Drug connectivity mapping and functional analysis reveal therapeutic small molecules that differentially modulate myelination

A. D. Rivera, F. Pieropan, G. Williams, F. Calzolari, A. M. Butt, K. Azim

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Disruption or loss of oligodendrocytes (OLs) and myelin has devastating effects on CNS function and integrity, which occur in diverse neurological disorders, including Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease and neuropsychiatric disorders. Hence, there is a need to develop new therapies that promote oligodendrocyte regeneration and myelin repair. A promising approach is drug repurposing, but most agents have potentially contrasting biological actions depending on the cellular context and their dose-dependent effects on intracellular pathways. Here, we have used a combined systems biology and neurobiological approach to identify compounds that exert positive and negative effects on oligodendroglia, depending on concentration. Notably, next generation pharmacogenomic analysis identified the PI3K/Akt modulator LY294002 as the most highly ranked small molecule with both pro- and anti-oligodendroglial concentration-dependent effects. We validated these in silico findings using multidisciplinary approaches to reveal a profoundly bipartite effect of LY294002 on the generation of OPCs and their differentiation into myelinating oligodendrocytes in both postnatal and adult contexts. Finally, we employed transcriptional profiling and signalling pathway activity assays to determine cell-specific mechanisms of action of LY294002 on oligodendrocytes and resolve optimal in vivo conditions required to promote myelin repair. These results demonstrate the power of multidisciplinary strategies in determining the therapeutic potential of small molecules in neurodegenerative disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112436
Number of pages15
JournalBiomedicine & Pharmacotherapy
Early online date20 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • oligodendrogenesis
  • oligodendrocyte
  • pharmacogenomics
  • The Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures/LINCS
  • subventricular zone
  • optic nerve
  • PI3K/Akt
  • UKRI
  • MRC
  • BB/M029379/1
  • MR/P025811/1


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