A fundamental impediment to functional recovery from spinal cord injury (SCI) and traumatic brain injury is the lack of sufficient axonal regeneration in the adult central nervous system. There is thus a need to develop agents that can stimulate axon growth to re-establish severed connections. Given the critical role played by protein kinases in regulating axon growth and the potential for pharmacological intervention, small molecule protein kinase inhibitors present a promising therapeutic strategy. Here, we report a robust cell-based phenotypic assay, utilizing primary rat hippocampal neurons, for identifying small molecule kinase inhibitors that promote neurite growth. The assay is highly reliable and suitable for medium-throughput screening, as indicated by its Z′-factor of 0.73. A focused structurally diverse library of protein kinase inhibitors was screened, revealing several compound groups with the ability to strongly and consistently promote neurite growth. The best performing bioassay hit robustly and consistently promoted axon growth in a postnatal cortical slice culture assay. This study can serve as a jumping-off point for structure activity relationship (SAR) and other drug discovery approaches toward the development of drugs for treating SCI and related neurological pathologies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine