Phospholipids are ligands for nuclear hormone receptors (NRs) that regulate transcriptional programs relevant to normal physiology and disease. Here, we demonstrate that mimicking phospholipid-NR interactions is a robust strategy to improve agonists of liver receptor homolog-1 (LRH-1), a therapeutic target for colitis. Conventional LRH-1 modulators only partially occupy the binding pocket, leaving vacant a region important for phospholipid binding and allostery. Therefore, we constructed a set of molecules with elements of natural phospholipids appended to a synthetic LRH-1 agonist. We show that the phospholipid-mimicking groups interact with the targeted residues in crystal structures and improve binding affinity, LRH-1 transcriptional activity, and conformational changes at a key allosteric site. The best phospholipid mimetic markedly improves colonic histopathology and disease-related weight loss in a murine T cell transfer model of colitis. This evidence of in vivo efficacy for an LRH-1 modulator in colitis represents a leap forward in agonist development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Drug Discovery
- Clinical Biochemistry