Evaluating novel RXR agonists that induce ApoE and tyrosine hydroxylase in cultured human glioblastoma cells

Sanchita Mallick, Pamela A. Marshall, Carl E. Wagner, Michael C. Heck, Zhela L. Sabir, Marya S. Sabir, Christoper M. Dussik, Aleksandra Grozic, Ichiro Kaneko, Peter W. Jurutka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


There is considerable interest in identifying effective and safe drugs for neurodegenerative disorders. Cell culture and animal model work have demonstrated that modulating gene expression through RXR-mediated pathways may mitigate or reverse cognitive decline. However, because RXR is a dimeric partner for several transcription factors, activating off-target transcription is a concern with RXR ligands (rexinoids). This off-target gene modulation leads to unwanted side effects that can include low thyroid function and significant hyperlipidemia. There is a need to develop rexinoids that have binding specificity for subsets of RXR heterodimers, to drive desired gene modulation, but that do not induce spurious effects. Herein, we describe experiments in which we analyze a series of novel and previously reported rexinoids for their ability to modulate specific gene pathways implicated in neurodegenerative disorders employing a U87 cell culture model. We demonstrate that, compared to the FDA-approved rexinoid bexarotene (1), several of these compounds are equally or more effective at stimulating gene expression via LXREs or Nurr1/NBREs and are superior at inducing ApoE and/or tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) gene and protein expression, including analogs 8, 9, 13, 14, 20, 23, and 24, suggesting a possible therapeutic role for these compounds in Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease (PD). A subset of these potent RXR agonists can synergize with a presumed Nurr1 ligand and antimalarial drug (amodiaquine) to further enhance Nurr1/NBREs-directed transcription. This novel discovery has potential clinical implications for treatment of PD since it suggests that the combination of an RXR agonist and a Nurr1 ligand can significantly enhance RXR-Nurr1 heterodimer activity and drive enhanced therapeutic expression of the TH gene to increase endogenous synthesis of dopamine. These data indicate that is it possible and prudent to develop novel rexinoids for testing of gene expression and side effect profiles for use in potential treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, as individual rexinoids can have markedly different gene expression profiles but similar structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-871
Number of pages15
JournalACS chemical neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 3 2021


  • Amodiaquine
  • ApoE
  • LXR
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Nurr1
  • Rexinoids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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