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1.  A Novel Small Molecule Inhibitor of Influenza A Viruses that Targets Polymerase Function and Indirectly Induces Interferon 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(4):e1002668.
Influenza viruses continue to pose a major public health threat worldwide and options for antiviral therapy are limited by the emergence of drug-resistant virus strains. The antiviral cytokine, interferon (IFN) is an essential mediator of the innate immune response and influenza viruses, like many viruses, have evolved strategies to evade this response, resulting in increased replication and enhanced pathogenicity. A cell-based assay that monitors IFN production was developed and applied in a high-throughput compound screen to identify molecules that restore the IFN response to influenza virus infected cells. We report the identification of compound ASN2, which induces IFN only in the presence of influenza virus infection. ASN2 preferentially inhibits the growth of influenza A viruses, including the 1918 H1N1, 1968 H3N2 and 2009 H1N1 pandemic strains and avian H5N1 virus. In vivo, ASN2 partially protects mice challenged with a lethal dose of influenza A virus. Surprisingly, we found that the antiviral activity of ASN2 is not dependent on IFN production and signaling. Rather, its IFN-inducing property appears to be an indirect effect resulting from ASN2-mediated inhibition of viral polymerase function, and subsequent loss of the expression of the viral IFN antagonist, NS1. Moreover, we identified a single amino acid mutation at position 499 of the influenza virus PB1 protein that confers resistance to ASN2, suggesting that PB1 is the direct target. This two-pronged antiviral mechanism, consisting of direct inhibition of virus replication and simultaneous activation of the host innate immune response, is a unique property not previously described for any single antiviral molecule.
Author Summary
Influenza viruses are rapidly developing resistance against available anti-influenza drugs and consequently there is an urgent demand for new treatment approaches. We identified compound ASN2 in a high-throughput screen for molecules that are capable of inducing the antiviral cytokine interferon (IFN) in the presence of influenza virus infection. Normally, influenza virus blocks IFN production, an activity that is dependent on the viral NS1 protein and contributes to the ability of the virus to cause disease in an infected host. We show that ASN2 is a potent inhibitor of influenza A virus and can partially protect infected animals from disease and death. ASN2 acts by targeting influenza virus polymerase function which results in inhibition of virus replication, and as a consequence, NS1 expression. Thus the ability of ASN2 to induce IFN is a “side-effect”, albeit a desirable one, of polymerase inhibition. This combination of directly inhibiting the virus while also stimulating the host immune response is a novel property for an antiviral compound.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002668
PMCID: PMC3343121  PMID: 22577360
2.  Signature-Based Small Molecule Screening Identifies Cytosine Arabinoside as an EWS/FLI Modulator in Ewing Sarcoma 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(4):e122.
Background
The presence of tumor-specific mutations in the cancer genome represents a potential opportunity for pharmacologic intervention to therapeutic benefit. Unfortunately, many classes of oncoproteins (e.g., transcription factors) are not amenable to conventional small-molecule screening. Despite the identification of tumor-specific somatic mutations, most cancer therapy still utilizes nonspecific, cytotoxic drugs. One illustrative example is the treatment of Ewing sarcoma. Although the EWS/FLI oncoprotein, present in the vast majority of Ewing tumors, was characterized over ten years ago, it has never been exploited as a target of therapy. Previously, this target has been intractable to modulation with traditional small-molecule library screening approaches. Here we describe a gene expression–based approach to identify compounds that induce a signature of EWS/FLI attenuation. We hypothesize that screening small-molecule libraries highly enriched for FDA-approved drugs will provide a more rapid path to clinical application.
Methods and Findings
A gene expression signature for the EWS/FLI off state was determined with microarray expression profiling of Ewing sarcoma cell lines with EWS/FLI-directed RNA interference. A small-molecule library enriched for FDA-approved drugs was screened with a high-throughput, ligation-mediated amplification assay with a fluorescent, bead-based detection. Screening identified cytosine arabinoside (ARA-C) as a modulator of EWS/FLI. ARA-C reduced EWS/FLI protein abundance and accordingly diminished cell viability and transformation and abrogated tumor growth in a xenograft model. Given the poor outcomes of many patients with Ewing sarcoma and the well-established ARA-C safety profile, clinical trials testing ARA-C are warranted.
Conclusions
We demonstrate that a gene expression–based approach to small-molecule library screening can identify, for rapid clinical testing, candidate drugs that modulate previously intractable targets. Furthermore, this is a generic approach that can, in principle, be applied to the identification of modulators of any tumor-associated oncoprotein in the rare pediatric malignancies, but also in the more common adult cancers.
Todd Golub and colleagues show that a gene expression-based screen of small-molecule libraries can identify candidate drugs that modulate cancer-associated oncoproteins.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Cancer occurs when cells accumulate genetic changes (mutations) that allow them to divide uncontrollably and to travel throughout the body (metastasize). Chemotherapy, a mainstay of cancer treatments, works by killing rapidly dividing cells. Because some normal tissues also contain dividing cells and are therefore sensitive to chemotherapy drugs, it is hard to treat cancer without causing serious side effects. In recent years, however, researchers have identified some of the mutations that drive the growth of cancer cells. This raises the possibility of designing drugs that kill only cancer cells by specifically targeting “oncoproteins” (the abnormal proteins generated by mutations that transform normal cells into cancer cells). Some “targeted” drugs have already reached the clinic, but unfortunately medicinal chemists do not know how to inhibit the function of many classes of oncoproteins with the small organic molecules that make the best medicines. One oncoprotein in this category is EWS/FLI. This contains part of a protein called EWS fused to part of a transcription factor (a protein that controls cell behavior by telling the cell which proteins to make) called FLI. About 80% of patients with Ewing sarcoma (the second commonest childhood cancer of bone and soft tissue) have the mutation responsible for EWS/FLI expression. Localized Ewing sarcoma can be treated with nontargeted chemotherapy (often in combination with surgery and radiotherapy), but treatment for recurrent or metastatic disease remains very poor.
Why Was This Study Done?
Researchers have known for years that EWS/FLI expression drives the development of Ewing sarcoma by activating the expression of target genes needed for tumor formation. However, EWS/FLI has never been exploited as a target for therapy of this cancer—mainly because traditional approaches used to screen libraries of small molecules do not identify compounds that modulate the activity of transcription factors. In this study, the researchers have used a new gene expression–based, high-throughput screening (GE-HTS) approach to identify compounds that modulate the activity of EWS/FLI.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a molecular biology technique called microarray expression profiling to define a 14-gene expression signature that differentiates between Ewing sarcoma cells in which the EWS/FLI fusion protein is active and those in which it is inactive. They then used this signature to screen a library of about 1,000 chemicals (many already approved for other clinical uses) in a “ligation-mediated amplification assay.” For this, the researchers grew Ewing sarcoma cells with the test chemicals, extracted RNA from the cells, and generated a DNA copy of the RNA. They then added two short pieces of DNA (probes) specific for each signature gene to the samples. In samples that expressed a given signature gene, both probes bound and were then ligated (joined together) and amplified. Because one of each probe pair also contained a unique “capture sequence,” the signature genes expressed in each sample were finally identified by adding colored fluorescent beads, each linked to DNA complementary to a different capture sequence. The most active modulator of EWS/FLI activity identified by this GE-HTS approach was cytosine arabinoside (ARA-C). At levels achievable in people, this compound reduced the abundance of EWS/FLI protein in and the viability and cancer-like behavior of Ewing sarcoma cells growing in test tubes. ARA-C treatment also slowed the growth of Ewing sarcoma cells transplanted into mice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify ARA-C, which is already used to treat children with some forms of leukemia, as a potent modulator of EWS/FLI activity. More laboratory experiments are needed to discover how ARA-C changes the behavior of Ewing sarcoma cells. Nevertheless, given the poor outcomes currently seen in many patients with Ewing sarcoma and the historical reluctance to test new drugs in children, these findings strongly support the initiation of clinical trials of ARA-C in children with Ewing sarcoma. These results also show that the GE-HTS approach is a powerful way to identify candidate drugs able to modulate the activity of some of the oncoproteins (including transcription factors and other previously intractable targets) that drive cancer development.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040122.
Cancerquest from Emory University, provides information on cancer biology (also includes information in Spanish, Chinese and Russian)
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on Ewing sarcoma
Information for patients and health professionals on Ewing sarcoma is available from the US National Cancer Institute
Cancerbackup offers information for patients and their parents on Ewing sarcoma
Wikipedia has pages on DNA microarrays and expression profiling (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040122
PMCID: PMC1851624  PMID: 17425403
3.  Safety, Tolerability, and Immunogenicity of Interferons 
Pharmaceuticals  2010;3(4):1162-1186.
