Development of a novel bioavailable inhibitor of the calmodulin-regulated protein kinase MLCK: A lead compound that attenuates vascular leak

Heather A. Behanna, D. Martin Watterson*, Hantamalala Ralay Ranaivo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Tissue barriers involving epithelial and endothelial cell layers are critical to homeostasis, regulating passage of water, macromolecules, cells and certain classes of small molecules via two distinct cellular mechanisms, transcellular or paracellular. Endothelial or epithelial barrier dysfunction is a key component of pathophysiology in diverse diseases and injuries that have a broad impact on survival and quality of life. However, effective and safe small molecule therapeutics for these disorders are lacking. Success in development would therefore fill a major unmet medical need across multiple disease areas. Myosin light chain kinase (MLCK), a highly specialized calcium/calmodulin (CaM) regulated protein kinase, modulates barrier function through its regulation of intracellular contractile processes. MLCK levels and activity are increased in various animal models of disease and in human clinical disease samples. Our prior work with a genetic knockout (KO) mouse strain for the long form of MLCK, MLCK210, has identified MLCK as a drug discovery target for endothelial and epithelial barrier dysfunction. We describe here the development of a selective, bioavailable, stable inhibitor of MLCK that attenuates barrier dysfunction in mice comparable to that seen with the MLCK KO mice. The inhibitor compound 6 is stable in human microsomal metabolic stability assays and can be synthesized in a high-yielding and facile synthetic process. These results provide a foundation for and demonstrate the feasibility of future medicinal chemistry refinement studies directed toward the development of novel therapies for disorders involving barrier dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1266-1274
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Cell Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Barrier dysfunction
  • Drug discovery
  • Genetic knockout
  • Inflammatory disorder
  • Myosin light chain kinase
  • Structure-activity relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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