Development of a Versatile and Sensitive Direct Ligand Binding Assay for Human NR5A Nuclear Receptors

ACS Med Chem Lett. 2019 Nov 21;11(3):365-370. doi: 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.9b00442. eCollection 2020 Mar 12.


As regulators of steroidogenesis, development, and metabolism, the nuclear receptor 5A (NR5A) subfamily members steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) and liver receptor homologue 1 (LRH-1) are important pharmacological targets for cancers and metabolic diseases. Evaluation of small molecule modulators and candidate endogenous ligands for these orphan receptors has been hindered by the lack of accessible, robust direct-binding assays. Here, we leverage the potency of our new NR5A agonist (6N) to create a high-affinity probe for fluorescence polarization competition assays by conjugating 6N to fluorescein (FAM). The 6N-FAM probe tightly binds the NR5A receptors and detects direct binding of synthetic and phospholipid ligands. For 25 LRH-1 agonists, affinity predicts potency in cellular activation assays, demonstrating the potential for this assay in drug discovery. Moreover, phospholipids dilauroylphosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylinositol(4,5)phosphate bind with high affinity, demonstrating this assay is robust for evaluation of candidate endogenous ligands for human NR5A receptors.