Gregory D Cuny

University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States

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Publications (96)390.95 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: PERK is serine/threonine kinase localized to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane. PERK is activated and contributes to cell survival in response to a variety of physiological stresses that affect protein quality control in the ER, such as hypoxia, glucose depravation, increased lipid biosynthesis, and increased protein translation. Pro-survival functions of PERK are triggered by such stresses, suggesting that development of small-molecule inhibitors of PERK may be efficacious in a variety of disease scenarios. Hence, we have conducted a detailed enzymatic characterization of the PERK kinase to develop a high-throughput-screening assay (HTS) that will permit the identification of small-molecule PERK inhibitors. In addition to establishing the Km of PERK for both its primary substrate, eIF2α, and for adenosine triphosphate, further mechanistic studies revealed that PERK targets its substrate via either a random/steady-state ordered mechanism. For HTS, we developed a time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer-based assay that yielded a robust Z' factor and percent coefficient of variation value, enabling the successful screening of 79,552 compounds. This approach yielded one compound that exhibited good in vitro and cellular activity. These results demonstrate the validity of this screen and represent starting points for drug discovery efforts.
    Journal of Biomolecular Screening 03/2014; · 2.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Glial glutamate transporter EAAT2 plays a major role in glutamate clearance in synaptic clefts. Several lines of evidence indicate that strategies designed to increase EAAT2 expression have potential for preventing excitotoxicity, which contributes to neuronal injury and death in neurodegenerative diseases. We previously discovered several classes of compounds that can increase EAAT2 expression through translational activation. Here, we present efficacy studies of the compound LDN/OSU-0212320, which is a pyridazine derivative from one of our lead series. In a murine model, LDN/OSU-0212320 had good potency, adequate pharmacokinetic properties, no observed toxicity at the doses examined, and low side effect/toxicity potential. Additionally, LDN/OSU-0212320 protected cultured neurons from glutamate-mediated excitotoxic injury and death via EAAT2 activation. Importantly, LDN/OSU-0212320 markedly delayed motor function decline and extended lifespan in an animal model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We also found that LDN/OSU-0212320 substantially reduced mortality, neuronal death, and spontaneous recurrent seizures in a pilocarpine-induced temporal lobe epilepsy model. Moreover, our study demonstrated that LDN/OSU-0212320 treatment results in activation of PKC and subsequent Y-box-binding protein 1 (YB-1) activation, which regulates activation of EAAT2 translation. Our data indicate that the use of small molecules to enhance EAAT2 translation may be a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
    The Journal of clinical investigation 02/2014; · 15.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cryptosporidium parasites are a major cause of diarrhea and malnutrition in the developing world, a frequent cause of waterborne disease in the developed world and a potential bioterrorism agent. Currently available treatment is limited and Cryptosporidium drug discovery remains largely unsuccessful. As a result, the pharmacokinetic properties required for in vivo efficacy have not been established. We have been engaged in a Cryptosporidium drug discovery program targeting inosine 5' -monophosphate dehydrogenase (CpIMPDH). Here we report the activity of eight potent and selective inhibitors of CpIMPDH in the IL-12 knockout mouse model, which mimics acute human cryptosporidiosis. Two compounds displayed significant antiparasitic activity, validating CpIMPDH as a drug target. The best compound, P131 (250 mg/kg-day), performed equivalently to paromomycin (2000 mg/kg-day) when administered in a single dose, and better than paromomycin when administered in three daily doses. One compound, A110, appeared to promote Cryptosporidium infection. The pharmacokinetic, uptake and permeability properties of the eight compounds were measured. P131 had the lowest systemic distribution, but accumulated to high concentrations within intestinal cells. A110 had the highest systemic distribution. These observations suggest that systemic distribution is not required, and may be a liability, for in vivo antiparasitic activity. Intriguingly, A110 caused specific alterations in fecal microbiota that were not observed with P131 or vehicle alone. Such changes may explain how A110 promotes parasitemia. Collectively, these observations suggest a blueprint for the development of anticryptosporidial therapy.
    Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 12/2013; · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The photo-stimulated cyclization of 2-(2-halophenylamino)pyridines in liquid ammonia afforded pyrido[1,2-a]benzimidazoles via SRN1 mediated C–N bond forming reactions in moderate to excellent yields (58–94%). This general synthetic strategy was also extended to a 2-(2-bromophenylamino)pyrazine to give pyrazino[1,2-a]benzimidazole. Attempts to employ this reaction using N-(2-chlorophenyl)-3-isoquinolinamine, however, resulted in C–C bond formation generating 7H-indolo[2,3-c]isoquinoline.
    Tetrahedron. 07/2013; 69(26):5487–5494.
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive muscle weakness, which primarily targets proximal muscles. About 95% of SMA cases are caused by the loss of both copies of the SMN1 gene. SMN2 is a nearly identical copy of SMN1, which expresses much less functional SMN protein. SMN2 is unable to fully compensate for the loss of SMN1 in motor neurons but does provide an excellent target for therapeutic intervention. Increased expression of functional full-length SMN protein from the endogenous SMN2 gene should lessen disease severity. We have developed and implemented a new high-throughput screening assay to identify small molecules that increase the expression of full-length SMN from a SMN2 reporter gene. Here, we characterize two novel compounds that increased SMN protein levels in both reporter cells and SMA fibroblasts and show that one increases lifespan, motor function, and SMN protein levels in a severe mouse model of SMA.
    EMBO Molecular Medicine 06/2013; · 7.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although tau accumulation is a feature of several neurodegenerative conditions treatment options for these conditions are non-existent. Targeting tau kinases represents a potential therapeutic approach. Small molecules in the diaminothiazole class are potent tau kinase inhibitors that target CDK5 and GSK3β. Lead compounds from the series have IC50 values toward CDK5/p25 and GSK3β in the low nanomolar range and no observed toxicity in the therapeutic dose range. Neuronal protective effects and decreased PHF-1 immunoreactivity were observed in two animal models, 3xTg-AD and CK-p25. Treatment nearly eliminated sarkosyl-insoluble tau with the most prominent effect on the phosphorylation at Ser404. Treatment also induced the recovery of memory in a fear conditioning assay. Given the contribution of both CDK5/p25 and GSK3β to tau phosphorylation, effective treatment of tauopathies may require dual kinase targeting.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 06/2013; · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cryptosporidium parvum is an enteric protozoan parasite that has emerged as a major cause of diarrhea, malnutrition, and gastroenteritis and poses a potential bioterrorism threat. C. parvum synthesizes guanine nucleotides from host adenosine in a streamlined pathway that relies on inosine 5'-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH). We have previously identified several parasite-selective C. parvum IMPDH (CpIMPDH) inhibitors by high-throughput screening. In this paper, we report the structure-activity relationship (SAR) for a series of benzoxazole derivatives with many compounds demonstrating CpIMPDH IC50 values in the nanomolar range and >500-fold selectivity over human IMPDH (hIMPDH). Unlike previously reported CpIMPDH inhibitors, these compounds are competitive inhibitors versus NAD(+). The SAR study reveals that pyridine and other small heteroaromatic substituents are required at the 2-position of the benzoxazole for potent inhibitory activity. In addition, several other SAR conclusions are highlighted with regard to the benzoxazole and the amide portion of the inhibitor, including preferred stereochemistry. An X-ray crystal structure of a representative E·IMP·inhibitor complex is also presented. Overall, the secondary amine derivative 15a demonstrated excellent CpIMPDH inhibitory activity (IC50 = 0.5 ± 0.1 nM) and moderate stability (t1/2 = 44 min) in mouse liver microsomes. Compound 73, the racemic version of 15a, also displayed superb antiparasitic activity in a Toxoplasma gondii strain that relies on CpIMPDH (EC50 = 20 ± 20 nM), and selectivity versus a wild-type T. gondii strain (200-fold). No toxicity was observed (LD50 > 50 μM) against a panel of four mammalian cells lines.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 05/2013; · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway has essential functions in development, homeostasis, and in the normal and pathophysiologic remodeling of tissues. Small molecule inhibitors of the BMP receptor kinase family have been useful for probing physiologic functions of BMP signaling in vitro and in vivo, and may have roles in the treatment of BMP-mediated diseases. Here we describe the development of a selective and potent inhibitor of the BMP type I receptor kinases, LDN-212854, which in contrast to previously described BMP receptor kinase inhibitors exhibits nearly 4 orders of selectivity for BMP versus the closely related TGF-β and Activin type I receptors. In vitro, LDN-212854 exhibits some selectivity for ALK2 in preference to other BMP type I receptors, ALK1 and ALK3, which may permit the interrogation of ALK2-mediated signaling, transcriptional activity and function. LDN-212854 potently inhibits heterotopic ossification in an inducible transgenic mutant ALK2 mouse model of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. These findings represent a significant step towards developing selective inhibitors targeting individual members of the highly homologous BMP type I receptor family. Such inhibitors would provide greater resolution as probes of physiologic function, and improved selectivity against therapeutic targets.
