TUG-891 [3-(4-((4-fluoro-4'-methyl-[1,1'-biphenyl]-2-yl)methoxy)phenyl)propanoic acid] was recently described as a potent and selective agonist for the long chain free fatty acid (LCFA) receptor 4 (FFA4; previously G protein-coupled receptor 120, or GPR120). Herein, we have used TUG-891 to further define the function of FFA4 and used this compound in proof of principle studies to indicate the therapeutic potential of this receptor. TUG-891 displayed similar signaling properties to the LCFA α-linolenic acid at human FFA4 across various assay end points, including stimulation of Ca(2+) mobilization, β-arrestin-1 and β-arrestin-2 recruitment, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation. Activation of human FFA4 by TUG-891 also resulted in rapid phosphorylation and internalization of the receptor. While these latter events were associated with desensitization of the FFA4 signaling response, removal of TUG-891 allowed both rapid recycling of FFA4 back to the cell surface and resensitization of the FFA4 Ca(2+) signaling response. TUG-891 was also a potent agonist of mouse FFA4, but it showed only limited selectivity over mouse FFA1, complicating its use in vivo in this species. Pharmacologic dissection of responses to TUG-891 in model murine cell systems indicated that activation of FFA4 was able to mimic many potentially beneficial therapeutic properties previously reported for LCFAs, including stimulating glucagon-like peptide-1 secretion from enteroendocrine cells, enhancing glucose uptake in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, and inhibiting release of proinflammatory mediators from RAW264.7 macrophages, which suggests promise for FFA4 as a therapeutic target for type 2 diabetes and obesity. Together, these results demonstrate both potential but also significant challenges that still need to be overcome to therapeutically target FFA4.
Molecular Pharmacology, 2013, Vol 84, Issue 5, p. 710-25