Interferons (IFNs) are class II cytokines that are key components of the innate immune response to virus infection. Three IFN sub-families, type I, II, and III IFNs have been identified in man, Recombinant analogues of type I IFNs, in particular IFNα2 and IFNβ1, have found wide application for the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis and remitting relapsing multiple sclerosis respectively. Type II IFN, or IFN gamma, is used principally for the treatment of chronic granulomatous disease, while the recently discovered type III IFNs, also known as IFN lambda or IL-28/29, are currently being evaluated for the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis. IFNs are in general well tolerated and the most common adverse events observed with IFNα or IFNβ therapy are “flu-like” symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, and myalgia. Prolonged treatment is associated with more serious adverse events including leucopenia, thrombocytopenia, increased hepatic transaminases, and neuropsychiatric effects. Type I IFNs bind to high-affinity cell surface receptors, composed of two transmembrane polypeptides IFNAR1 and IFNAR2, resulting in activation of the Janus kinases Jak1 and Tyk2, phosphorylation and activation of the latent cytoplasmic signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT1) and STAT2, formation of a transcription complex together with IRF9, and activation of a specific set of genes that encode the effector molecules responsible for mediating the biological activities of type I IFNs. Systemic administration of type I IFN results in activation of IFN receptors present on essentially all types of nucleated cells, including neurons and hematopoietic stem cells, in addition to target cells. This may well explain the wide spectrum of IFN associated toxicities. Recent reports suggest that certain polymorphisms in type I IFN signaling molecules are associated with IFN-induced neutropenia and thrombocytopenia in patients with chronic hepatitis C. IFNγ binds to a cell-surface receptor composed of two transmembrane polypeptides IFGR1 and IFGR2 resulting in activation of the Janus kinases Jak1 and Jak2, phosphorylation of STAT1, formation of STAT1 homodimers, and activation of a specific set of genes that encode the effector molecules responsible for mediating its biological activity. In common with type I IFNs, IFNγ receptors are ubiquitous and a number of the genes activated by IFNγ are also activated by type I IFNs that may well account for a spectrum of toxicities similar to that associated with type I IFNs including “flu-like” symptoms, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, and increased hepatic transaminases. Although type III IFNs share the major components of the signal transduction pathway and activate a similar set of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) as type I IFNs, distribution of the IFNλ receptor is restricted to certain cell types suggesting that IFNλ therapy may be associated with a reduced spectrum of toxicities relative to type I or type II IFNs. Repeated administration of recombinant IFNs can cause in a break in immune tolerance to self-antigens in some patients resulting in the production of neutralizing antibodies (NABs) to the recombinant protein homologue. Appearance of NABs is associated with reduced pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and a reduced clinical response. The lack of cross-neutralization of IFNβ by anti-IFNα NABs and vice versa, undoubtedly accounts for the apparent lack of toxicity associated with the presence of anti-IFN NABs with the exception of relatively mild infusion/injection reactions.
doi:10.3390/ph3041162
PMCID: PMC4034027
cytokines; interferons; interleukins; innate immunity; Toll-like receptors
4.  Identification of a small molecule yeast TORC1 inhibitor with a flow cytometry-based multiplex screen 
ACS Chemical Biology  2012;7(4):715-722.
TOR (target of rapamycin) is a serine/threonine kinase, evolutionarily conserved from yeast to human, which functions as a fundamental controller of cell growth. The moderate clinical benefit of rapamycin in mTOR-based therapy of many cancers favors the development of new TOR inhibitors. Here we report a high throughput flow cytometry multiplexed screen using five GFP-tagged yeast clones that represent the readouts of four branches of the TORC1 signaling pathway in budding yeast. Each GFP-tagged clone was differentially color-coded and the GFP signal of each clone was measured simultaneously by flow cytometry, which allows rapid prioritization of compounds that likely act through direct modulation of TORC1 or proximal signaling components. A total of 255 compounds were confirmed in dose-response analysis to alter GFP expression in one or more clones. To validate the concept of the high throughput screen, we have characterized CID 3528206, a small molecule most likely to act on TORC1 as it alters GFP expression in all five GFP clones in an analogous manner to rapamycin. We have shown that CID 3528206 inhibited yeast cell growth, and that CID 3528206 inhibited TORC1 activity both in vitro and in vivo with EC50s of 150 nM and 3.9 μM, respectively. The results of microarray analysis and yeast GFP collection screen further support the notion that CID 3528206 and rapamycin modulate similar cellular pathways. Together, these results indicate that the HTS has identified a potentially useful small molecule for further development of TOR inhibitors.
doi:10.1021/cb200452r
PMCID: PMC3331904  PMID: 22260433
5.  High Throughput Screening for Small Molecule Enhancers of the Interferon Signaling Pathway to Drive Next-Generation Antiviral Drug Discovery 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36594.
Most of current strategies for antiviral therapeutics target the virus specifically and directly, but an alternative approach to drug discovery might be to enhance the immune response to a broad range of viruses. Based on clinical observation in humans and successful genetic strategies in experimental models, we reasoned that an improved interferon (IFN) signaling system might better protect against viral infection. Here we aimed to identify small molecular weight compounds that might mimic this beneficial effect and improve antiviral defense. Accordingly, we developed a cell-based high-throughput screening (HTS) assay to identify small molecules that enhance the IFN signaling pathway components. The assay is based on a phenotypic screen for increased IFN-stimulated response element (ISRE) activity in a fully automated and robust format (Z′>0.7). Application of this assay system to a library of 2240 compounds (including 2160 already approved or approvable drugs) led to the identification of 64 compounds with significant ISRE activity. From these, we chose the anthracycline antibiotic, idarubicin, for further validation and mechanism based on activity in the sub-µM range. We found that idarubicin action to increase ISRE activity was manifest by other members of this drug class and was independent of cytotoxic or topoisomerase inhibitory effects as well as endogenous IFN signaling or production. We also observed that this compound conferred a consequent increase in IFN-stimulated gene (ISG) expression and a significant antiviral effect using a similar dose-range in a cell-culture system inoculated with encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV). The antiviral effect was also found at compound concentrations below the ones observed for cytotoxicity. Taken together, our results provide proof of concept for using activators of components of the IFN signaling pathway to improve IFN efficacy and antiviral immune defense as well as a validated HTS approach to identify small molecules that might achieve this therapeutic benefit.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036594
PMCID: PMC3344904  PMID: 22574190
6.  Cross-species chemogenomic profiling reveals evolutionarily conserved drug mode of action 
Chemogenomic screens were performed in both budding and fission yeasts, allowing for a cross-species comparison of drug–gene interaction networks.Drug–module interactions were more conserved than individual drug–gene interactions.Combination of data from both species can improve drug–module predictions and helps identify a compound's mode of action.
Understanding the molecular effects of chemical compounds in living cells is an important step toward rational therapeutics. Drug discovery aims to find compounds that will target a specific pathway or pathogen with minimal side effects. However, even when an effective drug is found, its mode of action (MoA) is typically not well understood. The lack of knowledge regarding a drug's MoA makes the drug discovery process slow and rational therapeutics incredibly difficult. More recently, different high-throughput methods have been developed that attempt to discern how a compound exerts its effects in cells. One of these methods relies on measuring the growth of cells carrying different mutations in the presence of the compounds of interest, commonly referred to as chemogenomics (Wuster and Babu, 2008). The differential growth of the different mutants provides clues as to what the compounds target in the cell (Figure 2). For example, if a drug inhibits a branch in a vital two-branch pathway, then mutations in the second branch might result in cell death if the mutants are grown in the presence of the drug (Figure 2C). As these compound–mutant functional interactions are expected to be relatively rare, one can assume that the growth rate of a mutant–drug combination should generally be equal to the product of the growth rate of the untreated mutant with the growth rate of the drug-treated wild type. This expectation is defined as the neutral model and deviations from this provide a quantitative score that allow us to make informed predictions regarding a drug's MoA (Figure 2B; Parsons et al, 2006).
The availability of these high-throughput approaches now allows us to perform cross-species studies of functional interactions between compounds and genes. In this study, we have performed a quantitative analysis of compound–gene interactions for two fungal species (budding yeast (S. cerevisiae) and fission yeast (S. pombe)) that diverged from each other approximately 500–700 million years ago. A collection of 2957 compounds from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) were screened in both species for inhibition of wild-type cell growth. A total of 132 were found to be bioactive in both fungi and 9, along with 12 additional well-characterized drugs, were selected for subsequent screening. Mutant libraries of 727 and 438 gene deletions were used for S. cerevisiae and S. pombe, respectively, and these were selected based on availability of genetic interaction data from previous studies (Collins et al, 2007; Roguev et al, 2008; Fiedler et al, 2009) and contain an overlap of 190 one-to-one orthologs that can be directly compared. Deviations from the neutral expectation were quantified as drug–gene interactions scores (D-scores) for the 21 compounds against the deletion libraries. Replicates of both screens showed very high correlations (S. cerevisiae r=0.72, S. pombe r=0.76) and reproduced well previously known compound–gene interactions (Supplementary information). We then compared the D-scores for the 190 one-to-one orthologs present in the data set of both species. Despite the high reproducibility, we observed a very poor conservation of these compound–gene interaction scores across these species (r=0.13, Figure 4A).
Previous work had shown that, across these same species, genetic interactions within protein complexes were much more conserved than average genetic interactions (Roguev et al, 2008). Similarly we observed a higher cross-species conservation of the compound–module (complex or pathway) interactions than the overall compound–gene interactions. Specifically, the data derived from fission yeast were a poor predictor of S. cerevisaie drug–gene interactions, but a good predictor of budding yeast compound–module connections (Figure 4B). Also, a combined score from both species improved the prediction of compound–module interactions, above the accuracy observed with the S. cerevisae information alone, but this improvement was not observed for the prediction of drug–gene interactions (Figure 4B). Data from both species were used to predict drug–module interactions, and one specific interaction (compound NSC-207895 interaction with DNA repair complexes) was experimentally verified by showing that the compound activates the DNA damage repair pathway in three species (S. cerevisiae, S. pombe and H. sapiens).
To understand why the combination of chemogenomic data from two species might improve drug–module interaction predictions, we also analyzed previously published cross-species genetic–interaction data. We observed a significant correlation between the conservation of drug–gene and gene–gene interactions among the one-to-one orthologs (r=0.28, P-value=0.0078). Additionally, the strongest interactions of benomyl (a microtubule inhibitor) were to complexes that also had strong and conserved genetic interactions with microtubules (Figure 4C). We hypothesize that a significant number of the compound–gene interactions obtained from chemogenomic studies are not direct interactions with the physical target of the compounds, but include many indirect interactions that genetically interact with the main target(s). This would explain why the compound interaction networks show similar evolutionary patterns as the genetic interactions networks.
