Profiling diverse compounds by flux- and electrophysiology-based primary screens for inhibition of human Ether-à-go-go related gene potassium channels

Assay Drug Dev Technol. 2010 Dec;8(6):743-54. doi: 10.1089/adt.2010.0339.


Compound effects on cloned human Ether-à-go-go related gene (hERG) potassium channels have been used to assess the potential cardiac safety liabilities of drug development candidate compounds. In addition to radioactive ligand displacement tests, two other common approaches are surrogate ion-based flux assays and electrophysiological recordings. The former has much higher throughput, whereas the latter measures directly the effects on ionic currents. Careful characterization in earlier reports has been performed to compare the relative effectiveness of these approaches for known hERG blockers, which often yielded good overall correlation. However, cases were reported showing significant and reproducible differences in potency and/or sensitivity by the two methods. This raises a question concerning the rationale and criteria on which an assay should be selected for evaluating unknown compounds. To provide a general basis for considering assays to profile large compound libraries for hERG activity, we have conducted parallel flux and electrophysiological analyses of 2,000 diverse compounds, representative of the 300,000 compound collection of NIH Molecular Library Small Molecular Repository (MLSMR). Our results indicate that at the conventional testing concentration 1.0 μM, the overlap between the two assays ranges from 32% to 50% depending on the hit selection criteria. There was a noticeable rate of false negatives by the thallium-based assay relative to electrophysiological recording, which may be greatly reduced under modified comparative conditions. As these statistical results identify a preferred method for cardiac safety profiling of unknown compounds, they suggest an efficient method combining flux and electrophysiological assays to rapidly profile hERG liabilities of large collection of naive compounds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channel Blockers / pharmacology*
  • Small Molecule Libraries*
  • Thallium / metabolism


  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels
  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Thallium