    ACS Chemical Biology 04/2013; · 5.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Receptor Interacting Protein 1 (RIP1) kinase is one of the key mediators of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) signaling and is critical for activation of necroptotic cell death. We developed a method for expression of recombinant kinase, utilizing baculovirus co-infection of Cdc37, an Hsp90 co-chaperone, and RIP1-His, followed by a two-step purification scheme. After optimization, 1-3 mg of highly purified RIP1 kinase was typically obtained from a 1 L of Sf9 cells. The recombinant protein displayed kinase activity that was blocked by RIP1 inhibitors, necrostatins. The purified protein was used to develop a simple and robust thermal shift assay for further assessment of RIP1 inhibitors.
    Protein Expression and Purification 03/2013; · 1.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A number of well-known type II inhibitors (ATP non-competitive) that bind kinases in their DFG-out conformation were tested against wild-type LRRK2 and the most common Parkinson's disease-linked mutation G2019S. We found that traditional type II inhibitors exhibit surprising variability in their inhibition mechanism between wild type (WT) and the G2019S mutant of LRRK2. The type II kinase inhibitors were found to work by an ATP-competitive fashion against the G2019S mutant, whereas they appear to work by the expected non-competitive mechanism against WT. Since the G2019S mutation lies in the DXG-motif (DYG in LRRK2 but DFG in most other kinases) of the activation loop, we explored the structural consequence of the mutation on loop dynamics using an enhanced sampling method called metadynamics. The simulations suggest that the G2019S mutation stabilizes the DYG-in state of LRRK2 through a series of hydrogen bonds, leading to an increase in the conformational barrier between the active and inactive forms of the enzyme and a relative stabilization of the active form. The conformational bias toward the active form of LRRK2 mutants has two primary consequences: 1) the mutant enzyme becomes hyperactive, a known contributor to the Parkinsonian phenotype, as a consequence of being "locked" into the activated state and 2) the mutation creates an unusual allosteric pocket that can bind type II inhibitors but in an ATP competitive fashion. Our results suggest that developing type II inhibitors, which are generally considered superior to type I inhibitors due to desirable selectivity profiles, might be especially challenging for the G2019S LRRK2 mutant.
