Discovery of Small-Molecule CD33 Pre-mRNA Splicing Modulators

ACS Med Chem Lett. 2022 Jan 4;13(1):55-62. doi: 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.1c00396. eCollection 2022 Jan 13.


CD33/Siglec 3 is a myeloid lineage cell surface receptor that is known to regulate microglia activity. Multiple genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified genetic variants in the CD33 gene that convey protection from late-onset Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, mechanistic studies into GWAS-linked variants suggest that disease protection is attributed to the alternative splicing of exon 2 of the CD33 pre-mRNA. Using a phenomimetic screen, a series of compounds were found to enhance the exclusion of CD33 exon 2, acting as a chemomimetic of the GWAS-linked gene variants. Additional studies confirmed that meyloid lineage cells treated with several of these compounds have a reduced full-length V-domain containing CD33 protein, while targeted RNA-seq concordantly demonstrated that compound 1 increases exon 2 skipping in cellular mRNA pools. These studies demonstrate how pharmacological interventions can be used to manipulate disease-relevant pre-mRNA splicing and provide a starting point for future efforts to identify small molecules that alter neuroimmune function that is rooted in the human biology of neurodegenerative disease.