Selective photoregulation of the activity of glycogen synthase and glycogen phosphorylase, two key enzymes in glycogen metabolism
Glycogen is a polymer of α-1,4- and α-1,6-linked glucose units that provides a readily available source of energy in living organisms. Glycogen synthase (GS) and glycogen phosphorylase (GP) are the two enzymes that control, respectively, the synthesis and degradation of this polysaccharide and constitute adequate pharmacological targets to modulate cellular glycogen levels, by means of inhibition of their catalytic activity. Here we report on the synthesis and biological evaluation of a selective inhibitor that consists of an azobenzene moiety glycosidically linked to the anomeric carbon of a glucose molecule. In the ground state, the more stable (E)-isomer of the azobenzene glucoside had a slight inhibitory effect on rat muscle GP (RMGP, IC50 = 4.9 mM) and Escherichia coli GS (EcGS, IC50 = 1.6 mM). After irradiation and subsequent conversion to the (Z)-form, the inhibitory potency of the azobenzene glucoside did not significantly change for RMGP (IC50 = 2.4 mM), while its effect on EcGS increased 50-fold (IC50 = 32 μM). Sucrose synthase 4 from potatoes, a glycosyltransferase that does not operate on glycogen, was only slightly inhibited by the (E)-isomer (IC50 = 0.73 mM). These findings could be rationalized on the basis of kinetic and computer-aided docking analysis, which indicated that both isomers of the azobenzene glucoside mimic the EcGS acceptor substrate and exert their inhibitory effect by binding to the glycogen subsite in the active center of the enzyme. The ability to selectively photoregulate the catalytic activity of key enzymes of glycogen metabolism may represent a new approach for the treatment of glycogen metabolism disorders.