Background and Purpose: Macropinocytosis is involved in many pathologies, including cardiovascular disorders, cancer, allergic diseases, viral and bacterial infections. Unfortunately, the currently available pharmacological inhibitors of macropinocytosis interrupt other endocytic processes and have non-specific endocytosis-independent effects. Here we have sought to identify new, clinically relevant inhibitors of macropinocytosis, using an FDA-approved drug library. Experimental Approach: In the present study, 640 FDA-approved compounds were tested for their ability to inhibit macropinocytosis. A series of secondary assays were performed to confirm inhibitory activity, determine IC50 values and investigate cell toxicity. The ability of identified hits to inhibit phagocytosis and clathrin-mediated and caveolin-mediated endocytosis was also investigated. Scanning electron microscopy and molecular biology techniques were utilized to examine the mechanisms by which selected compounds inhibit macropinocytosis. Key Results: The primary screen identified 14 compounds that at ~10 μM concentration inhibit >95% of macropinocytotic solute internalization. Three compounds - imipramine, phenoxybenzamine and vinblastine - potently inhibited (IC50 ≤ 131 nM) macropinocytosis without exerting cytotoxic effects or inhibiting other endocytic pathways. Scanning electron microscopy imaging indicated that imipramine inhibits membrane ruffle formation, a critical early step leading to initiation of macropinocytosis. Finally, imipramine has been shown to inhibit macropinocytosis in several cell types, including cancer cells, dendritic cells and macrophages. Conclusions and Implications: Our results identify imipramine as a new pharmacological tool to study macropinocytosis in cellular and biological systems. This study also suggests that imipramine could be a good candidate for repurposing as a therapeutic agent in pathological processes involving macropinocytosis.
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