In summary, these results shed some light on the interplay between the evolution of genetic networks and the evolution of drug response. Understanding how genetic variability across different species might result in different sensitivity to drugs should improve our capacity to design treatments. Concretely, we hope that this line of research might one day help us create drugs and drug combinations that specifically affect a pathogen or diseased tissue, but not the host.
We present a cross-species chemogenomic screening platform using libraries of haploid deletion mutants from two yeast species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe. We screened a set of compounds of known and unknown mode of action (MoA) and derived quantitative drug scores (or D-scores), identifying mutants that are either sensitive or resistant to particular compounds. We found that compound–functional module relationships are more conserved than individual compound–gene interactions between these two species. Furthermore, we observed that combining data from both species allows for more accurate prediction of MoA. Finally, using this platform, we identified a novel small molecule that acts as a DNA damaging agent and demonstrate that its MoA is conserved in human cells.
doi:10.1038/msb.2010.107
PMCID: PMC3018166  PMID: 21179023
chemogenomics; evolution; modularity
7.  Human Genetics in Rheumatoid Arthritis Guides a High-Throughput Drug Screen of the CD40 Signaling Pathway 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(5):e1003487.
Although genetic and non-genetic studies in mouse and human implicate the CD40 pathway in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), there are no approved drugs that inhibit CD40 signaling for clinical care in RA or any other disease. Here, we sought to understand the biological consequences of a CD40 risk variant in RA discovered by a previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) and to perform a high-throughput drug screen for modulators of CD40 signaling based on human genetic findings. First, we fine-map the CD40 risk locus in 7,222 seropositive RA patients and 15,870 controls, together with deep sequencing of CD40 coding exons in 500 RA cases and 650 controls, to identify a single SNP that explains the entire signal of association (rs4810485, P = 1.4×10−9). Second, we demonstrate that subjects homozygous for the RA risk allele have ∼33% more CD40 on the surface of primary human CD19+ B lymphocytes than subjects homozygous for the non-risk allele (P = 10−9), a finding corroborated by expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 1,469 healthy control individuals. Third, we use retroviral shRNA infection to perturb the amount of CD40 on the surface of a human B lymphocyte cell line (BL2) and observe a direct correlation between amount of CD40 protein and phosphorylation of RelA (p65), a subunit of the NF-κB transcription factor. Finally, we develop a high-throughput NF-κB luciferase reporter assay in BL2 cells activated with trimerized CD40 ligand (tCD40L) and conduct an HTS of 1,982 chemical compounds and FDA–approved drugs. After a series of counter-screens and testing in primary human CD19+ B cells, we identify 2 novel chemical inhibitors not previously implicated in inflammation or CD40-mediated NF-κB signaling. Our study demonstrates proof-of-concept that human genetics can be used to guide the development of phenotype-based, high-throughput small-molecule screens to identify potential novel therapies in complex traits such as RA.
Author Summary
A current challenge in human genetics is to follow-up “hits” from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to guide drug discovery for complex traits. Previously, we identified a common variant in the CD40 locus as associated with risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Here, we fine-map the CD40 signal of association through a combination of dense genotyping and exonic sequencing in large patient collections. Further, we demonstrate that the RA risk allele is a gain-of-function allele that increases the amount of CD40 on the surface of primary human B lymphocyte cells from healthy control individuals. Based on these observations, we develop a high-throughput assay to recapitulate the biology of the RA risk allele in a system suitable for a small molecule drug screen. After a series of primary screens and counter screens, we identify small molecules that inhibit CD40-mediated NF-kB signaling in human B cells. While this is only the first step towards a more comprehensive effort to identify CD40-specific inhibitors that may be used to treat RA, our study demonstrates a successful strategy to progress from a GWAS to a drug screen for complex traits such as RA.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003487
PMCID: PMC3656093  PMID: 23696745
8.  Inhibition of Interferon-Stimulated JAK-STAT Signaling by a Tick-Borne Flavivirus and Identification of NS5 as an Interferon Antagonist 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(20):12828-12839.
The tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) complex of viruses, genus Flavivirus, can cause severe encephalitis, meningitis, and/or hemorrhagic fevers. Effective interferon (IFN) responses are critical to recovery from infection with flaviviruses, and the mosquito-borne flaviviruses can inhibit this response. However, little is known about interactions between IFN signaling and TBE viruses. Langat virus (LGTV), a member of the TBE complex of viruses, was found to be highly sensitive to the antiviral effects of IFN. However, LGTV infection inhibited IFN-induced expression of a reporter gene driven by either IFN-α/β- or IFN-γ-responsive promoters. This indicated that LGTV can inhibit the IFN-mediated JAK-STAT (Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription) pathway of signal transduction. The mechanism of inhibition was due to blocks in the phosphorylation of both Janus kinases, Jak1 and Tyk2, during IFN-α signaling and at least a failure of Jak1 phosphorylation following IFN-γ stimulation. To determine the viral protein(s) responsible, we individually expressed all nonstructural (NS) proteins and examined their ability to inhibit signal transduction. Expression of NS5 alone inhibited STAT1 phosphorylation in response to IFN, thus identifying NS5 as a potential IFN antagonist. Examination of interactions between NS5 and cellular proteins revealed that NS5 associated with IFN-α/β and -γ receptor complexes. Importantly, inhibition of JAK-STAT signaling and NS5-IFN receptor interactions were demonstrated in LGTV-infected human monocyte-derived dendritic cells, important target cells for early virus replication. Because NS5 may interfere with both innate and acquired immune responses to virus infection, this protein may have a significant role in viral pathogenesis.
doi:10.1128/JVI.79.20.12828-12839.2005
PMCID: PMC1235813  PMID: 16188985
9.  Cross-species discovery of syncretic drug combinations that potentiate the antifungal fluconazole 
The authors screen for compounds that show synergistic antifungal activity when combined with the widely-used fungistatic drug fluconazole. Chemogenomic profiling explains the mode of action of synergistic drugs and allows the prediction of additional drug synergies.
The authors screen for compounds that show synergistic antifungal activity when combined with the widely-used fungistatic drug fluconazole. Chemogenomic profiling explains the mode of action of synergistic drugs and allows the prediction of additional drug synergies.
Chemical screens with a library enriched for known drugs identified a diverse set of 148 compounds that potentiated the action of the antifungal drug fluconazole against the fungal pathogens Cryptococcus neoformans, Cryptococcus gattii and Candida albicans, and the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, often in a species-specific manner.Chemogenomic profiles of six confirmed hits in S. cerevisiae revealed different modes of action and enabled the prediction of additional synergistic combinations; three-way synergistic interactions exhibited even stronger synergies at low doses of fluconazole.The synergistic combination of fluconazole and the antidepressant sertraline was active against fluconazole-resistant clinical fungal isolates and in an in vivo model of Cryptococcal infection.
Rising fungal infection rates, especially among immune-suppressed individuals, represent a serious clinical challenge (Gullo, 2009). Cancer, organ transplant and HIV patients, for example, often succumb to opportunistic fungal pathogens. The limited repertoire of approved antifungal agents and emerging drug resistance in the clinic further complicate the effective treatment of systemic fungal infections. At the molecular level, the paucity of fungal-specific essential targets arises from the conserved nature of cellular functions from yeast to humans, as well as from the fact that many essential yeast genes can confer viability at a fraction of wild-type dosage (Yan et al, 2009). Although only ∼1100 of the ∼6000 genes in yeast are essential, almost all genes become essential in specific genetic backgrounds in which another non-essential gene has been deleted or otherwise attenuated, an effect termed synthetic lethality (Tong et al, 2001). Genome-scale surveys suggest that over 200 000 binary synthetic lethal gene combinations dominate the yeast genetic landscape (Costanzo et al, 2010). The genetic buffering phenomenon is also manifest as a plethora of differential chemical–genetic interactions in the presence of sublethal doses of bioactive compounds (Hillenmeyer et al, 2008). These observations frame the difficulty of interdicting network functions in eukaryotic pathogens with single agent therapeutics. At the same time, however, this genetic network organization suggests that judicious combinations of small molecule inhibitors of both essential and non-essential targets may elicit additive or synergistic effects on cell growth (Sharom et al, 2004; Lehar et al, 2008). Unbiased screens for drugs that synergistically enhance a specific bioactive effect, but which are not themselves individually active—termed a syncretic combination—are one means to substantially elaborate chemical space (Keith et al, 2005). Indeed, compounds that enhance the activity of known agents in model yeast and cancer cell line systems have been identified both by focused small molecule library screens and by computational methods (Borisy et al, 2003; Lehar et al, 2007; Nelander et al, 2008; Jansen et al, 2009; Zinner et al, 2009).
To extend the stratagem of chemical synthetic lethality to clinically relevant fungal pathogens, we screened a bioactive library of known drugs for synergistic enhancers of the widely used fungistatic drug fluconazole against the clinically relevant pathogens C. albicans, C. neoformans and C. gattii, as well as the genetically tractable budding yeast S. cerevisiae. Fluconazole is an azole drug that inhibits lanosterol 14α-demethylase, the gene product of ERG11, an essential cytochrome P450 enzyme in the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway (Groll et al, 1998). We identified 148 drugs that potentiate the antifungal action of fluconazole against the four species. These syncretic compounds had not been previously recognized in the clinic as antifungal agents, and many acted in a species-specific manner, often in a potent fungicidal manner.
