Design and development of a behaviorally active recombinant neurotrophic factor

Nicholas J. Pekas, Jason L. Petersen, Monica Sathyanesan, Samuel S. Newton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Carbamoylated erythropoietin (CEPO) is a chemically engineered, nonhe-matopoietic derivative of erythropoietin (EPO) that retains its antidepressant and pro-cognitive effects, which are attributed to the increased expression of neurotrophic factors like brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), in the central nervous system. However, the chemical modification process which produces CEPO from erythropoietin (EPO) requires pure EPO as raw material, is challenging to scale-up and can also cause batch-to-batch variability. To address these key limitations while retaining its behavioral effects, we designed, expressed and analyzed a triple, glutamine, substitution recombinant mimetic of CEPO, named QPO. Methods and Materials: We employ a combination of computational structural biology, molecular, cellular and behavioral assays to design, produce, purify and test QPO. Results: QPO was shown to be a nonhematopoietic polypeptide with significant antidepres-sant-like and pro-cognitive behavioral effects in rodent assays while significantly upregulat-ing BDNF expression in-vitro and in-vivo. The in-silico binding affinity analysis of QPO bound to the EPOR/EPOR homodimer receptor shows significantly decreased binding to Active Site 2, but not Active Site 1, of EPOR. Discussion: The results of the behavioral and gene expression analysis imply that QPO is a successful CEPO mimetic protein and potentially acts via a similar neurotrophic mechan-ism, making it a drug development target for psychiatric disorders. The decreased binding to Active Site 2 could imply that this active site is not involved in neuroactive signaling and could allow the development of a functional innate repair receptor (IRR) model. Substituting the three glutamine substitution residues with arginine (RPO) resulted in the loss of behavioral activity, indicating the importance of glutamine residues at those positions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5393-5403
Number of pages11
JournalDrug Design, Development and Therapy
StatePublished - 2020


  • Antidepressant
  • Carbamoylated erythropoietin
  • Erythropoietin receptor
  • Innate repair receptor
  • Mimetic
  • Nonhematopoietic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


Dive into the research topics of 'Design and development of a behaviorally active recombinant neurotrophic factor'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this