Label-free cell phenotypic profiling and pathway deconvolution of neurotensin receptor-1

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Neurotensin (NT), an endogenous peptide found in the central nervous system and in peripheral tissues, contributes to the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases, cancer, inflammation, and immunomodulatory disease. NT exerts its physiological effects predominantly through its cognate high-affinity neurotensin receptor-1 (NTS1). NTS1 emerges as a druggable target; however, there are limited numbers of NTS1 active compounds reported to date. Here we reported a label-free cell phenotypic profiling model for screening NTS1 ligands and differentiating their biased agonism. Resonant waveguide grating enabled dynamic mass redistribution (DMR) assay was first optimized against cell confluency and then used to characterize the endogenous NTS1 in HT-29 cell using known agonists and antagonists. Pathway modulators were also used to deconvolute the signaling pathways of endogenous NTS1. Results showed that the NTS1 DMR assay is robust for screening and can differentiate biased agonism; and the activation of NTS1 in HT-29 triggers multiple pathways including Gq signaling and epidermal growth factor receptor transactivation. This study highlighted the power of label-free DMR assay to characterize receptor signaling and pharmacology of distinct classes of ligands for NTS1, G protein-coupled receptors in general.

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