A medium-throughput murine embryonic stem cell (mESC)-based high-content screening of 17000 small molecules for cardiogenesis led to the identification of a b-annulated 1,4-dihydropyridine (1,4-DHP) that inhibited transforming growth factor β (TGFβ)/Smad signaling by clearing the type II TGFβ receptor from the cell surface. Because this is an unprecedented mechanism of action, we explored the series' structure-activity relationship (SAR) based on TGFβ inhibition, and evaluated SAR aspects for cell-surface clearance of TGFβ receptor II (TGFBR2) and for biological activity in mESCs. We determined a pharmacophore and generated 1,4-DHPs with IC(50)s for TGFβ inhibition in the nanomolar range (e.g., compound 28, 170 nM). Stereochemical consequences of a chiral center at the 4-position was evaluated, revealing 10- to 15-fold more potent TGFβ inhibition for the (+)- than the (-) enantiomer. This stereopreference was not observed for the low level inhibition against Activin A signaling and was reversed for effects on calcium handling in HL-1 cells.
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