Pharmacological properties of SAK3, a novel T-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channel enhancer

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T-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channels (T-VGCCs) function in the pathophysiology of epilepsy, pain and sleep. However, their role in cognitive function remains unclear. We previously reported that the cognitive enhancer ST101, which stimulates T-VGCCs in rat cortical slices, was a potential Alzheimer's disease therapeutic. Here, we introduce a more potent T-VGCC enhancer, SAK3 (ethyl 8′-methyl-2′,4-dioxo-2-(piperidin-1-yl)-2′H-spiro[cyclopentane-1,3′-imidazo [1,2-a]pyridin]-2-ene-3-carboxylate), and characterize its pharmacological properties in brain. Based on whole cell patch-clamp analysis, SAK3 (0.01–10 nM) significantly enhanced Cav3.1 currents in neuro2A cells ectopically expressing Cav3.1. SAK3 (0.1–10 nM nM) also enhanced Cav3.3 but not Cav3.2 currents in the transfected cells. Notably, Cav3.1 and Cav3.3 T-VGCCs were localized in cholinergic neurve systems in hippocampus and in the medial septum. Indeed, acute oral administration of SAK3 (0.5 mg/kg, p.o.), but not ST101 (0.5 mg/kg, p.o.) significantly enhanced acetylcholine (ACh) release in the hippocampal CA1 region of naïve mice. Moreover, acute SAK3 (0.5 mg/kg, p.o.) administration significantly enhanced hippocampal ACh levels in olfactory-bulbectomized (OBX) mice, rescuing impaired memory-related behaviors. Treatment of OBX mice with the T-VGCC-specific blocker NNC 55-0396 (12.5 mg/kg, i.p.) antagonized both enhanced ACh release and memory improvements elicited by SAK3 administration. We also observed that SAK3-induced ACh releases were significantly blocked in the hippocampus from Cav3.1 knockout (KO) mice. These findings suggest overall that T-VGCCs play a key role in cognition by enhancing hippocampal ACh release and that the cognitive enhancer SAK3 could be a candidate therapeutic in Alzheimer's disease.

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