Determination and reduction of translocator protein (TSPO) ligand rs6971 discrimination†
The 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO) is a target for development of diagnostic imaging agents for glioblastoma and neuroinflammation. Clinical translation of TSPO imaging agents has been hindered by the presence of a polymorphism, rs6971, which causes a non-conservative substitution of alanine for threonine at amino acid residue 147 (TSPO A147T). Disclosed brain-permeant second-generation TSPO ligands bind TSPO A147T with reduced affinity compared to the wild type protein (TSPO WT). Efforts to develop a TSPO ligand that binds TSPO WT and TSPO A147T with similarly high affinity have been hampered by a lack of knowledge about how ligand structure differentially influences interaction with the two forms of TSPO. To gain insight, we have established human embryonic kidney cell lines stably over-expressing human TSPO WT and TSPO A147T, and tested how modifications of a novel N-alkylated carbazole scaffold influence affinity to both TSPO isoforms. Most of the new analogues developed in this study showed high affinity to TSPO WT and a 5–6-fold lower affinity to TSPO A147T. Addition of electron-withdrawing substituents yielded analogues with highest affinity for TSPO A147T without decreasing affinity for TSPO WT. This knowledge can be used to inform further development of non-discriminating TSPO ligands for use as diagnostic markers for glioblastoma and neuroinflammation irrespective of rs6971.