Neurotrophins are growth factors that exert important neuroprotective effects by preventing neuronal death and synaptic loss. Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) acts through the activation of its high-affinity, pro-survival TrkA and low-affinity, pro-apoptotic p75NTR receptors. NGF has been shown to slow or prevent neurodegenerative signals in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) progression. However, its low bioavailability and its blood-brain-barrier impermeability limit the use of NGF as a potential therapeutic agent against AD. Based on our previous findings on synthetic dehydroepiandrosterone derivatives, we identified a novel NGF mimetic, named ENT-A013, which selectively activates TrkA and exerts neuroprotective, anti-amyloid-β actions. We now report the chemical synthesis, in silico modelling, metabolic stability, CYP-mediated reaction phenotyping and biological characterization of ENT-A013 under physiological and neurodegenerative conditions. We show that ENT-A013 selectively activates the TrkA receptor and its downstream kinases Akt and Erk1/2 in PC12 cells, protecting these cells from serum deprivation-induced cell death. Moreover, ENT-A013 promotes survival of primary Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) neurons upon NGF withdrawal and protects hippocampal neurons against Amyloid β-induced apoptosis and synaptic loss. Furthermore, this neurotrophin mimetic partially restores LTP impairment. In conclusion, ENT-A013 represents a promising new lead molecule for developing therapeutics against neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, selectively targeting TrkA-mediated pro-survival signals.
Biomedicines. 2022 Mar 6;10(3):614