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Identification of Sclareol As a Natural Neuroprotective Cav1.3-Antagonist Using Synthetic Parkinson-Mimetic Gene Circuits and Computer-Aided Drug Discovery

Advanced Science

Authors: Hui Wang, Mingqi Xie, Giorgio Rizzi, Xin Li, Kelly Tan, Martin Fussenegger
Publication: Advanced Science
Date: January 18, 2022
Link to article: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/advs.202102855


Parkinson’s disease (PD) results from selective loss of substantia nigra dopaminergic (SNc DA) neurons, and is primarily caused by excessive activity-related Ca2+ oscillations. Although L-type voltage-gated calcium channel blockers (CCBs) selectively inhibiting Cav1.3 are considered promising candidates for PD treatment, drug discovery is hampered by the lack of high-throughput screening technologies permitting isoform-specific assessment of Cav-antagonistic activities. Here, a synthetic-biology-inspired drug-discovery platform enables identification of PD-relevant drug candidates. By deflecting Cav-dependent activation of nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT)-signaling to repression of reporter gene translation, they engineered a cell-based assay where reporter gene expression is activated by putative CCBs. By using this platform in combination with in silico virtual screening and a trained deep-learning neural network, sclareol is identified from a essential oils library as a structurally distinctive compound that can be used for PD pharmacotherapy. In vitro studies, biochemical assays and whole-cell patch-clamp recordings confirmed that sclareol inhibits Cav1.3 more strongly than Cav1.2 and decreases firing responses of SNc DA neurons. In a mouse model of PD, sclareol treatment reduced DA neuronal loss and protected striatal network dynamics as well as motor performance. Thus, sclareol appears to be a promising drug candidate for neuroprotection in PD patients.

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