The small molecule GAT1508 activates brain-specific GIRK1/2 channel heteromers and facilitates conditioned fear extinction in rodents

Yu Xu, Lucas Cantwell, Andrei I. Molosh, Leigh D. Plant, Dimitris Gazgalis, Stephanie D. Fitz, Erik T. Dustrude, Yuchen Yang, Takeharu Kawano, Sumanta Garai, Sami F. Noujaim, Anantha Shekhar, Diomedes E. Logothetis, Ganesh A. Thakur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


G-protein– gated inwardly-rectifying K+ (GIRK) channels are targets of Gi/o-protein–signaling systems that inhibit cell excitability. GIRK channels exist as homotetramers (GIRK2 and GIRK4) or heterotetramers with nonfunctional homomeric subunits (GIRK1 and GIRK3). Although they have been implicated in multiple conditions, the lack of selective GIRK drugs that discriminate among the different GIRK channel subtypes has hampered investigations into their precise physiological relevance and therapeutic potential. Here, we report on a highly-specific, potent, and efficacious activator of brain GIRK1/2 channels. Using a chemical screen and electrophysiological assays, we found that this activator, the bromothiophene-substituted small molecule GAT1508, is specific for brain-expressed GIRK1/2 channels rather than for cardiac GIRK1/4 channels. Computational models predicted a GAT1508-binding site validated by experimental mutagenesis experiments, providing insights into how urea-based compounds engage distant GIRK1 residues required for channel activation. Furthermore, we provide computational and experimental evidence that GAT1508 is an allosteric modulator of channel–phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate interactions. Through brain-slice electrophysiology, we show that subthreshold GAT1508 concentrations directly stimulate GIRK currents in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and potentiate baclofen-induced currents. Of note, GAT1508 effectively extinguished conditioned fear in rodents and lacked cardiac and behavioral side effects, suggesting its potential for use in pharmacotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. In summary, our findings indicate that the small molecule GAT1508 has high specificity for brain GIRK1/2 channel subunits, directly or allosterically activates GIRK1/2 channels in the BLA, and facilitates fear extinction in a rodent model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3614-3634
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 13 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The small molecule GAT1508 activates brain-specific GIRK1/2 channel heteromers and facilitates conditioned fear extinction in rodents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this