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Anna Vlachodimou, Adriaan P. IJzerman & Laura H. Heitman
Transporters are important therapeutic but yet understudied targets due to lack of available assays. Here we describe a novel label-free, whole-cell method for the functional assessment of Solute Carrier (SLC) inhibitors. As many SLC substrates are also ligands for G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), transporter inhibition may affect GPCR signalling due to a change in extracellular concentration of the substrate/ligand, which can be monitored by an impedance-based label-free assay. For this study, a prototypical SLC/GPCR pair was selected, i.e. the equilibrative nucleoside transporter-1 (SLC29A1/ENT1) and an adenosine receptor (AR), for which adenosine is the substrate/ligand. ENT1 inhibition with three reference compounds was monitored sensitively via AR activation on human osteosarcoma cells. Firstly, the inhibitor addition resulted in an increased apparent potency of adenosine. Secondly, all inhibitors concentration-dependently increased the extracellular adenosine concentration, resulting in an indirect quantitative assessment of their potencies. Additionally, AR activation was abolished by AR antagonists, confirming that the monitored impedance was AR-mediated. In summary, we developed a novel assay as an in vitro model system that reliably assessed the potency of SLC29A1 inhibitors via AR signalling. As such, the method may be applied broadly as it has the potential to study a multitude of SLCs via concomitant GPCR signalling.