To understand the mechanisms of synergism, we interrogated six syncretic drugs—trifluoperazine, tamoxifen, clomiphene, sertraline, suloctidil and L-cycloserine—in genome-wide chemogenomic profiles of the S. cerevisiae deletion strain collection (Giaever et al, 1999). These profiles revealed that membrane, vesicle trafficking and lipid biosynthesis pathways are targeted by five of the synergizers, whereas the sphingolipid biosynthesis pathway is targeted by L-cycloserine. Cell biological assays confirmed the predicted membrane disruption effects of the former group of compounds, which may perturb ergosterol metabolism, impair fluconazole export by drug efflux pumps and/or affect active import of fluconazole (Kuo et al, 2010; Mansfield et al, 2010). Based on the integration of chemical–genetic and genetic interaction space, a signature set of deletion strains that are sensitive to the membrane active synergizers correctly predicted additional drug synergies with fluconazole. Similarly, the L-cycloserine chemogenomic profile correctly predicted a synergistic interaction between fluconazole and myriocin, another inhibitor of sphingolipid biosynthesis. The structure of genetic networks suggests that it should be possible to devise higher order drug combinations with even greater selectivity and potency (Sharom et al, 2004). In an initial test of this concept, we found that the combination of a non-synergistic pair drawn from the membrane active and sphingolipid target classes exhibited potent three-way synergism with a low dose of fluconazole. Finally, the combination of sertraline and fluconazole was active in a G. mellonella model of Cryptococcal infection, and was also efficacious against fluconazole-resistant clinical isolates of C. albicans and C. glabrata.
Collectively, these results demonstrate that the combinatorial redeployment of known drugs defines a powerful antifungal strategy and establish a number of potential lead combinations for future clinical assessment.
Resistance to widely used fungistatic drugs, particularly to the ergosterol biosynthesis inhibitor fluconazole, threatens millions of immunocompromised patients susceptible to invasive fungal infections. The dense network structure of synthetic lethal genetic interactions in yeast suggests that combinatorial network inhibition may afford increased drug efficacy and specificity. We carried out systematic screens with a bioactive library enriched for off-patent drugs to identify compounds that potentiate fluconazole action in pathogenic Candida and Cryptococcus strains and the model yeast Saccharomyces. Many compounds exhibited species- or genus-specific synergism, and often improved fluconazole from fungistatic to fungicidal activity. Mode of action studies revealed two classes of synergistic compound, which either perturbed membrane permeability or inhibited sphingolipid biosynthesis. Synergistic drug interactions were rationalized by global genetic interaction networks and, notably, higher order drug combinations further potentiated the activity of fluconazole. Synergistic combinations were active against fluconazole-resistant clinical isolates and an in vivo model of Cryptococcus infection. The systematic repurposing of approved drugs against a spectrum of pathogens thus identifies network vulnerabilities that may be exploited to increase the activity and repertoire of antifungal agents.
doi:10.1038/msb.2011.31
PMCID: PMC3159983  PMID: 21694716
antifungal; combination; pathogen; resistance; synergism
10.  Influenza Virus Non-Structural Protein 1 (NS1) Disrupts Interferon Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13927.
Type I interferons (IFNs) function as the first line of defense against viral infections by modulating cell growth, establishing an antiviral state and influencing the activation of various immune cells. Viruses such as influenza have developed mechanisms to evade this defense mechanism and during infection with influenza A viruses, the non-structural protein 1 (NS1) encoded by the virus genome suppresses induction of IFNs-α/β. Here we show that expression of avian H5N1 NS1 in HeLa cells leads to a block in IFN signaling. H5N1 NS1 reduces IFN-inducible tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT1, STAT2 and STAT3 and inhibits the nuclear translocation of phospho-STAT2 and the formation of IFN-inducible STAT1:1-, STAT1:3- and STAT3:3- DNA complexes. Inhibition of IFN-inducible STAT signaling by NS1 in HeLa cells is, in part, a consequence of NS1-mediated inhibition of expression of the IFN receptor subunit, IFNAR1. In support of this NS1-mediated inhibition, we observed a reduction in expression of ifnar1 in ex vivo human non-tumor lung tissues infected with H5N1 and H1N1 viruses. Moreover, H1N1 and H5N1 virus infection of human monocyte-derived macrophages led to inhibition of both ifnar1 and ifnar2 expression. In addition, NS1 expression induces up-regulation of the JAK/STAT inhibitors, SOCS1 and SOCS3. By contrast, treatment of ex vivo human lung tissues with IFN-α results in the up-regulation of a number of IFN-stimulated genes and inhibits both H5N1 and H1N1 virus replication. The data suggest that NS1 can directly interfere with IFN signaling to enhance viral replication, but that treatment with IFN can nevertheless override these inhibitory effects to block H5N1 and H1N1 virus infections.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013927
PMCID: PMC2978095  PMID: 21085662
11.  Interferon- α 2b reduces phosphorylation and activity of MEK and ERK through a Ras / Raf -independent mechanism 
British Journal of Cancer  2000;83(4):532-538.
Interferon (IFN)-α affects the growth, differentiation and function of various cell types by transducing regulatory signals through the Janus tyrosine kinase/signal transducers of activation and transcription (Jak/STAT) pathway. The signalling pathways employing the mitogen-activated ERK-activating kinase (MEK) and the extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK) are critical in growth factors signalling. Engagement of the receptors, and subsequent stimulation of Ras and Raf, initiates a phosphorylative cascade leading to activation of several proteins among which MEK and ERK play a central role in routing signals critical in controlling cell development, activation and proliferation. We demonstrate here that 24–48 h following treatment of transformed T- and monocytoid cell lines with recombinant human IFN-α2b both the phosphorylation and activity of MEK1 and its substrates ERK1/2 were reduced. In contrast, the activities of the upstream molecules Ras and Raf -1 were not affected. No effect on MEK/ERK activity was observed upon short-term exposure (1–30 min) to IFN. The anti-proliferative effect of IFN-α was increased by the addition in the culture medium of a specific inhibitor of MEK, namely PD98059. In conclusion, our results indicate that IFN-α regulates the activity of the MEK/ERK pathway and consequently modulates cellular proliferation through a Ras / Raf -independent mechanism. Targeting the MEK/ERK pathway may strengthen the IFN-mediated anti-cancer effect. © 2000 Cancer Research Campaign
doi:10.1054/bjoc.2000.1263
PMCID: PMC2374650  PMID: 10945503
IFN-α; cellular proliferation; MEK/ERK pathway
12.  Identification of Small Molecule Inhibitors of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Exoenzyme S Using a Yeast Phenotypic Screen 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(2):e1000005.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen that is a key factor in the mortality of cystic fibrosis patients, and infection represents an increased threat for human health worldwide. Because resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to antibiotics is increasing, new inhibitors of pharmacologically validated targets of this bacterium are needed. Here we demonstrate that a cell-based yeast phenotypic assay, combined with a large-scale inhibitor screen, identified small molecule inhibitors that can suppress the toxicity caused by heterologous expression of selected Pseudomonas aeruginosa ORFs. We identified the first small molecule inhibitor of Exoenzyme S (ExoS), a toxin involved in Type III secretion. We show that this inhibitor, exosin, modulates ExoS ADP-ribosyltransferase activity in vitro, suggesting the inhibition is direct. Moreover, exosin and two of its analogues display a significant protective effect against Pseudomonas infection in vivo. Furthermore, because the assay was performed in yeast, we were able to demonstrate that several yeast homologues of the known human ExoS targets are likely ADP-ribosylated by the toxin. For example, using an in vitro enzymatic assay, we demonstrate that yeast Ras2p is directly modified by ExoS. Lastly, by surveying a collection of yeast deletion mutants, we identified Bmh1p, a yeast homologue of the human FAS, as an ExoS cofactor, revealing that portions of the bacterial toxin mode of action are conserved from yeast to human. Taken together, our integrated cell-based, chemical-genetic approach demonstrates that such screens can augment traditional drug screening approaches and facilitate the discovery of new compounds against a broad range of human pathogens.
Author Summary
Microbial resistance to antibiotics is a serious and growing threat to human health. Here, we used a novel approach that combines chemical and genetic perturbation of bakers yeast to find new targets that might be effective in controlling infections caused by the opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. P. aeruginosa is the primary cause of mortality with cystic fibrosis patients and has demonstrated an alarming ability to resist antibiotics. In this study, we identified the first small molecule inhibitors of ExoS, a toxin playing a pivotal role during P. aeruginosa infections. One of these compounds, exosin, likely works by modulating the toxin's enzymatic activity. We further show that this inhibitor protects mammalian cells against P. aeruginosa infection. Finally, we used yeast functional genomics tools to identify several yeast homologues of the known human ExoS targets as possible targets for the toxin. Together, these observations validate our yeast-based approach for uncovering novel antibiotics. These compounds can be used as starting point for new therapeutic treatments, and a similar strategy could be applied to a broad range of human pathogens like viruses or parasites.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000005
PMCID: PMC2265467  PMID: 18454192
13.  Analysis of multiple compound–protein interactions reveals novel bioactive molecules 
The authors use machine learning of compound-protein interactions to explore drug polypharmacology and to efficiently identify bioactive ligands, including novel scaffold-hopping compounds for two pharmaceutically important protein families: G-protein coupled receptors and protein kinases.
We have demonstrated that machine learning of multiple compound–protein interactions is useful for efficient ligand screening and for assessing drug polypharmacology.This approach successfully identified novel scaffold-hopping compounds for two pharmaceutically important protein families: G-protein-coupled receptors and protein kinases.These bioactive compounds were not detected by existing computational ligand-screening methods in comparative studies.The results of this study indicate that data derived from chemical genomics can be highly useful for exploring chemical space, and this systems biology perspective could accelerate drug discovery processes.
