Douglas Sheffler, Ph.D.

Douglas Sheffler's Research Focus

Schizophrenia, Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders, Neurodegenerative and Neuromuscular Diseases, Huntington's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease

Dr. Sheffler joined the Sanford Burnham Prebys faculty in September 2012. Prior to this, he was a Research Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University in the laboratory of P. Jeffrey Conn (2010-2012), where he also performed post-doctoral work (2006-2010). Dr. Sheffler has over 15 years’ experience in the study of G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling, assay development, high throughput screening for novel GPCR ligands, cell biology, neuroscience, and pharmacology. His interests are in the complex regulation of GPCRs: their signal transduction, ligand binding, receptor desensitization, and the processes of GPCR internalization and down-regulation. In addition, he has also has a specific interest in both the pharmacology of GPCRs, in general mechanisms of signal transduction, and in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. During his graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University in the laboratory of Bryan L. Roth, M.D., Ph.D., he discovered the regulation of 5-HT2A serotonin receptor signal transduction by p90 ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK2). During his post-doctoral studies and work as a Research Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University, he focused on the discovery and characterization of orthosteric and allosteric modulators of GPCRs and led pharmacology efforts characterizing novel M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor agonists and antagonists, M1 positive allosteric modulators (PAMs), Glycine Transporter Type 1 (GlyT1) inhibitors, and novel Group II metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGlu) PAMs and NAMs. Dr. Sheffler’s research has resulted in more than 45 journal articles and is a listed inventor on five patent applications pertaining to small molecule therapeutics. Dr. Sheffler received a NARSAD Young Investigator Award in 2013 from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

Douglas Sheffler's Research Report

The metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlus) are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that play numerous roles in modulating synaptic transmission and cell excitability. Recent preclinical and clinical studies provide strong evidence that agonists of the group II mGlus, comprised of the mGlu2 and mGlu3 subtypes, may provide a novel approach to treatment of schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. Based on this, there has been a major focus on understanding the roles of these receptors in regulating transmission in forebrain and limbic circuits. However, currently available orthosteric (glutamate site) agonists activate both mGlu2 and mGlu3 and do not provide insight into which subtype is most important for clinical efficacy. Alternatively, recent focus on compounds interacting with less highly conserved allosteric sites has led to advances in subtype selective compound development. Dr. Sheffler and others have discovered and characterized highly selective mGlu2 positive allosteric modulators (PAMs), that have no effect on mGlu3, and these compounds have allowed us to elucidate many of the physiological roles of mGlu2. These PAMs do not activate the receptor directly but act allosterically to potentiate glutamate responses. Dr. Sheffler and collaborators have also discovered group II mGlu negative allosteric modulators (NAMs) and have very recently discovered the first highly selective antagonist of mGlu3. The development of these pharmacological tools provides an opportunity to fully elucidate the roles of these mGlu subtypes. The group II mGlus play important roles in regulating transmission through the hippocampal formation. For example, activation of presynaptic group II mGlus reduces transmission at numerous hippocampal synapses including perforant path-dentate gyrus synapses and the mossy fiber synapse. In contrast, presynaptic group II mGlus are not involved in directly regulating transmission at the Schaffer collateral - CA1 (SC-CA1) synapse. However, we have previously reported extensive studies demonstrating group II mGlu involvement in a novel form of glial-neuronal communication in hippocampal area CA1. When coincidentally activated with β-adrenergic receptors (βARs) in astrocytes, group II mGlus induce a marked potentiation of cAMP responses elicited by activation of βARs. This synergistic increase in glial cAMP accumulation results in the release of adenosine, which activates presynaptic A1 adenosine receptors on neighboring SC terminals and induces a profound depression of transmission at the SC-CA1 synapse. This novel form of glial-neuronal signaling may provide a protective mechanism to reduce the risk of excitotoxicity when there is excessive excitatory drive to the hippocampus, such as during periods of intense or prolonged stress. This potential role has implications relevant for the therapeutic effects of group II mGlu agonists and is consistent with multiple studies suggesting group II mGlu agonists can reduce both acute and long term responses to stress. We have postulated that this effect is mediated by mGlu3 based on heavy expression of mGlu3 in hippocampal astrocytes. However, until now, selective reagents that differentiate between mGlu2 and mGlu3 have not been available to rigorously determine the specific group II mGlu subtype involved. The long term goal of Dr. Sheffler’s research is to establish the relative roles of individual group II mGlu subtypes in mediating glial-neuronal communication and modulating synaptic transmission in the hippocampus using pharmacological, biochemical, and electrophysiological approaches.

