In Vitro Evaluation of Clinical Candidates of γ-Secretase Inhibitors: Effects on Notch Inhibition and Promoting Beige Adipogenesis and Mitochondrial Biogenesis



Inhibition of Notch signaling has been recently demonstrated to promote beige adipocyte biogenesis. However, most γ-secretase inhibitors (GSIs) used to achieve pharmacological inhibition of Notch signaling are at the basic research or preclinical stage, limiting the translation of fundamental findings into clinical practice. This present study aimed to evaluate the potential of several clinical candidates of GSIs as browning agents for the treatment of obesity.


Seven GSIs that are clinical candidates for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease or cancer were selected and their impacts on Notch inhibition as well as promoting beige biogenesis were compared using in vitro culture of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes.


Four compounds (i.e.RO4929097, PF-03084014, LY3039478, and BMS-906024) that efficiently inhibited the expression of Notch target genes in 3T3-L1 preadipocytes were identified. Moreover, these compounds were optimized for dose-dependent effects at three gradient concentrations (0.5, 1, and 10 μM) to promote beige adipogenesis and mitochondrial biogenesis in 3T3-L1 preadipocytes without causing severe cytotoxicity.


Our findings not only highlight the potential of cross-therapeutic application of these GSIs for obesity treatment via inhibition of γ-secretase-mediated processing of Notch signaling, but also provide important experimental evidence to support further design and development of clinically translatable Notch-inhibiting drug delivery systems.

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Brown adipose tissues


CCAAT/enhancer binding protein family proteins


Cell death-inducing DNA fragmentation factor alpha-like effector A


Cytochrome c oxidase subunit 5B


(N-[N-(3,5-Difluorophenacetyl)-l-alanyl]-S-phenylglycine t-butyl ester)


Type 2 deiodinase


Fatty acid binding protein 4


γ-secretase inhibitors


Notch intracellular domain


Peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor family proteins


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha


PR domain containing 16


Recombination signal binding protein for immunoglobulin kappa J region


Transmembrane protein 26


Uncoupling protein 1


White adipose tissue


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The authors appreciate the funding support from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R43DK115277 to M. D.) and National Cancer Institute (R01CA212609 to S. K.).

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by D. H. and J. Q. The manuscript was drafted by D. H. and revised by M. D. and S. K. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Shihuan Kuang or Meng Deng.

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Declaration of Interests

M. D., D. H., and S. K. have applied for patents related to this study. M. D. is founder of Adipo Therapeutics, a university startup developing polymer technologies for applications in adipocytes.

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Guest Editors: Meng Deng and Shihuan Kuang

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Huang, D., Qiu, J., Kuang, S. et al. In Vitro Evaluation of Clinical Candidates of γ-Secretase Inhibitors: Effects on Notch Inhibition and Promoting Beige Adipogenesis and Mitochondrial Biogenesis. Pharm Res 37, 185 (2020).

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Key Words

  • Obesity
  • Notch signaling pathway
  • γ-secretase inhibitor
  • Adipose browning
  • 3T3-L1 preadipocytes