AfaSci Research Laboratory

Redwood City, CA, United States

AfaSci Research Laboratory

Redwood City, CA, United States
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Cippitelli A.,Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies | Wu J.,Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies | Gaiolini K.A.,Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies | Mercatelli D.,Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies | And 10 more authors.
British Journal of Pharmacology | Year: 2015

Background and Purpose The α3β4 subtype of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) has been implicated in mediating nicotine reinforcement processes. AT-1001 has been recently described as a high-affinity and selective α3β4 nAChR antagonist that blocks nicotine self-administration in rats. The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanism of action underlying the nicotine-suppressive effects of AT-1001. Experimental Approach Effects of AT-1001 were determined using in vitro assays and rat models of nicotine addiction, and compared with varenicline. Key Results AT-1001 and its analogue AT-1012 were functionally selective as antagonists for α3β4 over α4β2 nAChRs, but not to the same extent as the binding selectivity, and had partial agonist activity at α3β4 nAChRs. In contrast, varenicline was a partial agonist at α4β2, a weak agonist at α3β4 and inhibited α4β2 at a much lower concentration than it inhibited α3β4 nAChRs. AT-1001 and varenicline also had very different in vivo properties. Firstly, AT-1001 did not exhibit reinforcing properties per se while varenicline was self-administered. Secondly, systemic treatment with AT-1001 did not induce reinstatement of nicotine seeking but rather attenuated reinstatement induced by varenicline, as well as nicotine. Finally, unlike varenicline, AT-1001 selectively blocked nicotine self-administration without altering alcohol lever pressing as assessed in an operant co-administration paradigm. Conclusions and Implications These findings describe a more complex AT-1001 in vitro profile than previously appreciated and provide further support for the potential of AT-1001 and congeners as clinically useful compounds for smoking cessation, with a mechanism of action distinct from currently available medications. © 2014 The British Pharmacological Society.

Maezawa I.,University of California at Davis | Zou B.,AfaSci Research Laboratory | Di Lucente J.,University of California at Davis | Cao W.S.,AfaSci Research Laboratory | And 6 more authors.
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease | Year: 2017

There is an urgent unmet need for new therapeutics for Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia in the elderly. Therapeutic approaches targeting amyloid-β (Aβ) and its downstream toxicities have become major strategies in AD drug development. We have taken a rational design approach and synthesized a class of tricyclic pyrone (TP) compounds that show anti-Aβ and other neuroprotective actions. The in vivo efficacy of a lead TP named CP2 to ameliorate AD-like pathologies has been shown in mouse models. Here we report the selection and initial characterization of a new lead TP70, which exhibited an anti-Aβ therapeutic index even higher than CP2. Moreover, TP70 was able to reduce oxidative stress, inhibit acyl-coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT), and upregulate the expression of ATP-binding cassette subfamily A, member 1 (ABCA1), actions considered neuroprotective in AD. TP70 further showed excellent pharmacokinetic properties, including brain penetration and oral availability. When administered to 5xFAD mice via intraperitoneal or oral route, TP70 enhanced the overall solubility and decreased the level of cerebral Aβ, including both fibrillary and soluble Aβ species. Interestingly, TP70 enhanced N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated excitatory post-synaptic potential (EPSP) in the hippocampal CA1 area, increased the magnitude of NMDA-dependent hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), a cellular model of learning and memory, and prevented the Aβ oligomer-impaired LTP. Significantly, a single dose of TP70 administered to aged 5xFAD mice was effective in mitigating the impaired LTP induction, recorded at 24 h after administration. Our results support a potential of TP70 in clinical development for AD in view of its synergistic neuroprotective actions, ability to positively modulate NMDA receptor-mediated hippocampal plasticity, and favorable pharmacokinetic properties in rodents. © 2017 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved.

Vazquez-Derose J.,SRI International | Stauber G.,SRI International | Khroyan T.V.,SRI International | Xie X.S.,AfaSci Research Laboratory | And 2 more authors.
European Journal of Pharmacology | Year: 2013

