A chemical genetic approach identifies piperazine antipsychotics as promoters of CNS neurite growth on inhibitory substrates.
Injury to the central nervous system (CNS) can result in lifelong loss of function due in part to the regenerative failure of CNS neurons. Inhibitory proteins derived from myelin and the astroglial scar are major barriers for the successful regeneration of injured CNS neurons. Previously, we described the identification of a novel compound, F05, which promotes neurite growth from neurons challenged with inhibitory substrates in vitro, and promotes axonal regeneration in vivo (Usher et al., 2010). To identify additional regeneration-promoting compounds, we used F05-induced gene expression profiles to query the Broad Institute Connectivity Map, a gene expression database of cells treated with >1300 compounds. Despite no shared chemical similarity, F05-induced changes in gene expression were remarkably similar to those seen with a group of piperazine phenothiazine antipsychotics (PhAPs). In contrast to antipsychotics of other structural classes, PhAPs promoted neurite growth of CNS neurons challenged with two different glial derived inhibitory substrates. Our pharmacological studies suggest a mechanism whereby PhAPs promote growth through antagonism of calmodulin signaling, independent of dopamine receptor antagonism. These findings shed light on mechanisms underlying neurite-inhibitory signaling, and suggest that clinically approved antipsychotic compounds may be repurposed for use in CNS injured patients.