Identification and functional characterization of allosteric agonists for the G protein-coupled receptor FFA2.

Authors: Lee T, Schwandner R, Swaminath G, Weiszmann J, Cardozo M, Greenberg J, Jaeckel P, Ge H, Wang Y, Jiao X, Liu J, Kayser F, Tian H, Li Y.
Publisher/Year: Mol Pharmacol. 2008 Dec;74(6):1599-609. Epub 2008 Sep 25.
Pub Med ID/Journal ID: PMID:18818303


FFA2 (GPR43) has been identified as a receptor for short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that include acetate and propionate. FFA2 is highly expressed in islets, a subset of immune cells, and adipocytes. Although the potential roles of FFA2 activation in these tissues have previously been described, the physiological functions are still unclear. The potency for SCFAs on FFA2 is low, in the high micromolar to millimolar concentrations. To identify better pharmacological tools to study receptor function, we used high-throughput screening (HTS) to discover a series of small molecule phenylacetamides as novel and more potent FFA2 agonists. This series is specific for FFA2 over FFA1 (GPR40) and FFA3 (GPR41), and it is able to activate both the Galpha(q) and Galpha(i) pathways in vitro on Chinese hamster ovary cells stably expressing FFA2. Treatment of adipocytes with these compounds also resulted in Galpha(i)-dependent inhibition of lipolysis similar to that of endogenous ligands (SCFAs). It is noteworthy that these compounds not only acted as FFA2 agonists but also exhibited positive cooperativity with acetate or propionate. The observed allosteric modulation was consistent in all the functional assays that we have explored, including cAMP, calcium mobilization, guanosine 5'-[gamma-thio]triphosphate binding, and lipolysis. Molecular modeling analysis of FFA2 based on human beta(2)-adrenergic receptor structure revealed potential nonoverlapping binding sites for the endogenous and synthetic ligands, further providing insight into the binding pocket for the allosteric interactions. This is the first report describing the identification of novel allosteric modulators with agonist activity for FFA2, and these compounds may serve as tools for further unraveling the physiological functions of the receptor and its involvement in various diseases.