Novel Small-Molecule Inhibitors of Protein Kinase C Epsilon Reduce Ethanol Consumption in Mice

Angelo Blasio, Jingyi Wang, Dan Wang, Florence P. Varodayan, Matthew B. Pomrenze, Jacklyn Miller, Anna M. Lee, Thomas McMahon, Sandeep Gyawali, Hua Yu Wang, Marisa Roberto, Stanton McHardy, Michael A. Pleiss, Robert O. Messing

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Background: Despite the high cost and widespread prevalence of alcohol use disorders, treatment options are limited, underscoring the need for new, effective medications. Previous results using protein kinase C epsilon (PKCε) knockout mice, RNA interference against PKCε and peptide inhibitors of PKCε predict that small-molecule inhibitors of PKCε should reduce alcohol consumption in humans. Methods: We designed a new class of PKCε inhibitors based on the Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) inhibitor Y-27632. In vitro kinase and binding assays were used to identify the most potent compounds. Their effects on ethanol-stimulated synaptic transmission; ethanol, sucrose, and quinine consumption; ethanol-induced loss of righting; and ethanol clearance were studied in mice. Results: We identified two compounds that inhibited PKCε with Ki <20 nM, showed selectivity for PKCε over other kinases, crossed the blood-brain barrier, achieved effective concentrations in mouse brain, prevented ethanol-stimulated gamma-aminobutyric acid release in the central amygdala, and reduced ethanol consumption when administered intraperitoneally at 40 mg/kg in wild-type but not in Prkce−/− mice. One compound also reduced sucrose and saccharin consumption, while the other was selective for ethanol. Both transiently impaired locomotion through an off-target effect that did not interfere with their ability to reduce ethanol intake. One compound prolonged recovery from ethanol-induced loss of righting but this was also due to an off-target effect since it was present in Prkce−/− mice. Neither altered ethanol clearance. Conclusions: These results identify lead compounds for development of PKCε inhibitors that reduce alcohol consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018



  • Addiction
  • Alcohol
  • Kinase inhibitor
  • Protein kinase C epsilon

Cite this

Blasio, A., Wang, J., Wang, D., Varodayan, F. P., Pomrenze, M. B., Miller, J., Lee, A. M., McMahon, T., Gyawali, S., Wang, H. Y., Roberto, M., McHardy, S., Pleiss, M. A., & Messing, R. O. (2018). Novel Small-Molecule Inhibitors of Protein Kinase C Epsilon Reduce Ethanol Consumption in Mice. Biological psychiatry, 84(3), 193-201.