Lubeluzole, which acts on various targets in vitro, including voltage-gated sodium channels, was initially proposed as a neuroprotectant. The lubeluzole structure contains a benzothiazole moiety [N-methyl-1,3-benzothiazole-2-amine (R-like)] related to riluzole and a phenoxy-propranol-amine moiety [(RS)-1-(3,4-difluorophenoxy)-3-(piperidin-1-yl)propan-2-ol (A-core)] recalling propranolol. Both riluzole and propranolol are efficient sodium channel blockers. We studied in detail the effects of lubeluzole (racemic mixture and single isomers), the aforementioned lubeluzole moieties, and riluzole on sodium channels to increase our knowledge of drug-channel molecular interactions. Compounds were tested on hNav1.4 sodium channels, and on F1586C or Y1593C mutants functionally expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells, using the patch-clamp technique. Lubeluzole blocked sodium channels with a remarkable effectiveness. No stereoselectivity was found. Compared with mexiletine, the dissociation constant for inactivated channels was ~600 times lower (~11 nM), conferring to lubeluzole a huge use-dependence of great therapeutic value. The F1586C mutation only partially impaired the use-dependent block, suggesting that additional amino acids are critically involved in high-affinity binding. Lubeluzole moieties were modest sodium channel blockers. Riluzole blocked sodium channels efficiently but lacked use dependence, similar to R-like. F1586C fully abolished A-core use dependence, suggesting that A-core binds to the local anesthetic receptor. Thus, lubeluzole likely binds to the local anesthetic receptor through its phenoxy-propranol-amine moiety, with consequent use-dependent behavior. Nevertheless, compared with other known sodium channel blockers, lubeluzole adds a third pharmacophoric point through its benzothiazole moiety, which greatly enhances high-affinity binding and use-dependent block. If sufficient isoform specificity can be attained, the huge use-dependent block may help in the development of new sodium channel inhibitors to provide pharmacotherapy for membrane excitability disorders, such as myotonia, epilepsy, or chronic pain.
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