The discovery of novel bioactive molecules advances our systems-level understanding of biological processes and is crucial for innovation in drug development. Perturbations of biological systems by chemical probes provide broader applications not only for analysis of complex systems but also for intentional manipulations of these systems. Nevertheless, the lack of well-characterized chemical modulators has limited their use. Recently, chemical genomics has emerged as a promising area of research applicable to the exploration of novel bioactive molecules, and researchers are currently striving toward the identification of all possible ligands for all target protein families (Wang et al, 2009). Chemical genomics studies have shown that patterns of compound–protein interactions (CPIs) are too diverse to be understood as simple one-to-one events. There is an urgent need to develop appropriate data mining methods for characterizing and visualizing the full complexity of interactions between chemical space and biological systems. However, no existing screening approach has so far succeeded in identifying novel bioactive compounds using multiple interactions among compounds and target proteins.
High-throughput screening (HTS) and computational screening have greatly aided in the identification of early lead compounds for drug discovery. However, the large number of assays required for HTS to identify drugs that target multiple proteins render this process very costly and time-consuming. Therefore, interest in using in silico strategies for screening has increased. The most common computational approaches, ligand-based virtual screening (LBVS) and structure-based virtual screening (SBVS; Oprea and Matter, 2004; Muegge and Oloff, 2006; McInnes, 2007; Figure 1A), have been used for practical drug development. LBVS aims to identify molecules that are very similar to known active molecules and generally has difficulty identifying compounds with novel structural scaffolds that differ from reference molecules. The other popular strategy, SBVS, is constrained by the number of three-dimensional crystallographic structures available. To circumvent these limitations, we have shown that a new computational screening strategy, chemical genomics-based virtual screening (CGBVS), has the potential to identify novel, scaffold-hopping compounds and assess their polypharmacology by using a machine-learning method to recognize conserved molecular patterns in comprehensive CPI data sets.
The CGBVS strategy used in this study was made up of five steps: CPI data collection, descriptor calculation, representation of interaction vectors, predictive model construction using training data sets, and predictions from test data (Figure 1A). Importantly, step 1, the construction of a data set of chemical structures and protein sequences for known CPIs, did not require the three-dimensional protein structures needed for SBVS. In step 2, compound structures and protein sequences were converted into numerical descriptors. These descriptors were used to construct chemical or biological spaces in which decreasing distance between vectors corresponded to increasing similarity of compound structures or protein sequences. In step 3, we represented multiple CPI patterns by concatenating these chemical and protein descriptors. Using these interaction vectors, we could quantify the similarity of molecular interactions for compound–protein pairs, despite the fact that the ligand and protein similarity maps differed substantially. In step 4, concatenated vectors for CPI pairs (positive samples) and non-interacting pairs (negative samples) were input into an established machine-learning method. In the final step, the classifier constructed using training sets was applied to test data.
To evaluate the predictive value of CGBVS, we first compared its performance with that of LBVS by fivefold cross-validation. CGBVS performed with considerably higher accuracy (91.9%) than did LBVS (84.4%; Figure 1B). We next compared CGBVS and SBVS in a retrospective virtual screening based on the human β2-adrenergic receptor (ADRB2). Figure 1C shows that CGBVS provided higher hit rates than did SBVS. These results suggest that CGBVS is more successful than conventional approaches for prediction of CPIs.
We then evaluated the ability of the CGBVS method to predict the polypharmacology of ADRB2 by attempting to identify novel ADRB2 ligands from a group of G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) ligands. We ranked the prediction scores for the interactions of 826 reported GPCR ligands with ADRB2 and then analyzed the 50 highest-ranked compounds in greater detail. Of 21 commercially available compounds, 11 showed ADRB2-binding activity and were not previously reported to be ADRB2 ligands. These compounds included ligands not only for aminergic receptors but also for neuropeptide Y-type 1 receptors (NPY1R), which have low protein homology to ADRB2. Most ligands we identified were not detected by LBVS and SBVS, which suggests that only CGBVS could identify this unexpected cross-reaction for a ligand developed as a target to a peptidergic receptor.
The true value of CGBVS in drug discovery must be tested by assessing whether this method can identify scaffold-hopping lead compounds from a set of compounds that is structurally more diverse. To assess this ability, we analyzed 11 500 commercially available compounds to predict compounds likely to bind to two GPCRs and two protein kinases. Functional assays revealed that nine ADRB2 ligands, three NPY1R ligands, five epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors, and two cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (CDK2) inhibitors were concentrated in the top-ranked compounds (hit rate=30, 15, 25, and 10%, respectively). We also evaluated the extent of scaffold hopping achieved in the identification of these novel ligands. One ADRB2 ligand, two NPY1R ligands, and one CDK2 inhibitor exhibited scaffold hopping (Figure 4), indicating that CGBVS can use this characteristic to rationally predict novel lead compounds, a crucial and very difficult step in drug discovery. This feature of CGBVS is critically different from existing predictive methods, such as LBVS, which depend on similarities between test and reference ligands, and focus on a single protein or highly homologous proteins. In particular, CGBVS is useful for targets with undefined ligands because this method can use CPIs with target proteins that exhibit lower levels of homology.
In summary, we have demonstrated that data mining of multiple CPIs is of great practical value for exploration of chemical space. As a predictive model, CGBVS could provide an important step in the discovery of such multi-target drugs by identifying the group of proteins targeted by a particular ligand, leading to innovation in pharmaceutical research.
The discovery of novel bioactive molecules advances our systems-level understanding of biological processes and is crucial for innovation in drug development. For this purpose, the emerging field of chemical genomics is currently focused on accumulating large assay data sets describing compound–protein interactions (CPIs). Although new target proteins for known drugs have recently been identified through mining of CPI databases, using these resources to identify novel ligands remains unexplored. Herein, we demonstrate that machine learning of multiple CPIs can not only assess drug polypharmacology but can also efficiently identify novel bioactive scaffold-hopping compounds. Through a machine-learning technique that uses multiple CPIs, we have successfully identified novel lead compounds for two pharmaceutically important protein families, G-protein-coupled receptors and protein kinases. These novel compounds were not identified by existing computational ligand-screening methods in comparative studies. The results of this study indicate that data derived from chemical genomics can be highly useful for exploring chemical space, and this systems biology perspective could accelerate drug discovery processes.
doi:10.1038/msb.2011.5
PMCID: PMC3094066  PMID: 21364574
chemical genomics; data mining; drug discovery; ligand screening; systems chemical biology
14.  Inhibitor of IκB kinase activity, BAY 11-7082, interferes with interferon regulatory factor 7 nuclear translocation and type I interferon production by plasmacytoid dendritic cells 
Introduction
Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) play not only a central role in the antiviral immune response in innate host defense, but also a pathogenic role in the development of the autoimmune process by their ability to produce robust amounts of type I interferons (IFNs), through sensing nucleic acids by toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 and 9. Thus, control of dysregulated pDC activation and type I IFN production provide an alternative treatment strategy for autoimmune diseases in which type I IFNs are elevated, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Here we focused on IκB kinase inhibitor BAY 11-7082 (BAY11) and investigated its immunomodulatory effects in targeting the IFN response on pDCs.
Methods
We isolated human blood pDCs by flow cytometry and examined the function of BAY11 on pDCs in response to TLR ligands, with regards to pDC activation, such as IFN-α production and nuclear translocation of interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF7) in vitro. Additionally, we cultured healthy peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with serum from SLE patients in the presence or absence of BAY11, and then examined the inhibitory function of BAY11 on SLE serum-induced IFN-α production. We also examined its inhibitory effect in vivo using mice pretreated with BAY11 intraperitonealy, followed by intravenous injection of TLR7 ligand poly U.
Results
Here we identified that BAY11 has the ability to inhibit nuclear translocation of IRF7 and IFN-α production in human pDCs. BAY11, although showing the ability to also interfere with tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α production, more strongly inhibited IFN-α production than TNF-α production by pDCs, in response to TLR ligands. We also found that BAY11 inhibited both in vitro IFN-α production by human PBMCs induced by the SLE serum and the in vivo serum IFN-α level induced by injecting mice with poly U.
Conclusions
These findings suggest that BAY11 has the therapeutic potential to attenuate the IFN environment by regulating pDC function and provide a novel foundation for the development of an effective immunotherapeutic strategy against autoimmune disorders such as SLE.
doi:10.1186/ar3014
PMCID: PMC2911871  PMID: 20470398
15.  Dynamic interaction networks in a hierarchically organized tissue 
We have integrated gene expression profiling with database and literature mining, mechanistic modeling, and cell culture experiments to identify intercellular and intracellular networks regulating blood stem cell self-renewal.Blood stem cell fate in vitro is regulated non-autonomously by a coupled positive–negative intercellular feedback circuit, composed of megakaryocyte-derived stimulatory growth factors (VEGF, PDGF, EGF, and serotonin) versus monocyte-derived inhibitory factors (CCL3, CCL4, CXCL10, TGFB2, and TNFSF9).The antagonistic signals converge in a core intracellular network focused around PI3K, Raf, PLC, and Akt.Model simulations enable functional classification of the novel endogenous ligands and signaling molecules.
Intercellular (between cell) communication networks are required to maintain homeostasis and coordinate regenerative and developmental cues in multicellular organisms. Despite the recognized importance of intercellular networks in regulating adult stem and progenitor cell fate, the specific cell populations involved, and the underlying molecular mechanisms are largely undefined. Although a limited number of studies have applied novel bioinformatic approaches to unravel intercellular signaling in other cell systems (Frankenstein et al, 2006), a comprehensive analysis of intercellular communication in a stem cell-derived, hierarchical tissue network has yet to be reported.
