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SLAS Discov. 2017 Sep;22(8):974-984. doi: 10.1177/2472555217716056. Epub 2017 Jun 23.

High-Throughput Phenotypic Screening of Kinase Inhibitors to Identify Drug Targets for Polycystic Kidney Disease.

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1 Division of Toxicology, Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research, Leiden, Netherlands.
2 Human Genetics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, Netherlands.
3 OcellO B.V., Leiden, Netherlands.
4 Division of Medicinal Chemistry, Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research, Leiden, Netherlands.


Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a prevalent disorder characterized by renal cysts that lead to kidney failure. Various signaling pathways have been targeted to stop disease progression, but most interventions still focus on alleviating PKD-associated symptoms. The mechanistic complexity of the disease, as well as the lack of functional in vitro assays for compound testing, has made drug discovery for PKD challenging. To identify modulators of PKD, Pkd1-/- kidney tubule epithelial cells were applied to a scalable and automated 3D cyst culture model for compound screening, followed by phenotypic profiling to determine compound efficacy. We used this screening platform to screen a library of 273 kinase inhibitors to probe various signaling pathways involved in cyst growth. We show that inhibition of several targets, including aurora kinase, CDK, Chk, IGF-1R, Syk, and mTOR, but, surprisingly, not PI3K, prevented forskolin-induced cyst swelling. Additionally, we show that multiparametric phenotypic classification discriminated potentially undesirable (i.e., cytotoxic) compounds from molecules inducing the desired phenotypic change, greatly facilitating hit selection and validation. Our findings show that a pathophysiologically relevant 3D cyst culture model of PKD coupled to phenotypic profiling can be used to identify potentially therapeutic compounds and predict and validate molecular targets for PKD.


3D culture; high-content screening (HCS); high-throughput screening (HTS); kinase inhibitors; polycystic kidney disease

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