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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 Dec 2021 - 31 Dec 2021

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2021 Dec 14

Biochem Biophys Res Commun


Aprepitant is a novel, selective activator of the K2P channel TRAAK.


McCoull D, Veale EL, Walsh Y, Byrom L, Avkiran T, Large JM, Vaitone E, Gaffey F, Jerman J, Mathie A, Wright PD
Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2021 Dec 14; 588:41-46.
PMID: 34942533.


TRAAK (KCNK4, K2P4.1) is a mechanosensitive two-pore domain potassium (K2P) channel. Due to its expression within sensory neurons and genetic link to neuropathic pain it represents a promising potential target for novel analgesics. In common with many other channels in the wider K2P sub-family, there remains a paucity of small molecule pharmacological tools. Specifically, there is a lack of molecules selective for TRAAK over the other members of the TREK subfamily of K2P channels. We developed a thallium flux assay to allow high throughput screening of compounds and facilitate the identification of novel TRAAK activators. Using a library of ∼1200 drug like molecules we identified Aprepitant as a small molecule activator of TRAAK. Aprepitant is an NK-1 antagonist used to treat nausea and vomiting. Close structural analogues of Aprepitant and a range of NK-1 antagonists were also selected or designed for purchase or brief chemical synthesis and screened for their ability to activate TRAAK. Electrophysiology experiments confirmed that Aprepitant activates both the 'long' and 'short' transcript variants of TRAAK. We also demonstrated that Aprepitant is selective and does not activate other members of the K2P superfamily. This work describes the development of a high throughput assay to identify potential TRAAK activators and subsequent identification and confirmation of the novel TRAAK activator Aprepitant. This discovery identifies a useful tool compound which can be used to further probe the function of TRAAK K2P channels.