Nociceptin (N/OFQ) has been implicated in a variety of neurological disorders, most notably in reward processes and drug abuse. N/OFQ suppresses extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) after intracerebroventricular injection. This study sought to examine the effects of retrodialyzed N/OFQ on the cocaine-induced increase in extracellular dopamine levels in the NAc, as well as locomotor activity, in freely moving rats. 1.0 μM, 10 μM, and 1 mM N/OFQ, in the NAc shell, significantly suppressed the cocaine-induced dopamine increase in the NAc, while N/OFQ alone had no significant effect on dopamine levels. Co-delivery of the selective NOP receptor antagonist SB612111 ([(-)-cis-1-Methyl-7-[[4-(2,6-dichlorophenyl)piperidin-1- yl]methyl]-6,7,8,9-tetrahydro-5 H-benzocyclohepten-5-ol] reversed the N/OFQ suppression of cocaine-induced dopamine in the NAc, suggesting that this is an NOP receptor-mediated effect. Using a novel system to assess locomotion, we measured various motor activities of the animals with simultaneous microdialysis from the home cage. Cocaine produced an expected increase in total activity, including horizontal movement and rearing behavior. Retrodialysis of N/OFQ with cocaine administration affected all motor activities, initially showing no effect on behavior, but over time inhibiting cocaine-induced motor behaviors. These results suggest that N/OFQ can act directly in the NAc shell to block cocaine-induced increases in extracellular dopamine levels. Extracellular dopamine and locomotor activity can be dissociated within the NAc and may reflect motor output differences in shell versus core regions of the NAc. These studies confirm the widespread involvement of NOP receptors in drug addiction and further validate the utility of an NOP receptor agonist as a medication for treatment of drug addiction. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Villeda S.A.,University of California at San Francisco | Villeda S.A.,Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research | Villeda S.A.,Stanford University | Plambeck K.E.,University of California at San Francisco | And 24 more authors.
Nature Medicine | Year: 2014

As human lifespan increases, a greater fraction of the population is suffering from age-related cognitive impairments, making it important to elucidate a means to combat the effects of aging. Here we report that exposure of an aged animal to young blood can counteract and reverse pre-existing effects of brain aging at the molecular, structural, functional and cognitive level. Genome-wide microarray analysis of heterochronic parabionts - in which circulatory systems of young and aged animals are connected - identified synaptic plasticity-related transcriptional changes in the hippocampus of aged mice. Dendritic spine density of mature neurons increased and synaptic plasticity improved in the hippocampus of aged heterochronic parabionts. At the cognitive level, systemic administration of young blood plasma into aged mice improved age-related cognitive impairments in both contextual fear conditioning and spatial learning and memory. Structural and cognitive enhancements elicited by exposure to young blood are mediated, in part, by activation of the cyclic AMP response element binding protein (Creb) in the aged hippocampus. Our data indicate that exposure of aged mice to young blood late in life is capable of rejuvenating synaptic plasticity and improving cognitive function. © 2014 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Toll L.,SRI International | Zaveri N.T.,Astraea Therapeutics, Llc | Polgar W.E.,SRI International | Jiang F.,SRI International | And 7 more authors.
Neuropsychopharmacology | Year: 2012

Genomic and pharmacologic data have suggested the involvement of the α3Β4 subtype of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in drug seeking to nicotine and other drugs of abuse. In order to better examine this receptor subtype, we have identified and characterized the first high affinity and selective α3Β4 nAChR antagonist, AT-1001, both in vitro and in vivo. This is the first reported compound with a Ki below 10 nM at α3Β4 nAChR and 90-fold selectivity over the other major subtypes, the α4Β2 and α7 nAChR. AT-1001 competes with epibatidine, allowing for 3 Hepibatidine binding to be used for structure-activity studies, however, both receptor binding and ligand-induced Ca 2 flux are not strictly competitive because increasing ligand concentration produces an apparent decrease in receptor number and maximal Ca 2 fluorescence. AT-1001 also potently and reversibly blocks epibatidine-induced inward currents in HEK cells transfected with α3Β4 nAChR. Importantly, AT-1001 potently and dose-dependently blocks nicotine self-administration in rats, without affecting food responding. When tested in a nucleus accumbens (NAcs) synaptosomal preparation, AT-1001 inhibits nicotine-induced 3 Hdopamine release poorly and at significantly higher concentrations compared with mecamylamine and conotoxin MII. These results suggest that its inhibition of nicotine self-administration in rats is not directly due to a decrease in dopamine release from the NAc, and most likely involves an indirect pathway requiring α3Β4 nAChR. In conclusion, our studies provide further evidence for the involvement of α3Β4 nAChR in nicotine self-administration. These findings suggest the utility of this receptor as a target for smoking cessation medications, and highlight the potential of AT-1001 and congeners as clinically useful compounds. © 2012 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. All rights reserved.

