Screening for positive allosteric modulators of cholecystokinin type 1 receptor potentially useful for management of obesity

Daniela G. Dengler, Qing Sun, Kaleeckal G. Harikumar, Laurence J. Miller, Eduard A. Sergienko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Obesity has become a prevailing health burden globally and particularly in the US. It is associated with many health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and poorer mental health. Hence, there is a high demand to find safe and effective therapeutics for sustainable weight loss. Cholecystokinin (CCK) has been implicated as one of the first gastrointestinal hormones to reduce overeating and suppress appetite by activating the type 1 cholecystokinin receptor (CCK1R). Several drug development campaigns have focused on finding CCK1R-specific agonists, which showed promising efficacy for reducing meal size and weight, but fell short on FDA approval, likely due to side effects associated with potent, long-lasting activation of CCK1Rs. Positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) without inherent agonist activity have been proposed to overcome the shortcomings of traditional, orthosteric agonists and restore CCK1R signaling in failing physiologic systems. However, drug discovery campaigns searching for such novel acting CCK1R agents remain limited. Here we report a high-throughput screening effort and the establishment of a testing funnel, which led to the identification of novel CCK1R modulators. We utilized IP-One accumulation to develop robust functional equilibrium assays tailored to either detect PAMs, agonists or non-specific activators. In addition, we established the CCK1R multiplex PAM assay as a novel method to evaluate functional selectivity capable of recording CCK1R-induced cAMP accumulation and β-arrestin recruitment in the same well. This selection and arrangement of methods enabled the discovery of three scaffolds, which we characterized and validated in an array of functional and binding assays. We found two hits incorporating a tetracyclic scaffold that significantly enhanced CCK signaling at CCK1Rs without intrinsically activating CCK1Rs in an overexpressing system. Our results demonstrate that a well-thought-out testing funnel can identify small molecules with a distinct pharmacological profile and provides an important milestone for the development of novel potential treatments of obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-394
Number of pages11
JournalSLAS Discovery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Cholecystokinin receptor
  • G protein-coupled receptor
  • High-throughput screening
  • Obesity treatment
  • Positive allosteric modulator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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