A lipid-anchored neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist prolongs pain relief by a three-pronged mechanism of action targeting the receptor at the plasma membrane and in endosomes

Quynh Mai, Priyank Shenoy, Tim Quach, Jeffri Stevens Retamal Santibanez, Arisbel Batista Gondin, Holly Yeatman, Luigi Aurelio, Joshua W. Conner, Daniel P. Poole, Meritxell Canals, Cameron Nowell, Bim Graham, Thomas P. Davis, Stephen J Briddon, Stephen J. Hill, Christopher Porter, Nigel Bunnett, Michelle Louise Halls, Nicholas A. Veldhuis

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G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are traditionally known for signaling at the plasma membrane, but they can also signal from endosomes after internalization to control important pathophysiological processes. In spinal neurons, sustained endosomal signaling of the neurokinin 1 receptor (NK1R) mediates nociception, as demonstrated in models of acute and neuropathic pain. An NK1R antagonist, Spantide I (Span), conjugated to cholestanol (Span-Chol), accumulates in endosomes, inhibits endosomal NK1R signaling, and causes prolonged antinociception. However, the extent to which the Chol-anchor influences long-term location and activity is poorly understood. Herein, we used fluorescent correlation spectroscopy and targeted biosensors to characterize Span-Chol over time. The Chol-anchor increased local concentration of probe at the plasma membrane. Over time we observed an increase in NK1R-binding affinity and more potent inhibition of NK1R-mediated calcium signaling. Span-Chol, but not Span, caused a persistent decrease in NK1R recruitment of βarrestin and receptor internalization to early endosomes. Using targeted biosensors, we mapped the relative inhibition of NK1R signaling as the receptor moved into the cell. Span selectively inhibited cell surface signaling, whereas Span-Chol partitioned into endosomal membranes and blocked endosomal signaling. In a preclinical model of pain, Span-Chol caused prolonged antinociception (>9 h), which is attributable to a three-pronged mechanism of action: increased local concentration at membranes, a prolonged decrease in NK1R endocytosis, and persistent inhibition of signaling from endosomes. Identifying the mechanisms that contribute to the increased preclinical efficacy of lipid-anchored NK1R antagonists is an important step toward understanding how we can effectively target intracellular GPCRs in disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100345
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

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