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J Med Chem. 2009 Jul 9;52(13):3941-53. doi: 10.1021/jm900278w.

Inhibition of sphingosine-1-phosphate lyase for the treatment of autoimmune disorders.

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Lexicon Pharmaceuticals, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.


During nearly a decade of research dedicated to the study of sphingosine signaling pathways, we identified sphingosine-1-phosphate lyase (S1PL) as a drug target for the treatment of autoimmune disorders. S1PL catalyzes the irreversible decomposition of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) by a retro-aldol fragmentation that yields hexadecanaldehyde and phosphoethanolamine. Genetic models demonstrated that mice expressing reduced S1PL activity had decreased numbers of circulating lymphocytes due to altered lymphocyte trafficking, which prevented disease development in multiple models of autoimmune disease. Mechanistic studies of lymphoid tissue following oral administration of 2-acetyl-4(5)-(1(R),2(S),3(R),4-tetrahydroxybutyl)-imidazole (THI) 3 showed a clear relationship between reduced lyase activity, elevated S1P levels, and lower levels of circulating lymphocytes. Our internal medicinal chemistry efforts discovered potent analogues of 3 bearing heterocycles as chemical equivalents of the pendant carbonyl present in the parent structure. Reduction of S1PL activity by oral administration of these analogues recapitulated the phenotype of mice with genetically reduced S1PL expression.

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