is the underlying molecular cause of progressive muscle weakness observed in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Loss of functional dystrophin leads to elevated levels of intracellular Ca(2+), a key step in the cellular pathology of DMD. The cysteine protease calpain is activated in dystrophin-deficient muscle, and its inhibition is regarded as a potential therapeutic approach. In addition, previous work has shown that the ubiquitin-proteasome system also contributes to muscle protein breakdown in dystrophic muscle and, therefore, also qualifies as a potential target for therapeutic intervention in DMD. The relative contribution of calpain- and proteasome-mediated proteolysis induced by increased Ca(2+) levels was characterized in cultured muscle cells and revealed initial Ca(2+) influx-dependent calpain activity and subsequent Ca(2+)-independent activity of the ubiquitin-proteasome system. We then set out to optimize novel small-molecule inhibitors that inhibit both calpain as well as the 20S proteasome in a cellular system with impaired Ca(2+) homeostasis. On administration of such inhibitors to mdx mice, quantitative histological parameters improved significantly, in particular with compounds strongly inhibiting the 20S proteasome. To investigate the role of calpain inhibition without interfering with the ubiquitin-proteasome system, we crossed mdx mice with transgenic mice, overexpressing the endogenous calpain inhibitor calpastatin. Although our data show that proteolysis by calpain is strongly inhibited in the transgenic mdx mouse, this calpain inhibition did not ameliorate muscle histology. Our results indicate that inhibition of the proteasome rather than calpain is required for histological improvement of dystrophin-deficient muscle. In conclusion, we have identified novel proteasome inhibitors that qualify as potential candidates for pharmacological intervention in muscular dystrophy.
The FASEB Journal 09/2008; 22(12):4190-200. · 5.70 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Inhibition of the cysteine protease calpain is a promising strategy for the treatment of muscular dystrophies including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. For the treatment to be effective, uptake of the inhibitors into the muscle cells is a prerequisite. A series of α-ketoamide calpain inhibitors carrying various muscle cell targeting capping groups was synthesized. Compounds with charged or highly polar targeting groups were not able to cross the cellular membrane. Introduction of lipoic acid as end cap yielded cell permeable calpain inhibitors with nanomolar potency.
Letters in Drug Design & Discovery 03/2006; 3(3):152-158. · 0.85 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dipeptide-derived alpha-keto-amide compounds with potent calpain inhibitory activity have been identified. These reversible covalent inhibitors have IC(50) values down to 25nM and exhibit greatly improved activity in muscle cells compared to the reference compound MDL28170. Several novel calpain inhibitors have shown positive effects on histological parameters in an animal model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy demonstrating their potential as a treatment option for this fatal disease.