Enhanced Neuronal Survival and Neurite Outgrowth Triggered by Novel Small Organic Compounds Mimicking the LewisX Glycan

Thomas Theis, Anmol Singh Johal, Maciej Kabat, Sayantani Basak, Melitta Schachner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Glycosylation fine-tunes signal transduction of adhesion molecules during neural development and supports synaptic plasticity and repair after injury in the adult nervous system. One abundantly expressed neural glycan is LewisX (LeX). Although it is known that its expression starts at the formation of the neural tube during the second embryonic week in the mouse and peaks during the first postnatal week, its functional relevance is only rudimentarily understood. To gain better insights into the functions of this glycan, we identified small organic compounds that mimic structurally and functionally this glycan glycosidically linked to several neural adhesion molecules. Mimetic compounds were identified by competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using the LeX-specific monoclonal antibodies L5 and SSEA-1 for screening a library of small organic molecules. In this assay, antibody binding to substrate-coated LeX glycomimetic peptide is measured in the presence of compounds, allowing identification of molecules that inhibit antibody binding and thereby mimic LeX. Gossypol, orlistat, ursolic acid, folic acid, and tosufloxacin inhibited antibody binding in a concentration-dependent manner. With the aim to functionally characterize the molecular consequences of the compounds’ actions, we here present evidence that, at nM concentrations, the mimetic compounds enhance neurite outgrowth and promote neuronal survival of cultured mouse cerebellar granule cells via, notably, distinct signal transduction pathways. These findings raise hopes that these LeX mimetics will be powerful tools for further studying the functions of LeX and its effects in acute and chronic nervous system disease models. It is worth mentioning in this context that the LeX compounds investigated in the present study have been clinically approved for different therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8203-8215
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Glycomimetic peptide
  • LewisX mimetics
  • Neurite outgrowth
  • Neuronal survival
  • Signal transduction
  • Small organic compounds


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