The neurodegenerative disease multiple sclerosis (MS) is pathologically characterized by the massive influx of immune cells into the central nervous system. This contributes to demyelination and axonal damage which causes symptoms such as motor and cognitive dysfunctions. The migration of leukocytes from the blood vessel is orchestrated by a multitude of factors whose determination is essential in reducing cellular influx in MS patients and the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) animal model. The here studied enzyme tissue Transglutaminase (TG2) is present intracellularly, on the cell surface and extracellularly. There it contributes to cellular adhesion and migration via its transamidation activity and possibly by facilitating cellular interaction with the extracellular matrix. Previous data from our group showed reduced motor symptoms and cellular infiltration after using a pharmacological TG2 transamidation activity inhibitor in a rat EAE model. However, it remained elusive if the cross-linking activity of the enzyme resulted in the observed effects. To follow-up, we now characterized two new small molecule TG2 activity inhibitors, BJJF078 and ERW1041E. Both compounds are potent inhibitor of recombinant human and mouse Transglutaminase enzyme activity, mainly TG2 and the close related enzyme TG1. In addition they did not affect the binding of TG2 to the extracellular matrix substrate fibronectin, a process via which TG2 promotes cellular adhesion and migration. We found, that ERW1041E but not BJJF078 resulted in reduced EAE disease motor-symptoms while neither caused apparent changes in pathology (cellular influx), Transglutaminase activity or expression of inflammation related markers in the spinal cord, compared to vehicle treated controls. Although we cannot exclude issues on bioavailability and in vivo efficacy of the used compounds, we hypothesize that extracellular TG1/TG2 activity is of greater importance than (intra-)cellular activity in mouse EAE pathology.
Chrobok, N. L., Bol, J. G. J. M., Jongenelen, C. A., Brevé, J. J. P., Alaoui, S. E., Wilhelmus, M. M. M., ... van Dam, A-M. (2018). Characterization of Transglutaminase 2 activity inhibitors in monocytes in vitro and their effect in a mouse model for multiple sclerosis. PLoS ONE, 13(4), [e0196433]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196433