    Biochemistry 02/2013; · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Necroptosis is a regulated form of necrotic cell death that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of various diseases including intestinal inflammation and systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). In this work, we investigated the signaling mechanisms controlled by the necroptosis mediator receptor interacting protein-1 (RIP1) kinase. We show that Akt kinase activity is critical for necroptosis in L929 cells and plays a key role in TNFα production. During necroptosis, Akt is activated in a RIP1 dependent fashion through its phosphorylation on Thr308. In L929 cells, this activation requires independent signaling inputs from both growth factors and RIP1. Akt controls necroptosis through downstream targeting of mammalian Target of Rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Akt activity, mediated in part through mTORC1, links RIP1 to JNK activation and autocrine production of TNFα. In other cell types, such as mouse lung fibroblasts and macrophages, Akt exhibited control over necroptosis-associated TNFα production without contributing to cell death. Overall, our results provide new insights into the mechanism of necroptosis and the role of Akt kinase in both cell death and inflammatory regulation.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(3):e56576. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Growth factor signaling pathways are tightly regulated by phosphorylation and include many important kinase targets of interest for drug discovery. Small molecule inhibitors of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) receptor kinase ALK2 (ACVR1) are needed urgently to treat the progressively debilitating musculoskeletal disease fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). Dorsomorphin analogues, first identified in zebrafish, remain the only BMP inhibitor chemotype reported to date. By screening an assay panel of 250 recombinant human kinases we identified a highly selective 2-aminopyridine-based inhibitor K02288 with in vitro activity against ALK2 at low nanomolar concentrations similar to the current lead compound LDN-193189. K02288 specifically inhibited the BMP-induced Smad pathway without affecting TGF-β signaling and induced dorsalization of zebrafish embryos. Comparison of the crystal structures of ALK2 with K02288 and LDN-193189 revealed additional contacts in the K02288 complex affording improved shape complementarity and identified the exposed phenol group for further optimization of pharmacokinetics. The discovery of a new chemical series provides an independent pharmacological tool to investigate BMP signaling and offers multiple opportunities for pre-clinical development.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(4):e62721. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cryptosporidium parvum (Cp) is a potential biowarfare agent and major cause of diarrhea and malnutrition. This protozoan parasite relies on inosine 5'-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) for the production of guanine nucleotides. A CpIMPDH-selective N-aryl-3,4-dihydro-3-methyl-4-oxo-1-phthalazineacetamide inhibitor was previously identified in a high throughput screening campaign. Herein we report a structure-activity relationship study for the phthalazinone-based series that resulted in the discovery of benzofuranamide analogs that exhibit low nanomolar inhibition of CpIMPDH. In addition, the antiparasitic activity of select analogs in a Toxoplasma gondii model of C. parvum infection is also presented.
    Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters 12/2012; · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    Dataset: Nature Med
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    ABSTRACT: Cryptosporidium parvum and related species are zoonotic intracellular parasites of the intestine. Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of diarrhea in small children around the world. Infection can cause severe pathology in children and immunocompromised patients. This waterborne parasite is resistant to common methods of water treatment and therefore a prominent threat to drinking and recreation water even in countries with strong water safety systems. The drugs currently used to combat these organisms are ineffective. Genomic analysis revealed that the parasite relies solely on inosine-5'-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) for the biosynthesis of guanine nucleotides. Herein, we report a selective urea-based inhibitor of C. parvum IMPDH (CpIMPDH) identified by high-throughput screening. We performed a SAR study of these inhibitors with some analogues exhibiting high potency (IC(50) < 2 nM) against CpIMPDH, excellent selectivity >1000-fold versus human IMPDH type 2 and good stability in mouse liver microsomes. A subset of inhibitors also displayed potent antiparasitic activity in a Toxoplasma gondii model.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 09/2012; 55(17):7759-71. · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Glutamate is the primary excitatory amino acid neurotransmitter in the CNS. The concentration of glutamate in the synaptic cleft is tightly controlled by interplay between glutamate release and glutamate clearance. Abnormal glutamate release and/or dysfunction of glutamate clearance can cause overstimulation of glutamate receptors and result in neuronal injury known as excitotoxicity. The glial glutamate transporter EAAT2 plays a major role in glutamate clearance. Dysfunction or reduced expression of EAAT2 has been documented in many neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, many studies in animal models of disease indicate that increased EAAT2 expression provides neuronal protection. Here, we summarize these studies and suggest that EAAT2 is a potential target for the prevention of excitotoxicity. EAAT2 can be upregulated by transcriptional or translational activation. We discuss current progress in the search for EAAT2 activators, which is a promising direction for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
    Future medicinal chemistry 09/2012; 4(13):1689-700. · 3.31 Impact Factor
  • Gregory D Cuny
    Future medicinal chemistry 09/2012; 4(13):1647-9. · 3.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The majority of neurodegenerative diseases have an important age component, and thus, understanding the molecular changes that occur during normal aging of the brain is of utmost relevance. In search for the basis of the age-related cognitive decline found in humans, monkeys and rodents, we study the rhesus monkey. Surprisingly, there is no loss of neurons in aged monkey brains. However, we reported white matter and myelin abnormalities in aged monkeys, similar to those observed in Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis patients. In a microarray analysis comparing young and old monkey white matter, we discovered that Klotho is downregulated in the aged brain. We then asked whether there is a connection between the age-related cognitive decline, myelin abnormalities and Klotho downregulation. If such a connection is found, compounds that upregulate Klotho expression could become of therapeutic interest for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, and perhaps even Alzheimer's disease.
