PERK modulation, with GSK2606414, Sephin1 or salubrinal, failed to produce therapeutic benefits in the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS

PLoS One. 2024 Feb 15;19(2):e0292190. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0292190. eCollection 2024.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been linked to overactivity of the protein kinase RNA-like ER kinase (PERK) branch of the unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway, both in ALS patients and mouse models. However, attempts to pharmacologically modulate PERK for therapeutic benefit have yielded inconsistent and often conflicting results. This study sought to address these discrepancies by comprehensively evaluating three commonly used, CNS-penetrant, PERK modulators (GSK2606414, salubrinal, and Sephin1) in the same experimental models, with the goal of assessing the viability of targeting the PERK pathway as a therapeutic strategy for ALS. To achieve this goal, a tunicamycin-challenge assay was developed using wild-type mice to monitor changes in liver UPR gene expression in response to PERK pathway modulation. Subsequently, multiple dosing regimens of each PERK modulator were tested in standardized, well-powered, gender-matched, and litter-matched survival efficacy studies using the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS. The alpha-2-adrenergic receptor agonist clonidine was also tested to elucidate the results obtained from the Sephin1, and of the previously reported guanabenz studies, by comparing the effects of presence or absence of α-2 agonism. The results revealed that targeting PERK may not be an ideal approach for ALS treatment. Inhibiting PERK with GSK2606414 or activating it with salubrinal did not confer therapeutic benefits. While Sephin1 showed some promising therapeutic effects, it appears that these outcomes were mediated through PERK-independent mechanisms. Clonidine also produced some favorable therapeutic effects, which were unexpected and not linked to the UPR. In conclusion, this study highlights the challenges of pharmacologically targeting PERK for therapeutic purposes in the SOD1G93A mouse model and suggests that exploring other targets within, and outside, the UPR may be more promising avenues for ALS treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / drug therapy
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / genetics
  • Animals
  • Cinnamates*
  • Clonidine
  • Guanabenz* / analogs & derivatives*
  • Guanabenz* / pharmacology
  • Guanabenz* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Indoles*
  • Mice
  • Thiourea / analogs & derivatives*
  • Unfolded Protein Response
  • eIF-2 Kinase / genetics
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism


  • sephin1
  • Guanabenz
  • 7-methyl-5-(1-((3-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)acetyl)-2,3-dihydro-1H-indol-5-yl)-7H-pyrrolo(2,3-d)pyrimidin-4-amine
  • salubrinal
  • eIF-2 Kinase
  • Clonidine
  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Adenine
  • Cinnamates
  • Indoles
  • Thiourea

Grants and funding

This research has been partially supported through foundation grant funding from Augie’s Quest to Cure ALS and ALSONE though the funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.