Eupatilin rescues ciliary transition zone defects to ameliorate ciliopathy-related phenotypes

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Ciliopathies are clinically overlapping genetic disorders involving structural and functional abnormalities of cilia. Currently, there are no small-molecule drugs available to treat ciliary defects in ciliopathies. Our phenotype-based screen identified the flavonoid eupatilin and its analogs as lead compounds for developing ciliopathy medication. CEP290, a gene mutated in several ciliopathies, encodes a protein that forms a complex with NPHP5 to support the function of the ciliary transition zone. Eupatilin relieved ciliogenesis and ciliary receptor delivery defects resulting from deletion of CEP290. In rd16 mice harboring a blinding Cep290 in-frame deletion, eupatilin treatment improved both opsin transport to the photoreceptor outer segment and electrophysiological responses of the retina to light stimulation. The rescue effect was due to eupatilin-mediated inhibition of calmodulin binding to NPHP5, which promoted NPHP5 recruitment to the ciliary base. Our results suggest that deficiency of a ciliopathy protein could be mitigated by small-molecule compounds that target other ciliary components that interact with the ciliopathy protein.

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