Development of a Testing Funnel for Identification of Small-Molecule Modulators Targeting Secretin Receptors

Daniela G. Dengler, Qing Sun, John Holleran, Sirkku Pollari, Jannis Beutel, Brock T. Brown, Aki Shinoki Iwaya, Robert Ardecky, Kaleeckal G. Harikumar, Laurence J. Miller, Eduard A. Sergienko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The secretin receptor (SCTR), a prototypical class B G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), exerts its effects mainly by activating Gαs proteins upon binding of its endogenous peptide ligand secretin. SCTRs can be found in a variety of tissues and organs across species, including the pancreas, stomach, liver, heart, lung, colon, kidney, and brain. Beyond that, modulation of SCTR-mediated signaling has therapeutic potential for the treatment of multiple diseases, such as heart failure, obesity, and diabetes. However, no ligands other than secretin and its peptide analogs have been described to regulate SCTRs, probably due to inherent challenges in family B GPCR drug discovery. Here we report creation of a testing funnel that allowed targeted detection of SCTR small-molecule activators. Pursuing the strategy to identify positive allosteric modulators (PAMs), we established a unique primary screening assay employing a mixture of three orthosteric stimulators that was compared in a screening campaign testing 12,000 small-molecule compounds. Beyond that, we developed a comprehensive set of secondary assays, such as a radiolabel-free target engagement assay and a NanoBiT (NanoLuc Binary Technology)-based approach to detect β-arrestin-2 recruitment, all feasible in a high-throughput environment as well as capable of profiling ligands and hits regarding their effect on binding and receptor function. This combination of methods enabled the discovery of five promising scaffolds, four of which have been validated and further characterized with respect to their allosteric activities. We propose that our results may serve as starting points for developing the first in vivo active small molecules targeting SCTRs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalSLAS Discovery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • G protein-coupled receptor
  • TR-FRET binding
  • high-throughput screening
  • positive allosteric modulator
  • secretin receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine


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