EACT increases intracellular calcium levels by a TMEM16A-independent mechanism
Sarah Lilley1, Henry Danahay1,2, Holly Charlton1, Kathryn Adley1, Roy Fox1, Martin Gosling1,2
1University of Sussex, Brighton, UK; 2Enterprise Therapeutics, UK
The N-aroylaminothiazole EACT was first described by Namkung et al. (2011) as an activator of the calcium-activated chloride channel, TMEM16A. Subsequently, EACT has been used as a tool compound by investigators to describe a wide variety of putative physiological functions of TMEM16A. The aim of the present study was to compare the pharmacology of EACT with alternative potentiators of TMEM16A that have been recently discovered by high-throughput screening.
Consistent with the original reported pharmacology, EACT increased anion secretory responses in models of epithelial ion transport that could be attenuated with the TMEM16A blocker, Ani9. Similarly, novel TMEM16A potentiators from 3 structurally distinct chemical series also increased the Ani9-sensitive anion secretion in these ion transport models.
To understand the mechanism of activation of these anion secretory currents, the effects of EACT and the novel TMEM16A potentiators on levels of intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i) were evaluated. The acute addition of EACT to primary CF-HBE induced a concentration-dependent increase in [Ca2+]i. Pre-treatment of cells with Ani9 had no effect on the EACT-induced rise in [Ca2+]i. In contrast, the novel TMEM16A potentiators had no effect on [Ca2+]i.
The observation that EACT could increase [Ca2+]i questioned the reported pharmacological mechanism of TMEM16A activation by this molecule ie. via a direct interaction with the channel. To address whether EACT could directly activate TMEM16A in the absence of an elevation of [Ca2+]i, patch-clamp studies were performed under conditions of buffered [Ca2+]i. Under these conditions, with [Ca2+]i tightly clamped, EACT showed no evidence of any activity on TMEM16A. In contrast, the novel TMEM16A potentiators all showed a potent increase in channel function.
Together, these data do not support the description of EACT as a direct TMEM16A modulator but are consistent with its activation of TMEM16A being indirect, the result of an as yet undefined mechanism leading to an elevation of [Ca2+]i. Furthermore the recent proposal that TMEM16A positively regulates [Ca2+]i (Cabrita et al., 2017) is not consistent with the lack of effect of either the TMEM16A blocker Ani9 or the novel potent and selective TMEM16A potentiators on [Ca2+]i. Our data suggest that literature reports of TMEM16A function that have relied on the use of EACT as a pharmacological tool should be interpreted with caution.
Namkung et al (2011) FASEB J 25(11):4048-4062