High-content screening assay-based discovery of paullones as novel podocyte-protective agents

Ha Won Lee, Ehtesham Arif, Mehmet M. Altintas, Kevin Quick, Shrey Maheshwari, Alexandra Plezia, Aqsa Mahmood, Jochen Reiser, Deepak Nihalani, Vineet Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Podocyte dysfunction and loss is an early event and a hallmark of proteinuric kidney diseases. A podocyte’s normal function is maintained via its unique cellular architecture that relies on an intracellular network of filaments, including filamentous actin (F-actin) and microtubules, that provides mechanical support. Damage to this filamentous network leads to changes in cellular morphology and results in podocyte injury, dysfunction, and death. Conversely, stabilization of this network protects podocytes and ameliorates proteinuria. This suggests that stabilization of podocyte architecture via its filamentous network could be a key therapeutic strategy for proteinuric kidney diseases. However, development of podocyte-directed therapeutics, especially those that target the cell’s filamentous network, is still lacking, partly because of unavailability of appropriate cellular assays for use in a drug discovery environment. Here, we describe a new high-content screening-based methodology and its implementation on podocytes to identify paullone derivatives as a novel group of podocyte-protective compounds. We find that three compounds, i.e., kenpaullone, 1-azakenpaullone, and alsterpaullone, dose dependently protect podocytes from puromycin aminonucleoside (PAN)-mediated injury in vitro by reducing PAN-induced changes in both the filamentous actin and microtubules, with alsterpaullone providing maximal protection. Mechanistic studies further show that alsterpaullone suppressed PAN-induced activation of signaling downstream of GSK3β and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase. In vivo it reduced ADR-induced glomerular injury in a zebrafish model. Together, these results identify paullone derivatives as novel podocyte-protective agents for future therapeutic development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F280-F292
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug discovery
  • High-throughput screening
  • Kenpaullone
  • Phenotypic assay
  • Podocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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