Douglas Sheffler's Bio

Dr. Sheffler joined Sanford Burnham Prebys in September 2012.



2005-2010: Post-doctoral Training, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN Mentor: Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D.
1999-2005: Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH Mentor: Bryan Roth, M.D., Ph.D.


Honors and Recognition

2013 NARSAD Young Investigator Award Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

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Design and synthesis of systemically active metabotropic glutamate subtype-2 and -3 (mGlu2/3) receptor positive allosteric modulators (PAMs): pharmacological characterization and assessment in a rat model of cocaine dependence.

Dhanya RP, Sheffler DJ, Dahl R, Davis M, Lee PS, Yang L, Nickols HH, Cho HP, Smith LH, D'Souza MS, Conn PJ, Der-Avakian A, Markou A, Cosford ND

J Med Chem 2014 May 22 ;57(10):4154-72

Novel GlyT1 inhibitor chemotypes by scaffold hopping. Part 2: development of a [3.3.0]-based series and other piperidine bioisosteres.

Sheffler DJ, Nedelcovych MT, Williams R, Turner SC, Duerk BB, Robbins MR, Jadhav SB, Niswender CM, Jones CK, Conn PJ, Daniels RN, Lindsley CW

Bioorg Med Chem Lett 2014 Feb 15 ;24(4):1062-6

Novel GlyT1 inhibitor chemotypes by scaffold hopping. Part 1: development of a potent and CNS penetrant [3.1.0]-based lead.

Jones CK, Sheffler DJ, Williams R, Jadhav SB, Felts AS, Morrison RD, Niswender CM, Daniels JS, Conn PJ, Lindsley CW

Bioorg Med Chem Lett 2014 Feb 15 ;24(4):1067-70

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Neuroscience targets and human studies: future translational efforts in the stress system.

Haass-Koffler CL, Sheffler DJ

Neuropsychopharmacology 2023 Apr ;48(5):711-712

Development and use of a high-throughput screen to identify novel modulators of the corticotropin releasing factor binding protein.

Haass-Koffler CL, Francis TC, Gandhi P, Patel R, Naemuddin M, Nielsen CK, Bartlett SE, Bonci A, Vasile S, Hood BL, Suyama E, Hedrick MP, Smith LH, Limpert AS, Roberto M, Cosford NDP, Sheffler DJ

SLAS Discov 2022 Dec ;27(8):448-459

Novel potent azetidine-based compounds irreversibly inhibit Stat3 activation and induce antitumor response against human breast tumor growth in vivo.

Yue P, Zhu Y, Brotherton-Pleiss C, Fu W, Verma N, Chen J, Nakamura K, Chen W, Chen Y, Alonso-Valenteen F, Mikhael S, Medina-Kauwe L, Kershaw KM, Celeridad M, Pan S, Limpert AS, Sheffler DJ, Cosford NDP, Shiao SL, Tius MA, Lopez-Tapia F, Turkson J

Cancer Lett 2022 May 28 ;534:215613

Inhibitors of the Hippo Pathway Kinases STK3/MST2 and STK4/MST1 Have Utility for the Treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Bata N, Chaikuad A, Bakas NA, Limpert AS, Lambert LJ, Sheffler DJ, Berger LM, Liu G, Yuan C, Wang L, Peng Y, Dong J, Celeridad M, Layng F, Knapp S, Cosford NDP

J Med Chem 2022 Jan 27 ;65(2):1352-1369

Design, Synthesis, and Characterization of an Orally Active Dual-Specific ULK1/2 Autophagy Inhibitor that Synergizes with the PARP Inhibitor Olaparib for the Treatment of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.

Ren H, Bakas NA, Vamos M, Chaikuad A, Limpert AS, Wimer CD, Brun SN, Lambert LJ, Tautz L, Celeridad M, Sheffler DJ, Knapp S, Shaw RJ, Cosford NDP

J Med Chem 2020 Dec 10 ;63(23):14609-14625

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