Identification of three small molecules that can selectively influence cellular manganese levels in a mouse striatal cell mode

Kyle J. Horning, Xueqi Tang, Morgan G. Thomas, Michael Aschner, Aaron B. Bowman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Manganese (Mn) is a biologically essential metal, critical as a cofactor for numerous enzymes such a glutamine synthetase and kinases such as ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM). Similar to other essential metals such as iron and zinc, proper levels of Mn need to be achieved while simultaneously being careful to avoid excess levels of Mn that can be neurotoxic. A lifetime of occupational exposure to Mn can often lead to a Parkinsonian condition, also known as “manganism”, characterized by impaired gait, muscle spasms, and tremors. Despite the importance of its regulation, the mechanisms underlying the transport and homeostasis of Mn are poorly understood. Rather than taking a protein or gene-targeted approach, our lab recently took a high-throughput-screening approach to identify 41 small molecules that could significantly increase or decrease intracellular Mn in a neuronal cell model. Here, we report characterization of these small molecules, which we refer to as the “Mn toolbox”. We adapted a Fura-2-based assay for measuring Mn concentration and for measuring relative concentrations of other divalent metals: Nickel, copper, cobalt, and zinc. Of these 41 small molecules, we report here the identification of three that selectively influence cellular Mn but do not influence the other divalent metals tested. The patterns of activity across divalent metals and the discovery of Mn-selective small molecules has potential pharmacological and scientific utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1175
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021


  • Divalent metals
  • Manganese
  • Metal homeostasis
  • Metal transport
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Small molecules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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