Identification of Compounds With Glucocorticoid Sparing Effects on Suppression of Chemokine and Cytokine Production by Rheumatoid Arthritis Fibroblast-Like Synoviocytes

Front Pharmacol. 2020 Dec 17;11:607713. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2020.607713. eCollection 2020.


In recent years target based drug discovery has expanded our therapeutic armamentarium in the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Despite these advances and adverse effects, glucocorticoids remain reliable agents that are used in many of these diseases. The anti-inflammatory mechanisms of glucocorticoids include the suppression of transcription factor activity like nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB). By reanalyzing data from two prior high throughput screens (HTS) that utilized a NF-κB reporter construct in THP-1 cells, we identified 1824 small molecule synthetic compounds that demonstrated NF-κB suppressive activities similar to the glucocorticoids included in the original >134,000 compound libraries. These 1824 compounds were then rescreened for attenuating NF-κB activity at 5 and 16 h after LPS stimuli in the NF-κB THP-1 reporter cells. After a "Top X" selection approach 122 hit compounds were further tested for toxicity and suppression of LPS induced CXCL8 release in THP-1 cells. Excluding cytotoxic compounds, the remaining active compounds were grouped into chemotype families using Tanimoto based clustering. Promising representatives from clustered chemotype groups were commercially purchased for further testing. Amongst these index compounds a lead chemotype: 1H-pyrazolo [3,4 d] pyrimidin-4-amine, effectively suppressed CXCL8, and TNF production by THP-1 cells when stimulated with LPS, TNF or IL-1ß. Extending these studies to primary cells, these lead compounds also reduced IL-6 and CXCL8 production by TNF stimulated fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Importantly a lead 1H-pyrazolo [3,4 d] pyrimidin-4-amine compound demonstrated synergistic effects with dexamethasone when co-administered to TNF stimulated THP-1 cells and RA FLS in suppressing chemokine production. In summary, a cell based HTS approach identified lead compounds that reduced NF-κB activity and chemokine secretion induced by potent immunologic stimuli, and one lead compound that acted synergistically with dexamethasone as an anti-inflammatory agent showing a dose-sparing effect.

Keywords: chemokine; chemotype; cytokine; fibroblast; glucocorticoid; high throughput screen; rheumatoid arthritis; synoviocyte.