K(v)7 channel activators decrease neuronal excitability and might potentially treat neuronal hyperexcitability disorders like epilepsy and mania. Here we introduce NS15370 ((2-(3,5-difluorophenyl)-N-[6-[(4-fluorophenyl)methylamino]-2-morpholino-3-pyridyl]acetamide)hydrochloride, an in vitro high-potency chemical analogue of retigabine, without effects on GABA(A) receptors. NS15370 activates recombinant homo- and heteromeric K(v)7.2-K(v)7.5 channels in HEK293 cells at sub-micromolar concentrations (EC₅₀~100 nM, as quantified by a fluorescence based Tl⁺-influx assay). In voltage clamp experiments NS15370 exhibits a complex, concentration-dependent mode-of-action: At low concentrations it accelerates voltage-dependent activation rates, slows deactivations, and increases steady-state current amplitudes. Quantified by the peak-tail current method, the V½ value of the steady-state activation curve is shifted towards hyperpolarized potentials at concentrations ~100 times lower than retigabine. However, in contrast to retigabine, NS15370 also introduces a distinct time-dependent current decrease, which eventually, at higher concentrations, causes suppression of the current at depolarized potentials, and an apparent "cross-over" of the voltage-activation curve. In brain slices, NS15370 hyperpolarizes and increases spike frequency adaptation of hippocampal CA1 neurons and the compound reduces the autonomous firing of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia-nigra pars compacta. NS15370 is effective in rodent models of hyperexcitability: (i) it yields full protection against mouse 6 Hz seizures and rat amygdala kindling discharges, two models of partial epilepsia; (ii) it reduces (+)-MK-801 hydrogen maleate (MK-801)-induced hyperactivity as well as chlordiazepoxide (CDP)+d-amphetamine (AMP)-induced hyperactivity, models sensitive to classic anti-psychotic and anti-manic treatments, respectively. Our findings with NS15370 consolidate neuronal K(v)7 channels as targets for anti-epileptic and psychiatric drug development.
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