Drug screening identifies tazarotene and bexarotene as therapeutic agents in multiple sulfatase deficiency


Schlotawa L, Tyka K, Kettwig M, Ahrens-Nicklas RC, Baud M, Berulava T, Brunetti-Pierri N, Gagne A, Herbst ZM, Maguire JA, Monfregula J, Pena T, Radhakrishnan K, Schröder S, Waxman EA, Ballabio A, Dierks T, Fischer A, French DL, Gelb MH, Gärtner J


EMBO Molecular Medicine


EMBO Mol Med. 2023 Feb 15:e14837.


Multiple sulfatase deficiency (MSD, MIM #272200) results from pathogenic variants in the SUMF1 gene that impair proper function of the formylglycine-generating enzyme (FGE). FGE is essential for the posttranslational activation of cellular sulfatases. MSD patients display reduced or absent sulfatase activities and, as a result, clinical signs of single sulfatase disorders in a unique combination. Up to date therapeutic options for MSD are limited and mostly palliative. We performed a screen of FDA-approved drugs using immortalized MSD patient fibroblasts. Recovery of arylsulfatase A activity served as the primary readout. Subsequent analysis confirmed that treatment of primary MSD fibroblasts with tazarotene and bexarotene, two retinoids, led to a correction of MSD pathophysiology. Upon treatment, sulfatase activities increased in a dose- and time-dependent manner, reduced glycosaminoglycan content decreased and lysosomal position and size normalized. Treatment of MSD patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) differentiated into neuronal progenitor cells (NPC) resulted in a positive treatment response. Tazarotene and bexarotene act to ultimately increase the stability of FGE variants. The results lay the basis for future research on the development of a first therapeutic option for MSD patients.


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