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Styryl-Based and Tricyclic Compounds as Potential Anti-Prion Agents
Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Author: Erika Chung et al.

by Erika Chung, Frances Prelli, Stephen Dealler, Woo Sirl Lee, Young-Tae Chang, Thomas Wisniewski

Prion diseases currently have no effective therapy. These illnesses affect both animal and human populations, and are characterized by the conformational change of a normal self protein PrPC (C for cellular) to a pathological and infectious conformer, PrPSc (Sc for scrapie). We used a well characterized tissue culture model of prion infection, where mouse neuroblastoma cells (N2a) were infected with 22L PrPSc, to screen compounds for anti-prion activity. In a prior study we designed a library of styryl based, potential imaging compounds which were selected for high affinity binding to Alzheimer's disease ß-amyloid plaques and good blood-brain barrier permeability. In the current study we screened this library for activity in the N2a/22L tissue culture system. We also tested the anti-prion activity of two clinically used drugs, trimipramine and fluphenazine, in the N2a/22L system. These were selected based on their structural similarity to quinacrine, which was previously reported to have anti-prion activity. All the compounds were also screened for toxicity in tissue culture and their ability to disaggregate amyloid fibrils composed of PrP and ß-amyloid synthetic peptides in vitro. Two of the imaging agents, 23I and 59, were found to be both effective at inhibiting prion infection in N2a/22L tissue culture and to be non-toxic. These two compounds, as well as trimipramine and fluphenazine were evaluated in vivo using wild-type CD-1 mice infected peripherally with 139A PrPSc. All four agents significantly prolonged the asymptomatic incubation period of prion infection (p<0.0001 log-rank test), as well as significantly reducing the degree of spongiform change, astrocytosis and PrPSc levels in the brains of treated mice. These four compounds can be considered, with further development, as candidates for prion therapy.