Thiazolidinedione insulin sensitizers alter lipid bilayer properties and voltage-dependent sodium channel function: Implications for drug discovery
The thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus type 2. Their canonical effects are mediated by activation of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) transcription factor. In addition to effects mediated by gene activation, the TZDs cause acute, transcription-independent changes in various membrane transport processes, including glucose transport, and they alter the function of a diverse group of membrane proteins, including ion channels. The basis for these off-target effects is unknown, but the TZDs are hydrophobic/amphiphilic and adsorb to the bilayer-water interface, which will alter bilayer properties, meaning that the TZDs may alter membrane protein function by bilayer-mediated mechanisms. We therefore explored whether the TZDs alter lipid bilayer properties sufficiently to be sensed by bilayer-spanning proteins, using gramicidin A (gA) channels as probes. The TZDs altered bilayer elastic properties with potencies that did not correlate with their affinity for PPARγ. At concentrations where they altered gA channel function, they also altered the function of voltage-dependent sodium channels, producing a prepulse-dependent current inhibition and hyperpolarizing shift in the steady-state inactivation curve. The shifts in the inactivation curve produced by the TZDs and other amphiphiles can be superimposed by plotting them as a function of the changes in gA channel lifetimes. The TZDs' partition coefficients into lipid bilayers were measured using isothermal titration calorimetry. The most potent bilayer modifier, troglitazone, alters bilayer properties at clinically relevant free concentrations; the least potent bilayer modifiers, pioglitazone and rosiglitazone, do not. Unlike other TZDs tested, ciglitazone behaves like a hydrophobic anion and alters the gA monomer-dimer equilibrium by more than one mechanism. Our results provide a possible mechanism for some off-target effects of an important group of drugs, and underscore the importance of exploring bilayer effects of candidate drugs early in drug development.