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- SQUIRRELnovo : de novo design of a PPARalpha agonist by bioisosteric replacement (2009)
- Shape complementarity is a compulsory condition for molecular recognition . In our 3D ligand-based virtual screening approach called SQUIRREL, we combine shape-based rigid body alignment  with fuzzy pharmacophore scoring . Retrospective validation studies demonstrate the superiority of methods which combine both shape and pharmacophore information on the family of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). We demonstrate the real-life applicability of SQUIRREL by a prospective virtual screening study, where a potent PPARalpha agonist with an EC50 of 44 nM and 100-fold selectivity against PPARgamma has been identified. SQUIRREL molecular superposition is based on a graph-matching routine  and allows partial matching. We used this advantage for searching for bioisosteric replacement suggestions in a database of molecular fragments derived from a collection of drug-like compounds . The bioisosteric groups suggested by our tool SQURRELnovo, can be used for ligand-based de novo design by a human expert. Using the fibrate derivative GW590735  as query, we designed a novel lead structure by substitution of the acidic head group and hydrophobic tail. The synthesis and following testing in a cell-based reporter gene assay [7,8] revealed that the designed structure activates PPARalpha with an EC50 of 510 nM.
- Activation of Rac-1 and RhoA contributes to podocyte injury in chronic kidney disease (2013)
- Rho-family GTPases like RhoA and Rac-1 are potent regulators of cellular signaling that control gene expression, migration and inflammation. Activation of Rho-GTPases has been linked to podocyte dysfunction, a feature of chronic kidney diseases (CKD). We investigated the effect of Rac-1 and Rho kinase (ROCK) inhibition on progressive renal failure in mice and studied the underlying mechanisms in podocytes. SV129 mice were subjected to 5/6-nephrectomy which resulted in arterial hypertension and albuminuria. Subgroups of animals were treated with the Rac-1 inhibitor EHT1846, the ROCK inhibitor SAR407899 and the ACE inhibitor Ramipril. Only Ramipril reduced hypertension. In contrast, all inhibitors markedly attenuated albumin excretion as well as glomerular and tubulo-interstitial damage. The combination of SAR407899 and Ramipril was more effective in preventing albuminuria than Ramipril alone. To study the involved mechanisms, podocytes were cultured from SV129 mice and exposed to static stretch in the Flexcell device. This activated RhoA and Rac-1 and led via TGFβ to apoptosis and a switch of the cells into a more mesenchymal phenotype, as evident from loss of WT-1 and nephrin and induction of α-SMA and fibronectin expression. Rac-1 and ROCK inhibition as well as blockade of TGFβ dramatically attenuated all these responses. This suggests that Rac-1 and RhoA are mediators of podocyte dysfunction in CKD. Inhibition of Rho-GTPases may be a novel approach for the treatment of CKD.