Preventing proteostasis diseases by selective inhibition of a phosphatase regulatory subunit

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Science  10 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6231, pp. 239-242
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4484

Giving protein folding a helping hand

The reversible phosphorylation of proteins controls virtually all aspects of cell and organismal function. Targeting phosphorylation offers a broad range of therapeutic opportunities, and thus kinases have become important therapeutic targets. As targets, phosphatases should be as attractive, but in fact they are more challenging to manipulate. Das et al. have found a safe and specific inhibitor, called Sephin1, that targets a regulatory subunit of protein phosphatase 1 in vivo. Sephin1 binds and inhibits PPP1R15A, but not the related regulatory phosphatase PPP1R15B. In mice, Sephin1 prolonged a stress-induced phospho-signaling pathway to prevent the pathological defects of the unrelated protein-misfolding diseases Charcot-Marie-Tooth 1B and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Science, this issue p. 239


Protein phosphorylation regulates virtually all biological processes. Although protein kinases are popular drug targets, targeting protein phosphatases remains a challenge. Here, we describe Sephin1 (selective inhibitor of a holophosphatase), a small molecule that safely and selectively inhibited a regulatory subunit of protein phosphatase 1 in vivo. Sephin1 selectively bound and inhibited the stress-induced PPP1R15A, but not the related and constitutive PPP1R15B, to prolong the benefit of an adaptive phospho-signaling pathway, protecting cells from otherwise lethal protein misfolding stress. In vivo, Sephin1 safely prevented the motor, morphological, and molecular defects of two otherwise unrelated protein-misfolding diseases in mice, Charcot-Marie-Tooth 1B, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Thus, regulatory subunits of phosphatases are drug targets, a property exploited here to safely prevent two protein misfolding diseases.

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