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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2013 Mar;344(3):568-78. doi: 10.1124/jpet.112.201798. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

High-throughput identification and characterization of novel, species-selective GPR35 agonists.

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  • 1Medical Research Council Technology Centre for Therapeutics Discovery, London, United Kingdom.


Drugs targeting the orphan receptor GPR35 have potential therapeutic application in a number of disease areas, including inflammation, metabolic disorders, nociception, and cardiovascular disease. Currently available surrogate GPR35 agonists identified from pharmacologically relevant compound libraries have limited utility due to the likelihood of off-target effects in vitro and in vivo and the variable potency that such ligands exhibit across species. We sought to identify and characterize novel GPR35 agonists to facilitate studies aimed at defining the physiologic role of GPR35. PathHunter β-arrestin recruitment technology was validated as a human GPR35 screening assay, and a high-throughput screen of 100,000 diverse low molecular weight compounds was conducted. Confirmed GPR35 agonists from five distinct chemotypes were selected for detailed characterization using both β-arrestin recruitment and G protein-dependent assays and each of the human, mouse, and rat GPR35 orthologs. These studies identified 4-{(Z)-[(2Z)-2-(2-fluorobenzylidene)-4-oxo-1,3-thiazolidin-5-ylidene]methyl}benzoic acid (compound 1) as the highest potency full agonist of human GPR35 yet described. As with certain other GPR35 agonists, compound 1 was markedly selective for human GPR35, but displayed elements of signal bias between β-arrestin-2 and G protein-dependent assays. Compound 1 also displayed competitive behavior when assessed against the human GPR35 antagonist, ML-145 (2-hydroxy-4-[4-(5Z)-5-[(E)-2-methyl-3-phenylprop-2-enylidene]-4-oxo-2-sulfanylidene-1,3-thiazolidin-3-yl]butanoylamino]benzoic acid). Of the other chemotypes studied, compounds 2 and 3 were selective for the human receptor, but compounds 4 and 5 demonstrated similar activity at human, rat, and mouse GPR35 orthologs. Further characterization of these compounds and related analogs is likely to facilitate a better understanding of GPR35 in health and disease.

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