AlphaScreen Identifies MSUT2 Inhibitors for Tauopathy-Targeting Therapeutic Discovery

Elsevier, SLAS Discovery, Volume 26, March 2021
Baker J.D., Uhrich R.L., Strovas T.J., Saxton A.D., Kraemer B.C.

Tauopathies are neurological disorders characterized by intracellular tau deposits forming neurofibrillary tangles, neuropil threads, or other disease-specific aggregates composed of the protein tau. Tauopathy disorders include frontotemporal lobar degeneration, corticobasal degeneration, Pick’s disease, and the largest cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. The lack of disease-modifying therapeutic strategies to address tauopathies remains a critical unmet need in dementia care. Thus, novel broad-spectrum tau-targeted therapeutics could have a profound impact in multiple tauopathy disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. Here we have designed a drug discovery paradigm to identify inhibitors of the pathological tau-enabling protein, MSUT2. We previously showed that activity of the RNA-binding protein MSUT2 drives tauopathy, including tau-mediated neurodegeneration and cognitive dysfunction, in mouse models. Thus, we hypothesized that MSUT2 inhibitors could be therapeutic for tauopathy disorders. Our pipeline for MSUT2 inhibitory compound identification included a primary AlphaScreen, followed by dose–response validation, a secondary fluorescence polarization orthogonal assay, a tertiary specificity screen, and a preliminary toxicity screen. Our work here serves as a proof-of-principle methodology for finding specific inhibitors of the poly(A) RNA-binding protein MSUT2 interaction. Here we identify 4,4′-diisothiocyanostilbene-2,2′-sulfonic acid (DIDS) as a potential tool compound for future work probing the mechanism of MSUT2-induced tau pathology.