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Identification and characterization of PDE8 inhibitors using a fission yeast based high-throughput screening platform

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In this thesis, I describe the development of a screening platform for detecting PDE8A inhibitors using the cAMP-dependent glucose sensing pathway of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, which led us to discover several PDE8A selective inhibitors. In this system, the only PDE of the fission yeast is replaced with mammalian PDE8A1 in strains that have been engineered such that PDE inhibition is required to allow cell growth. Using this system, I screened 56 compounds obtained from PDE4 and PDE7 high throughput screens (HTSs) and identified a PDE4-PDE8 dual specificity inhibitor. Using this as a positive control, I developed a robust high-throughput screen (HTS) for PDE8A inhibitors and screened 240,267 compounds at the Harvard Medical School ICCB Screening Facility. Approximately 0.2 % of the compound screening  were potential PDE8A inhibitors with 0.03% displaying significant potency. Secondary assays of 367 of the most effective compounds against strains expressing PDE8A (both full length and catalytic domain), PDE4A and PDE7A or PDE7B led to the selection of structurally diverse compounds for further testing. To profile the selectivity of twentyeight of these compounds, dose response assays were conducted using 16 yeast strains that express different PDE isoforms (representing all PDE families with the exception of the PDE6 family). These assays identified compounds with different patterns of inhibition, including structurally-distinct PDE8A-specific inhibitors. By evaluating the effects of these compound screening for steroid production in mouse Leydig cells, biologically active compounds that can elevate steroid production were identified.

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