    Future medicinal chemistry 09/2012; 4(13):1671-9. · 3.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Necroptosis is a regulated caspase-independent cell death pathway with morphological features resembling passive non-regulated necrosis. Several diverse structure classes of necroptosis inhibitors have been reported to date, including a series of 3,3a,4,5-tetrahydro-2H-benz[g]indazoles (referred to as the Nec-3 series) displaying potent activity in cellular assays. However, evaluation of the tricyclic necroptosis inhibitor's stability in mouse liver microsomes indicated that they were rapidly degraded. A structure-activity relationship (SAR) study of this compound series revealed that increased liver microsomal stability could be accomplished by modification of the pendent phenyl ring and by introduction of a hydrophilic substituent (i.e., α-hydroxyl) to the acetamide at the 2-position of the tricyclic ring without significantly compromising necroptosis inhibitory activity. Further increases in microsomal stability could be achieved by utilizing the 5,5-dioxo-3-phenyl-2,3,3a,4-tetrahydro-[1]benzothiopyrano[4,3-c]pyrazoles. However, in this case necroptosis inhibitory activity was not maintained. Overall, these results provide a strategy for generating potent and metabolically stable tricyclic necrostatin analogs (e.g., 33, LDN-193191) potentially suitable for in vivo studies.
    Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters 07/2012; 22(17):5685-8. · 2.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The amyloid β precursor protein (APP) is a single-pass transmembrane glycoprotein that is ubiquitously expressed in many cell types, including neurons. Amyloidogenic processing of APP by β- and γ-secretases leads to the production of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides that can oligomerize and aggregate into amyloid plaques, a characteristic hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD) brains. Multiple reports suggest that dimerization of APP may play a role in Aβ production; however, it is not yet clear whether APP dimers increase or decrease Aβ and the mechanism is not fully understood. To better understand the relationship between APP dimerization and production of Aβ, a high throughput screen for small molecule modulators of APP dimerization was conducted using APP-Firefly luciferase enzyme complementation to detect APP dimerization. Selected modulators identified from a compound library of 77,440 compounds were tested for their effects on Aβ generation. Two molecules that inhibited APP dimerization produced a reduction in Aβ levels as measured by ELISA. The inhibitors did not change sAPPα or γ-CTF levels, but lowered sAPPβ levels, suggesting that blocking the dimerization is preventing the cleavage by β-secretase in the amyloidogenic processing of APP. To our knowledge, this is the first High Throughput Screen (HTS) effort to identify small molecule modulators of APP dimerization. Inhibition of APP dimerization has previously been suggested as a therapeutic target in AD. The findings reported here further support that modulation of APP dimerization may be a viable means of reducing the production of Aβ.
    American journal of neurodegenerative disease. 05/2012; 1(1):75-87.

Publication Stats

2k Citations
390.95 Total Impact Points


  • 2013
    • University of California, Santa Barbara
      Santa Barbara, California, United States
  • 2012–2013
    • University of Houston
      • Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences
      Houston, Texas, United States
    • The Ohio State University
      • Department of Neuroscience
      Columbus, OH, United States
  • 2009–2013
    • Brandeis University
      • Department of Biology
      Waltham, MA, United States
  • 2006–2013
    • Tufts University
      • • Department of Medicine
      • • Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
      Georgia, United States
  • 2003–2013
    • Harvard Medical School
      • Department of Cell Biology
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2005–2012
    • Brigham and Women's Hospital
      • Department of Medicine
      Boston, MA, United States