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Dersimelagon, a novel oral melanocortin 1 receptor agonist, demonstrates disease-modifying effects in preclinical models of systemic sclerosis


Kondo, Masahiro; Suzuki, Tsuyoshi; Kawano, Yuko; Kojima, Shinji; Miyashiro, Masahiko; Matsumoto, Atsuhiro; Kania, Gabriela; Błyszczuk, Przemysław; Ross, Rebecca L; Mulipa, Panji; Del Galdo, Francesco; Zhang, Yun; Distler, Jörg H W (2022). Dersimelagon, a novel oral melanocortin 1 receptor agonist, demonstrates disease-modifying effects in preclinical models of systemic sclerosis. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 24(1):210.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Activation of melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is known to exert broad anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects. The purpose of this study is to investigate the potential of dersimelagon, a novel oral MC1R agonist, as a therapeutic agent for systemic sclerosis (SSc).

METHODS

The effects of dersimelagon phosphoric acid (MT-7117) on skin fibrosis and lung inflammation were evaluated in bleomycin (BLM)-induced SSc murine models that were optimized for prophylactic and therapeutic evaluation. Microarray-based gene expression analysis and serum protein profiling were performed in the BLM-induced SSc models. The effect of MT-7117 on transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-induced activation of human dermal fibroblasts was evaluated in vitro. Immunohistochemical analyses of MC1R expression in the skin of SSc patients were performed.

RESULTS

Prophylactic treatment with MT-7117 (≥ 0.3 mg/kg/day p.o.) significantly inhibited skin fibrosis and lung inflammation, and therapeutic treatment with MT-7117 (≥ 3 mg/kg/day p.o.) significantly suppressed the development of skin fibrosis in the BLM-induced SSc models. Gene array analysis demonstrated that MT-7117 exerts an anti-inflammatory effect via suppression of the activation of inflammatory cells and inflammation-related signals; additionally, vascular dysfunction was extracted as the pathology targeted by MT-7117. Serum protein profiling revealed that multiple SSc-related biomarkers including P-selectin, osteoprotegerin, cystatin C, growth and differentiation factor-15, and S100A9 were suppressed by MT-7117. MT-7117 inhibited the activation of human dermal fibroblasts by suppressing TGF-β-induced ACTA2 (encoding α-smooth muscle actin) mRNA elevation. MC1R was expressed by monocytes/macrophages, neutrophils, blood vessels (endothelial cells), fibroblasts, and epidermis (keratinocytes) in the skin of SSc patients, suggesting that these MC1R-positive cells could be targets for MT-7117.

CONCLUSIONS

MT-7117 demonstrates disease-modifying effects in preclinical models of SSc. Investigations of its mechanism of action and target expression analyses indicate that MT-7117 exerts its positive effect by affecting inflammation, vascular dysfunction, and fibrosis, which are all key pathologies of SSc. The results of the present study suggest that MT-7117 is a potential therapeutic agent for SSc. A phase 2 clinical trial investigating the efficacy and tolerability of MT-7117 in patients with early, progressive diffuse cutaneous SSc is currently in progress.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Activation of melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is known to exert broad anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects. The purpose of this study is to investigate the potential of dersimelagon, a novel oral MC1R agonist, as a therapeutic agent for systemic sclerosis (SSc).

METHODS

The effects of dersimelagon phosphoric acid (MT-7117) on skin fibrosis and lung inflammation were evaluated in bleomycin (BLM)-induced SSc murine models that were optimized for prophylactic and therapeutic evaluation. Microarray-based gene expression analysis and serum protein profiling were performed in the BLM-induced SSc models. The effect of MT-7117 on transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-induced activation of human dermal fibroblasts was evaluated in vitro. Immunohistochemical analyses of MC1R expression in the skin of SSc patients were performed.

RESULTS

Prophylactic treatment with MT-7117 (≥ 0.3 mg/kg/day p.o.) significantly inhibited skin fibrosis and lung inflammation, and therapeutic treatment with MT-7117 (≥ 3 mg/kg/day p.o.) significantly suppressed the development of skin fibrosis in the BLM-induced SSc models. Gene array analysis demonstrated that MT-7117 exerts an anti-inflammatory effect via suppression of the activation of inflammatory cells and inflammation-related signals; additionally, vascular dysfunction was extracted as the pathology targeted by MT-7117. Serum protein profiling revealed that multiple SSc-related biomarkers including P-selectin, osteoprotegerin, cystatin C, growth and differentiation factor-15, and S100A9 were suppressed by MT-7117. MT-7117 inhibited the activation of human dermal fibroblasts by suppressing TGF-β-induced ACTA2 (encoding α-smooth muscle actin) mRNA elevation. MC1R was expressed by monocytes/macrophages, neutrophils, blood vessels (endothelial cells), fibroblasts, and epidermis (keratinocytes) in the skin of SSc patients, suggesting that these MC1R-positive cells could be targets for MT-7117.

CONCLUSIONS

MT-7117 demonstrates disease-modifying effects in preclinical models of SSc. Investigations of its mechanism of action and target expression analyses indicate that MT-7117 exerts its positive effect by affecting inflammation, vascular dysfunction, and fibrosis, which are all key pathologies of SSc. The results of the present study suggest that MT-7117 is a potential therapeutic agent for SSc. A phase 2 clinical trial investigating the efficacy and tolerability of MT-7117 in patients with early, progressive diffuse cutaneous SSc is currently in progress.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Rheumatology Clinic and Institute of Physical Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Rheumatology
Health Sciences > Immunology and Allergy
Life Sciences > Immunology
Language:English
Date:1 September 2022
Deposited On:09 Sep 2022 07:17
Last Modified:27 Feb 2024 02:44
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:1478-6354
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-022-02899-3
PubMed ID:36050717
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)