Azepine-Indole Alkaloids From Psychotria nemorosa Modulate 5-HT2A Receptors and Prevent in vivo Protein Toxicity in Transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans

Benjamin Kirchweger, Luiz Carlos Klein-Junior, Dagmar Pretsch, Ya Chen, Sylvian Cretton, André L. Gasper, Yvan Vander Heyden, Philippe Christen, Johannes Kirchmair, Amélia T. Henriques, Judith M. Rollinger

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Nemorosine A (1) and fargesine (2), the main azepine-indole alkaloids of Psychotria nemorosa, were explored for their pharmacological profile on neurodegenerative disorders (NDs) applying a combined in silico–in vitro–in vivo approach. By using 1 and 2 as queries for similarity-based searches of the ChEMBL database, structurally related compounds were identified to modulate the 5-HT2A receptor; in vitro experiments confirmed an agonistic effect for 1 and 2 (24 and 36% at 10 μM, respectively), which might be linked to cognition-enhancing properties. This and the previously reported target profile of 1 and 2, which also includes BuChE and MAO-A inhibition, prompted the evaluation of these compounds in several Caenorhabditis elegans models linked to 5-HT modulation and proteotoxicity. On C. elegans transgenic strain CL4659, which expresses amyloid beta (Aβ) in muscle cells leading to a phenotypic paralysis, 1 and 2 reduced Aβ proteotoxicity by reducing the percentage of paralyzed worms to 51%. Treatment of the NL5901 strain, in which α-synuclein is yellow fluorescent protein (YFP)-tagged, with 1 and 2 (10 μM) significantly reduced the α-synuclein expression. Both alkaloids were further able to significantly extend the time of metallothionein induction, which is associated with reduced neurodegeneration of aged brain tissue. These results add to the multitarget profiles of 1 and 2 and corroborate their potential in the treatment of NDs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number826289
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2022

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All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


  • bioactive natural products
  • molecular target prediction
  • alkaloids
  • Psychotria nemorosa
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • 5-HT2A
  • neurodegeneration


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