As a model system to explore intercellular communication networks in a hierarchically organized tissue, we cultured human umbilical cord blood (UCB)-derived stem and progenitor cells in defined, minimal cytokine-supplemented liquid culture (Madlambayan et al, 2006). To systematically explore the molecular and cellular dynamics underlying primitive progenitor growth and differentiation, gene expression profiles of primitive (lineage negative; Lin−) and mature (lineage positive; Lin+) populations were generated during phases of stem cell expansion versus depletion. Parallel phenotypic and subproteomic experiments validated that mRNA expression correlated with complex measures of proteome activity (protein secretion and cell surface expression). Using a curated list of secreted ligand–receptor interactions and published expression profiles of purified mature blood populations, we implemented a novel algorithm to reconstruct the intercellular signaling networks established between stem cells and multi-lineage progeny in vitro. By correlating differential expression patterns with stem cell growth, we predict cell populations, pathways, and secreted ligands associated with stem cell self-renewal and differentiation (Figure 3A).
We then tested the correlative predictions in a series of cell culture experiments. UCB progenitor cell cultures were supplemented with saturating amounts of 18 putative regulatory ligands, or cocultured with purified mature blood lineages (megakaryocytes, monocytes, and erythrocytes), and analyzed for effects on total cell, progenitor, and primitive progenitor growth. At the primitive progenitor level, 3/5 novel predicted stimulatory ligands (EGF, PDGFB, and VEGF) displayed significant positive effects, 5/7 predicted inhibitory factors (CCL3, CCL4, CXCL10, TNFSF9, and TGFB2) displayed negative effects, whereas only 1/5 non-correlated ligand (CXCL7) displayed an effect. Also consistent with predictions from gene expression data, megakaryocytes and monocytes were found to stimulate and inhibit primitive progenitor growth, respectively, and these effects were attributable to differential secretome profiles of stimulatory versus inhibitory ligands.
Cellular responses to external stimuli, particularly in heterogeneous and dynamic cell populations, represent complex functions of multiple cell fate decisions acting both directly and indirectly on the target (stem cell) populations. Experimentally distinguishing the mode of action of cytokines is thus a difficult task. To address this we used our previously published interactive model of hematopoiesis (Kirouac et al, 2009) to classify experimentally identified regulatory ligands into one of four distinct functional categories based on their differential effects on cell population growth. TGFB2 was classified as a proliferation inhibitor, CCL4, CXCL10, SPARC, and TNFSF9 as self-renewal inhibitors, CCL3 a proliferation stimulator, and EGF, VEGF, and PDGFB as self-renewal stimulators.
Stem and progenitor cells exposed to combinatorial extracellular signals must propagate this information through intracellular molecular networks, and respond appropriately by modifying cell fate decisions. To explore how our experimentally identified positive and negative regulatory signals are integrated at the intracellular level, we constructed a blood stem cell self-renewal signaling network through extensive literature curation and protein–protein interaction (PPI) network mapping. We find that signal transduction pathways activated by the various stimulatory and inhibitory ligands converge on a limited set of molecular control nodes, forming a core subnetwork enriched for known regulators of self-renewal (Figure 6A). To experimentally test the intracellular signaling molecules computationally predicted as regulators of stem cell self-renewal, we obtained five small molecule antagonists against the kinases Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), Raf, Akt, Phospholipase C (PLC), and MEK1. Liquid cultures were supplemented with the five molecules individually, and resultant cell population outputs compared against model simulations to deconvolute the functional effects on proliferation (and survival) versus self-renewal. This analysis classifies inhibition of PI3K and Raf activity as selectively targeting self-renewal, PLC as selectively targeting survival, and Akt as selectively targeting proliferation; MEK inhibition appears non-specific for these processes.
This represents the first systematic characterization of how cell fate decisions are regulated non-autonomously through lineage-specific interactions with differentiated progeny. The complex intercellular communication networks can be approximated as an antagonistic positive–negative feedback circuit, wherein progenitor expansion is modulated by a balance of megakaryocyte-derived stimulatory factors (EGF, PDGF, VEGF, and possibly serotonin) versus monocyte-derived inhibitory factors (CCL3, CCL4, CXCL10, TGFB2, and TNFSF9). This complex milieu of endogenous regulatory signals is integrated and processed within a core intracellular signaling network, resulting in modulation of cell-level kinetic parameters (proliferation, survival, and self-renewal). We reconstruct a stem cell associated intracellular network, and identify PI3K, Raf, Akt, and PLC as functionally distinct signal integration nodes, linking extracellular and intracellular signaling. These findings lay the groundwork for novel strategies to control blood stem cell self-renewal in vitro and in vivo.
Intercellular (between cell) communication networks maintain homeostasis and coordinate regenerative and developmental cues in multicellular organisms. Despite the importance of intercellular networks in stem cell biology, their rules, structure and molecular components are poorly understood. Herein, we describe the structure and dynamics of intercellular and intracellular networks in a stem cell derived, hierarchically organized tissue using experimental and theoretical analyses of cultured human umbilical cord blood progenitors. By integrating high-throughput molecular profiling, database and literature mining, mechanistic modeling, and cell culture experiments, we show that secreted factor-mediated intercellular communication networks regulate blood stem cell fate decisions. In particular, self-renewal is modulated by a coupled positive–negative intercellular feedback circuit composed of megakaryocyte-derived stimulatory growth factors (VEGF, PDGF, EGF, and serotonin) versus monocyte-derived inhibitory factors (CCL3, CCL4, CXCL10, TGFB2, and TNFSF9). We reconstruct a stem cell intracellular network, and identify PI3K, Raf, Akt, and PLC as functionally distinct signal integration nodes, linking extracellular, and intracellular signaling. This represents the first systematic characterization of how stem cell fate decisions are regulated non-autonomously through lineage-specific interactions with differentiated progeny.
doi:10.1038/msb.2010.71
PMCID: PMC2990637  PMID: 20924352
cellular networks; hematopoiesis; intercellular signaling; self-renewal; stem cells
16.  Cooperative effects of Janus and Aurora kinase inhibition by CEP701 in cells expressing Jak2V617F 
The Janus kinase 2 mutant V617F occurs with high frequency in myeloproliferative neoplasms. Further mutations affecting the Janus kinase family have been discovered mostly in leukaemias and in myeloproliferative neoplasms. Owing to their involvement in neoplasia, inflammatory diseases and in the immune response, Janus kinases are promising targets for kinase inhibitor therapy in these disease settings. Various quantitative assays including two newly developed screening assays were used to characterize the function of different small-molecule compounds in cells expressing Jak2V617F. A detailed comparative analysis of different Janus kinase inhibitors in our quantitative assays and the subsequent characterization of additional activities demonstrated for the first time that the most potent Jak2 inhibitor in our study, CEP701, also targets Aurora kinases. CEP701 shows a unique combination of both activities which is not found in other compounds also targeting Jak2. Furthermore, colony forming cell assays showed that Janus kinase 2 inhibitors preferentially suppressed the growth of erythroid colonies, whereas inhibitors of Aurora kinases preferentially blocked myeloid colony growth. CEP701 demonstrated a combined suppression of both colony types. Moreover, we show that combined application of a Janus and an Aurora kinase inhibitor recapitulated the effect observed for CEP701 but might allow for more flexibility in combining both activities in clinical settings, e.g. in the treatment of myeloproliferative neoplasms. The newly developed screening assays are high throughput compatible and allow an easy detection of new compounds with Janus kinase 2 inhibitory activity.
doi:10.1111/jcmm.12005
PMCID: PMC3822589  PMID: 23301855
Janus kinases; Jak2V617F; Aurora kinases; kinase inhibitors; MPN; CEP701
17.  Ascorbic Acid Has Superior Ex Vivo Antiproliferative, Cell Death-Inducing and Immunomodulatory Effects over IFN-α in HTLV-1-Associated Myelopathy 
Background
Clear therapeutic guidelines for HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) are missing due to the lack of randomized double-blind controlled clinical trials. Moderate yet similar clinical benefit has been demonstrated for IFN-α and high-dose ascorbic acid (AA) monotherapy in a large open clinical trial. However, there is a lack of in vivo and in vitro studies exploring and comparing the effects of high-dose AA and IFN-α treatment in the context of HAM/TSP. Therefore, we performed the first comparative analysis of the ex vivo and in vitro molecular and cellular mechanisms of action of IFN-α and high-dose AA in HAM/TSP.
Principal Findings
Through thymidine incorporation and quantification of Th1/Th2/Th17 cytokines, we demonstrate that high-dose AA displays differential and superior antiproliferative and immunomodulatory effects over IFN-α in HAM/TSP PBMCs ex vivo. In addition, high-dose AA, but not IFN-α, induced cell death in both HAM/TSP PBMCs and HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines MT-2 and MT-4. Microarray data combined with pathway analysis of MT-2 cells revealed AA-induced regulation of genes associated with cell death, including miR-155. Since miR-155 has recently been demonstrated to up-regulate IFN-γ, this microRNA might represent a novel therapeutic target in HAM/TSP, as recently demonstrated in multiple sclerosis, another neuroinflammatory disease. On the other hand, IFN-α selectively up-regulated antiviral and immune-related genes.
Conclusions
In comparison to IFN-α, high-dose AA treatment has superior ex vivo and in vitro cell death-inducing, antiproliferative and immunomodulatory anti-HTLV-1 effects. Differential pathway activation by both drugs opens up avenues for targeted treatment in specific patient subsets.
