Functional rescue of misfolded mutant receptors by small non-peptide molecules has been demonstrated. These small, target-specific molecules (pharmacological chaperones or "pharmacoperones") serve as molecular templates, promote correct folding and allow otherwise misfolded mutants to pass the scrutiny of the cellular quality control system (QCS) and be expressed at the plasma membrane (PM) where they function similarly to wild type (WT) proteins. In the case of the gonadotropin releasing hormone receptor (GnRHR), drugs that rescue one mutant typically rescue many mutants, even if the mutations are located at distant sites (extracellular loops, intracellular loops, transmembrane helices). This increases the value of these drugs. These drugs are typically identified, post hoc, from "hits" in screens designed to detect antagonists or agonists. The therapeutic utility of pharmacoperones has been limited due to the absence of screens that enable identification of pharmacoperones per se.
Methods and findings:
We describe a generalizable primary screening approach for pharmacoperone drugs based on measurement of gain of activity in stable HeLa cells stably expressing the mutants of two different model G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) (hGnRHR[E(90)K] or hV2R[L(83)Q]). These cells turn off expression of the receptor mutant gene of interest in the presence of tetracycline and its analogs, which provides a convenient means to identify false positives.
This approach will identify structures that would have been missed in screens that were designed to select only agonists or antagonists. Non-antagonistic pharmacoperones have a therapeutic advantage since they will not compete for endogenous agonists and may not have to be washed out once rescue has occurred and before activation by endogenous or exogenous agonists.
The article is published online in PLoS ONE and is free to access.