Zebrafish-based discovery of antiseizure compounds from the north sea: Isoquinoline alkaloids TMC-120A and TMC-120B

Daniëlle Copmans, Sara Kildgaard, Silas Anselm Rasmussen, Monika Ślezak, Nina Dirkx, Michèle Partoens, Camila V. Esguerra, Alexander D. Crawford, Thomas Ostenfeld Larsen*, Peter A.M. De Witte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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There is a high need for the development of new and improved antiseizure drugs (ASDs) to treat epilepsy. Despite the potential of marine natural products (MNPs), the EU marine biodiscovery consortium PharmaSea has made the only effort to date to perform ASD discovery based on large-scale screening of MNPs. To this end, the embryonic zebrafish photomotor response assay and the larval zebrafish pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) model were used to screen MNP extracts for neuroactivity and antiseizure activity, respectively. Here we report the identification of the two known isoquinoline alkaloids TMC-120A and TMC-120B as novel antiseizure compounds, which were isolated by bioactivity-guided purification from the marine-derived fungus Aspergillus insuetus. TMC-120A and TMC-120B were observed to significantly lower PTZ-induced seizures and epileptiform brain activity in the larval zebrafish PTZ seizure model. In addition, their structural analogues TMC-120C, penicisochroman G, and ustusorane B were isolated and also significantly lowered PTZ-induced seizures. Finally, TMC-120A and TMC-120B were investigated in a mouse model of drug-resistant focal seizures. Compound treatment significantly shortened the seizure duration, thereby confirming their antiseizure activity. These data underscore the possibility to translate findings in zebrafish to mice in the field of epilepsy and the potential of the marine environment for ASD discovery.
Original languageEnglish
Article number607
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number11
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • PharmaSea
  • Epilepsy
  • Zebrafish
  • Marine drug discovery
  • Isoquinoline alkaloids
  • TMC-120A
  • TMC-120B
  • TMC-120C
  • Penicisochroman G
  • Ustusorane B


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