Author Summary
HAM/TSP is a chronic and disabling neuroinflammatory disease, for which clinical management is mostly empirical and symptomatic rather than evidence-based, due to the lack of biomarkers and controlled clinical trials. Although similar clinical benefit has been demonstrated for IFN-α and high-dose ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in one major open clinical trial with 200 patients, their cellular and molecular mechanisms of action remain unexplored in HAM/TSP. We demonstrate that high-dose ascorbic acid strongly inhibits lymphoproliferation of HAM/TSP mononuclear cells in ex vivo cultures, in contrast to IFN-α. Furthermore, high-dose ascorbic acid, but not IFN-α, significantly decreased ex vivo TNF-α and IFN-γ pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in supernatant of mononuclear cells from HAM/TSP patients. In addition, ascorbic acid, but not IFN-α, induced cell death in HTLV-1-infected T-cell lines, which was confirmed by gene expression profiling, revealing cell death-associated pathways activated by high-dose ascorbic acid, including miR-155. This microRNA has previously been shown up-regulated in HTLV-1-infected cells, as well as in blood and brain samples of multiple sclerosis patients, another neuroinflammatory disease. In addition, miR-155 has also been reported to up-regulate IFN-γ production in human natural killer cells, thus linking both cell death and cytokine signaling pathways, rendering it a potential therapeutic target in neuroinflammatory disorders. Thus, our findings reveal molecular mechanisms of action as well as candidate biomarkers for high-dose ascorbic acid therapy and provide a rational basis, rather than an empirical basis, for its use in HAM/TSP treatment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001729
PMCID: PMC3404116  PMID: 22848768
18.  Modulation of Gamma Interferon-Induced Major Histocompatibility Complex Class II Gene Expression by Porphyromonas gingivalis Membrane Vesicles 
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(3):1185-1192.
Gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-induced endothelial cells actively participate in initiating immune responses by interacting with CD4+ T cells via class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) surface glycoproteins. Previously, Porphyromonas gingivalis membrane vesicles were shown to selectively inhibit IFN-γ-induced surface expression of HLA-DR molecules by human umbilical cord vascular endothelial cells. In this study, we demonstrated an absence of HLA-DRα mRNA from IFN-γ-induced cells in the presence of P. gingivalis membrane vesicles by using reverse transcriptase-PCR and Southern blotting. Vesicles also prevented transcription of the gene encoding class II transactivator, a transactivator protein required for IFN-γ-induced expression of MHC class II genes. In addition, the effects of vesicles on IFN-γ signal transduction involving Jak and Stat proteins were characterized by using immunoprecipitation and Western blot analyses. Jak1 and Jak2 proteins could not be detected in endothelial cells treated with membrane vesicles. Consequently, IFN-γ-induced phosphorylation of Jak1, Jak2, and Stat1α proteins was prevented. The class II-inhibitory effect of the membrane vesicles could be eliminated by heating vesicles at 100°C for 30 min or by treating them with a cysteine proteinase inhibitor. This indicates that the cysteine proteinases were most likely responsible for the absence of Jak proteins observed in vesicle-treated cells. The observed increased binding of radiolabeled IFN-γ to vesicle-treated cells suggests that vesicles may also modulate the IFN-γ interactions with the cell surface. However, no evidence was obtained demonstrating that vesicles affected the expression of IFN-γ receptors. Thus, P. gingivalis membrane vesicles apparently inhibited IFN-γ-induced MHC class II by disrupting the IFN-γ signaling transduction pathway. Vesicle-inhibited class II expression also occurred in other IFN-γ-inducible cells. This suggested that the ability of P. gingivalis membrane vesicles to modulate antigen presentation by key cells may be an important mechanism used by this particular bacterium to escape immunosurveillance, thereby favoring its colonization and invasion of host tissues.
doi:10.1128/IAI.70.3.1185-1192.2002
PMCID: PMC127778  PMID: 11854199
19.  Identification of Novel Compounds Inhibiting Chikungunya Virus-Induced Cell Death by High Throughput Screening of a Kinase Inhibitor Library 
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-borne arthrogenic alphavirus that causes acute febrile illness in humans accompanied by joint pains and in many cases, persistent arthralgia lasting weeks to years. The re-emergence of CHIKV has resulted in numerous outbreaks in the eastern hemisphere, and threatens to expand in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, no effective treatment is currently available. The present study reports the use of resazurin in a cell-based high-throughput assay, and an image-based high-content assay to identify and characterize inhibitors of CHIKV-infection in vitro. CHIKV is a highly cytopathic virus that rapidly kills infected cells. Thus, cell viability of HuH-7 cells infected with CHIKV in the presence of compounds was determined by measuring metabolic reduction of resazurin to identify inhibitors of CHIKV-associated cell death. A kinase inhibitor library of 4,000 compounds was screened against CHIKV infection of HuH-7 cells using the resazurin reduction assay, and the cell toxicity was also measured in non-infected cells. Seventy-two compounds showing ≥50% inhibition property against CHIKV at 10 µM were selected as primary hits. Four compounds having a benzofuran core scaffold (CND0335, CND0364, CND0366 and CND0415), one pyrrolopyridine (CND0545) and one thiazol-carboxamide (CND3514) inhibited CHIKV-associated cell death in a dose-dependent manner, with EC50 values between 2.2 µM and 7.1 µM. Based on image analysis, these 6 hit compounds did not inhibit CHIKV replication in the host cell. However, CHIKV-infected cells manifested less prominent apoptotic blebs typical of CHIKV cytopathic effect compared with the control infection. Moreover, treatment with these compounds reduced viral titers in the medium of CHIKV-infected cells by up to 100-fold. In conclusion, this cell-based high-throughput screening assay using resazurin, combined with the image-based high content assay approach identified compounds against CHIKV having a novel antiviral activity - inhibition of virus-induced CPE - likely by targeting kinases involved in apoptosis.
Author Summary
Recent outbreaks and expanding global distribution of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) in different regions of Asia, Africa and Europe necessitates the development of effective therapeutic interventions. At present, only two antiviral compounds (chloroquine and ribavirin) that inhibit viral infection in vitro have been used in clinical cases of chikungunya infections. However, neither of these compounds have shown strong efficacy in vivo. Recent attempts to identify new antiviral candidates for CHIKV using cell-based phenotypic approach have been reported. In this study, we developed a simple cell-based high-throughput assay using resazurin to identify potential anti-CHIKV compounds. This high-throughput assay is based on the metabolic reduction of resazurin to the highly fluorescent resorufin by viable cells as an indicator of activity against CHIKV-induced CPE. We screened 4,000 small molecules belonging to the BioFocus kinase inhibitor chemical library and found a cluster of related molecules with antiviral activity against CHIKV. Finally, we characterized the putative mode of action of these active compounds using an image-based high content assay and conventional virological methods (i.e., virus yield reduction assay, microneutralization assay).
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002471
PMCID: PMC3814572  PMID: 24205414
20.  Antiviral Effect of Interferon lambda against West Nile Virus 
Antiviral research  2009;83(1):53-60.
Type III interferons (IFN), IFN–λ or IL-28/29, are new members of the IFN super-family. Except for using distinct receptors, type I and type III IFNs share the same major post-receptor signaling components to activate the transcription of a similar set of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). To examine the antiviral effects of the new type IFNs against West Nile virus (WNV), we compared the antiviral effects of IFN-α and IFN-λ on WNV virus-like particle (VLP) infection and replicon replication in Huh7.5 and Hela cells. The results revealed that (i) both types of IFNs could efficiently prevent the WNV infection, but IFN-α demonstrated a stronger antiviral efficacy; (ii) WNV genome replication in VLP infected cells and replicon-containing cell lines could only be inhibited by IFN-α, but not IFN-λ; (iii) in agreement with the observed antiviral effects, only IFN-λ-induced activation of JAK-STAT signaling pathway and induction of ISG expression were completely inhibited in WNV replicon-containing cell lines, but IFN-α signal transduction was either unaffected or only partially inhibited in Huh7.5 or Hela cells by the virus. Hence, the differential inhibition of WNV on IFN-α and IFN-λ signal transduction implies that the receptors of the two types of IFNs, but not the common post receptor signaling components, could be selectively targeted either directly by WNV nonstructural proteins or indirectly by the cellular responses induced by the virus infection to inhibit the signal transduction of the cytokines.
doi:10.1016/j.antiviral.2009.03.006
PMCID: PMC2694136  PMID: 19501257
21.  Marburg Virus Evades Interferon Responses by a Mechanism Distinct from Ebola Virus 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(1):e1000721.
Previous studies have demonstrated that Marburg viruses (MARV) and Ebola viruses (EBOV) inhibit interferon (IFN)-α/β signaling but utilize different mechanisms. EBOV inhibits IFN signaling via its VP24 protein which blocks the nuclear accumulation of tyrosine phosphorylated STAT1. In contrast, MARV infection inhibits IFNα/β induced tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT2. MARV infection is now demonstrated to inhibit not only IFNα/β but also IFNγ-induced STAT phosphorylation and to inhibit the IFNα/β and IFNγ-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of upstream Janus (Jak) family kinases. Surprisingly, the MARV matrix protein VP40, not the MARV VP24 protein, has been identified to antagonize Jak and STAT tyrosine phosphorylation, to inhibit IFNα/β or IFNγ-induced gene expression and to inhibit the induction of an antiviral state by IFNα/β. Global loss of STAT and Jak tyrosine phosphorylation in response to both IFNα/β and IFNγ is reminiscent of the phenotype seen in Jak1-null cells. Consistent with this model, MARV infection and MARV VP40 expression also inhibit the Jak1-dependent, IL-6-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT3. Finally, expression of MARV VP40 is able to prevent the tyrosine phosphorylation of Jak1, STAT1, STAT2 or STAT3 which occurs following over-expression of the Jak1 kinase. In contrast, MARV VP40 does not detectably inhibit the tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT2 or Tyk2 when Tyk2 is over-expressed. Mutation of the VP40 late domain, essential for efficient VP40 budding, has no detectable impact on inhibition of IFN signaling. This study shows that MARV inhibits IFN signaling by a mechanism different from that employed by the related EBOV. It identifies a novel function for the MARV VP40 protein and suggests that MARV may globally inhibit Jak1-dependent cytokine signaling.
