Inhibition of the NGF/TrkA interaction presents an interesting alternative to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and/or opioids for the control of inflammatory, chronic and neuropathic pain. Most prominent of the current approaches to this therapy is the antibody Tanezumab, which is a late-stage development humanized monoclonal antibody that targets NGF. We sought to determine whether peptides might similarly inhibit the NGF/TrkA interaction and so serve as future therapeutic leads. Starting from two peptides that inhibit the NGF/TrkA interaction, we sought to eliminate a cysteine residue close to the C-terminal of both sequences, by an approach of mutagenic analysis and saturation mutagenesis of mutable residues. Elimination of cysteine from a therapeutic lead is desirable to circumvent manufacturing difficulties resulting from oxidation. Our analyses determined that the cysteine residue is not required for NGF binding, but is essential for inhibition of the NGF/TrkA interaction at pharmacologically relevant peptide concentrations. We conclude that a cysteine residue is required within potential peptide-based therapeutic leads and hypothesise that these peptides likely act as dimers, mirroring the dimeric structure of the TrkA receptor.
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Funding: This work was funded by BBSRC Grant BB/I016481/1 to A.V.H.