Kulkarni S.,Stanford University | Zou B.,Stanford University | Zou B.,AfaSci Research Laboratory | Hanson J.,AfaSci Research Laboratory | And 8 more authors.
American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology | Year: 2011

Recent studies have explored the potential of central nervous system-derived neural stem cells (CNSNSC) to repopulate the enteric nervous system. However, the exact phenotypic fate of gut-transplanted CNS-NSC has not been characterized. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of the gut microenvironment on phenotypic fate of CNS-NSC in vitro. With the use of Transwell culture, differentiation of mouse embryonic CNS-NSC was studied when cocultured without direct contact with mouse intestinal longitudinal muscle-myenteric plexus preparations (LM-MP) compared with control noncocultured cells, in a differentiating medium. Differentiated cells were analyzed by immunocytochemistry and quantitative RT-PCR to assess the expression of specific markers and by whole cell patch-clamp studies for functional characterization of their phenotype. We found that LM-MP cocultured cells had a significant increase in the numbers of cells that were immune reactive against the panneuronal marker β-tubulin, neurotransmitters neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), and neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and showed an increase in expression of these genes, compared with control cells. Whole cell patch-clamp analysis showed that coculture with LM-MP decreases cell excitability and reduces voltage-gated Na + currents but significantly enhances A-current and late afterhyperpolarization (AHP) and increases the expression of the four AHP-generating Ca2 +-dependent K + channel genes (KCNN), compared with control cells. In a separate experiment, differentiation of LM-MP cocultured CNS-NSC produced a significant increase in the numbers of cells that were immune reactive against the neurotransmitters nNOS, ChAT, and the neuropeptide VIP compared with CNS-NSC differentiated similarly in the presence of neonatal brain tissue. Our results show that the gut microenvironment induces CNS-NSC to produce neurons that share some of the characteristics of classical enteric neurons, further supporting the therapeutic use of these cells for gastrointestinal disorders. © 2011 the American Physiological Society.

Shao X.M.,University of California at Los Angeles | Xu B.,University of California at Los Angeles | Xu B.,Tongji University | Liang J.,University of California at Los Angeles | And 3 more authors.
Nicotine and Tobacco Research | Year: 2013

Introduction: Nicotine is a heavily used addictive drug acquired through smoking tobacco. Nicotine in cigarette smoke is deposited and absorbed in the lungs, which results in a rapidly peaked slowly declining arterial concentration. This pattern plays an important role in initiation of nicotine addiction. Methods: A method and device were developed for delivering nicotine to rodents with lung alveolar region-targeted aerosol technology. The dose of delivery can be controlled by the nicotine aerosol concentration and duration of exposure. Results: Our data showed that, in the breathing zone of the nose-only exposure chamber, the aerosol droplet size distribution was within the respirable diameter range. Rats were exposed to nicotine aerosol for 2 min. The arterial blood nicotine concentration reached 43.2 ± 15.7 ng/ml (mean ± SD) within 1-4 min and declined over the next 20 min, closely resembling the magnitude and early pharmacokinetics of a human smoking a cigarette. The acute inhalation toxicity of nicotine: LC50 = 2.3 mg/L was determined; it was affected by pH, suggesting that acidification decreases nicotine absorption and/or bioavailability. Conclusions: A noninvasive method and toolkit were developed for delivering nicotine to rodents that enable rapid delivery of a controllable amount of nicotine into the systemic circulation and brain-inducing dose-dependent pharmacological effects, even a lethal dose. Aerosol inhalation can produce nicotine kinetics in both arterial and venous blood resembling human smoking. This method can be applied to studies of the effects of chronic intermittent nicotine exposure, nicotine addiction, toxicology, tobacco-related diseases, teratogenicity, and for discovery of pharmacological therapeutics. © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. All rights reserved.

Kaufmann K.,Vanderbilt University | Romaine I.,Vanderbilt University | Days E.,Vanderbilt University | Pascual C.,AfaSci Research Laboratory | And 13 more authors.
ACS Chemical Neuroscience | Year: 2013

The G-protein activated, inward-rectifying potassium (K+) channels, "GIRKs", are a family of ion channels (Kir3.1- Kir3.4) that has been the focus of intense research interest for nearly two decades. GIRKs are comprised of various homo- and heterotetrameric combinations of four different subunits. These subunits are expressed in different combinations in a variety of regions throughout the central nervous system and in the periphery. The body of GIRK research implicates GIRK in processes as diverse as controlling heart rhythm, to effects on reward/addiction, to modulation of response to analgesics. Despite years of GIRK research, very few tools exist to selectively modulate GIRK channels' activity and until now no tools existed that potently and selectively activated GIRKs. Here we report the development and characterization of the first truly potent, effective, and selective GIRK activator, ML297 (VU0456810). We further demonstrate that ML297 is active in two in vivo models of epilepsy, a disease where up to 40% of patients remain with symptoms refractory to present treatments. The development of ML297 represents a truly significant advancement in our ability to selectively probe GIRK's role in physiology as well as providing the first tool for beginning to understand GIRK's potential as a target for a diversity of therapeutic indications. © 2013 American Chemical Society.

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