Neuropsychopharmacology of JNJ-55308942: evaluation of a clinical candidate targeting P2X7 ion channels in animal models of neuroinflammation and anhedonia

Anindya Bhattacharya, Brian Lord, Jan Sebastian Grigoleit, Yingbo He, Ian Fraser, Shannon N. Campbell, Natalie Taylor, Leah Aluisio, Jason C. O’Connor, Mariusz Papp, Christa Chrovian, Nicholas Carruthers, Timothy W. Lovenberg, Michael A. Letavic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Emerging data continues to point towards a relationship between neuroinflammation and neuropsychiatric disorders. ATP-induced activation of P2X7 results in IL-1β release causing neuroinflammation and microglial activation. This study describes the in-vitro and in-vivo neuropharmacology of a novel brain-penetrant P2X7 antagonist, JNJ-55308942, currently in clinical development. JNJ-55308942 is a high-affinity, selective, brain-penetrant (brain/plasma of 1) P2X7 functional antagonist. In human blood and in mouse blood and microglia, JNJ-55308942 attenuated IL-1β release in a potent and concentration-dependent manner. After oral dosing, the compound exhibited both dose and concentration-dependent occupancy of rat brain P2X7 with an ED 50 of 0.07 mg/kg. The P2X7 antagonist (3 mg/kg, oral) blocked Bz-ATP-induced brain IL-1β release in conscious rats, demonstrating functional effects of target engagement in the brain. JNJ-55308942 (30 mg/kg, oral) attenuated LPS-induced microglial activation in mice, assessed at day 2 after a single systemic LPS injection (0.8 mg/kg, i.p.), suggesting a role for P2X7 in microglial activation. In a model of BCG-induced depression, JNJ-55308942 dosed orally (30 mg/kg), reversed the BCG-induced deficits of sucrose preference and social interaction, indicating for the first time a role of P2X7 in the BCG model of depression, probably due to the neuroinflammatory component induced by BCG inoculation. Finally, in a rat model of chronic stress induced sucrose intake deficit, JNJ-55308942 reversed the deficit with concurrent high P2X7 brain occupancy as measured by autoradiography. This body of data demonstrates that JNJ-55308942 is a potent P2X7 antagonist, engages the target in brain, modulates IL-1β release and microglial activation leading to efficacy in two models of anhedonia in rodents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2586-2596
Number of pages11
Issue number13
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology


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