Author Summary
The closely related members of the filovirus family, Ebola virus (EBOV) and Marburg virus (MARV), cause severe hemorrhagic disease in humans with high fatality rates. Infected individuals exhibit dysregulated immune responses which appear to result from several factors, including virus-mediated impairment of innate immune responses. Previous studies demonstrated that both MARV and EBOV block the type I interferon-induced Jak-STAT signaling pathway. For EBOV, the viral protein VP24 mediates the inhibitory effects by interfering with the nuclear translocation of activated STAT proteins. Here, we show that MARV uses a distinct mechanism to block IFN signaling pathways. Our data revealed that MARV blocks the phosphorylation of Janus kinases and their target STAT proteins in response to type I and type II interferon and interleukin 6. Surprisingly, the observed inhibition is not achieved by the MARV VP24 protein, but by the matrix protein VP40 which also mediates viral budding. Over-expression studies indicate that MARV VP40 globally antagonizes Jak1-dependent signaling. Further, we show that a MARV VP40 mutant defective for budding retains interferon antagonist function. Our results highlight a basic difference between EBOV and MARV, define a new function for MARV VP40 and reveal new targets for the development of anti-MARV therapies.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000721
PMCID: PMC2799553  PMID: 20084112
22.  Identification of Host-Targeted Small Molecules That Restrict Intracellular Mycobacterium tuberculosis Growth 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(2):e1003946.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis remains a significant threat to global health. Macrophages are the host cell for M. tuberculosis infection, and although bacteria are able to replicate intracellularly under certain conditions, it is also clear that macrophages are capable of killing M. tuberculosis if appropriately activated. The outcome of infection is determined at least in part by the host-pathogen interaction within the macrophage; however, we lack a complete understanding of which host pathways are critical for bacterial survival and replication. To add to our understanding of the molecular processes involved in intracellular infection, we performed a chemical screen using a high-content microscopic assay to identify small molecules that restrict mycobacterial growth in macrophages by targeting host functions and pathways. The identified host-targeted inhibitors restrict bacterial growth exclusively in the context of macrophage infection and predominantly fall into five categories: G-protein coupled receptor modulators, ion channel inhibitors, membrane transport proteins, anti-inflammatories, and kinase modulators. We found that fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, enhances secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α and induces autophagy in infected macrophages, and gefitinib, an inhibitor of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), also activates autophagy and restricts growth. We demonstrate that during infection signaling through EGFR activates a p38 MAPK signaling pathway that prevents macrophages from effectively responding to infection. Inhibition of this pathway using gefitinib during in vivo infection reduces growth of M. tuberculosis in the lungs of infected mice. Our results support the concept that screening for inhibitors using intracellular models results in the identification of tool compounds for probing pathways during in vivo infection and may also result in the identification of new anti-tuberculosis agents that work by modulating host pathways. Given the existing experience with some of our identified compounds for other therapeutic indications, further clinically-directed study of these compounds is merited.
Author Summary
Infection with the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes the disease tuberculosis (TB) that imposes significant worldwide morbidity and mortality. Approximately 2 billion people are infected with M. tuberculosis, and almost 1.5 million people die annually from TB. With increasing drug resistance and few novel drug candidates, our inability to effectively treat all infected individuals necessitates a deeper understanding of the host-pathogen interface to facilitate new approaches to treatment. In addition, the current anti-tuberculosis regimen requires months of strict compliance to clear infection; targeting host immune function could play a strategic role in reducing the duration and complexity of treatment while effectively treating drug-resistant strains. Here we use a microscopy-based screen to identify molecules that target host pathways and inhibit the growth of M. tuberculosis in macrophages. We identified several host pathways not previously implicated in tuberculosis. The identified inhibitors prevent growth either by blocking host pathways exploited by M. tuberculosis for virulence, or by activating immune responses that target intracellular bacteria. Fluoxetine, used clinically for treating depression, induces autophagy and enhances production of TNF-α. Similarly, gefitinib, used clinically for treating cancer, inhibits M. tuberculosis growth in macrophages. Importantly, gefitinib treatment reduces bacterial replication in the lungs of M. tuberculosis-infected mice.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003946
PMCID: PMC3930586  PMID: 24586159
23.  Development and Validation of a Quantitative, High-Throughput, Fluorescent-Based Bioassay to Detect Schistosoma Viability 
Background
Schistosomiasis, caused by infection with the blood fluke Schistosoma, is responsible for greater than 200,000 human deaths per annum. Objective high-throughput screens for detecting novel anti-schistosomal targets will drive ‘genome to drug’ lead translational science at an unprecedented rate. Current methods for detecting schistosome viability rely on qualitative microscopic criteria, which require an understanding of parasite morphology, and most importantly, must be subjectively interpreted. These limitations, in the current state of the art, have significantly impeded progress into whole schistosome screening for next generation chemotherapies.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We present here a microtiter plate-based method for reproducibly detecting schistosomula viability that takes advantage of the differential uptake of fluorophores (propidium iodide and fluorescein diacetate) by living organisms. We validate this high-throughput system in detecting schistosomula viability using auranofin (a known inhibitor of thioredoxin glutathione reductase), praziquantel and a range of small compounds with previously-described (gambogic acid, sodium salinomycin, ethinyl estradiol, fluoxetidine hydrochloride, miconazole nitrate, chlorpromazine hydrochloride, amphotericin b, niclosamide) or suggested (bepridil, ciclopirox, rescinnamine, flucytosine, vinblastine and carbidopa) anti-schistosomal activities. This developed method is sensitive (200 schistosomula/well can be assayed), relevant to industrial (384-well microtiter plate compatibility) and academic (96-well microtiter plate compatibility) settings, translatable to functional genomics screens and drug assays, does not require a priori knowledge of schistosome biology and is quantitative.
Conclusions/Significance
The wide-scale application of this fluorescence-based bioassay will greatly accelerate the objective identification of novel therapeutic lead targets/compounds to combat schistosomiasis. Adapting this bioassay for use with other parasitic worm species further offers an opportunity for great strides to be made against additional neglected tropical diseases of biomedical and veterinary importance.
Author Summary
With only one effective drug, praziquantel, currently used to treat most worldwide cases of schistosomiasis, there exists a pressing need to identify alternative anthelmintics before the development of praziquantel-resistant schistosomes removes our ability to combat this neglected tropical disease. At present, the most widely adopted methodology used to identify promising new anti-schistosome compounds relies on time consuming and subjective microscopic examination of parasite viability in response to in vitro schistosome/compound co-culturing. In our continued effort to identify novel drug and vaccine targets, we detail a dual-fluorescence bioassay that can objectively be used for assessing Schistosoma mansoni schistosomula viability in a medium or high- throughput manner to suit either academic or industrial settings. The described methodology replaces subjectivity with sensitivity and provides an enabling technology useful for rapid in vitro screens of both natural and synthetic compound libraries. It is expected that results obtained from these quantifiable in vitro screens would prioritize the most effective anti-schistosomal compounds for follow-up in vivo experimentation. This highly-adaptable dual-fluorescence bioassay could be integrated with other methods for measuring schistosome phenotype and, together, be used to greatly accelerate our search for novel anthelmintics.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000759
PMCID: PMC2910722  PMID: 20668553
24.  Thioredoxin Reductase Mediates Cell Death Effects of the Combination of Beta Interferon and Retinoic Acid 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(11):6493-6504.
Interferons (IFNs) and retinoids are potent biological response modifiers. By using JAK-STAT pathways, IFNs regulate the expression of genes involved in antiviral, antitumor, and immunomodulatory actions. Retinoids exert their cell growth-regulatory effects via nuclear receptors, which also function as transcription factors. Although these ligands act through distinct mechanisms, several studies have shown that the combination of IFNs and retinoids synergistically inhibits cell growth. We have previously reported that IFN-β–all-trans-retinoic acid (RA) combination is a more potent growth suppressor of human tumor xenografts in vivo than either agent alone. Furthermore, the IFN-RA combination causes cell death in several tumor cell lines in vitro. However, the molecular basis for these growth-suppressive actions is unknown. It has been suggested that certain gene products, which mediate the antiviral actions of IFNs, are also responsible for the antitumor actions of the IFN-RA combination. However, we did not find a correlation between their activities and cell death. Therefore, we have used an antisense knockout approach to directly identify the gene products that mediate cell death and have isolated several genes associated with retinoid-IFN-induced mortality (GRIM). In this investigation, we characterized one of the GRIM cDNAs, GRIM-12. Sequence analysis suggests that the GRIM-12 product is identical to human thioredoxin reductase (TR). TR is posttranscriptionally induced by the IFN-RA combination in human breast carcinoma cells. Overexpression of GRIM-12 causes a small amount of cell death and further enhances the susceptibility of cells to IFN-RA-induced death. Dominant negative inhibitors directed against TR inhibit its cell death-inducing functions. Interference with TR enzymatic activity led to growth promotion in the presence of the IFN-RA combination. Thus, these studies identify a novel function for TR in cell growth regulation.
PMCID: PMC109235  PMID: 9774665
25.  Discovery of a Novel Compound with Anti-Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Activity That Targets the Nonstructural Protein 2 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(6):e1004213.
Alphaviruses present serious health threats as emerging and re-emerging viruses. Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV), a New World alphavirus, can cause encephalitis in humans and horses, but there are no therapeutics for treatment. To date, compounds reported as anti-VEEV or anti-alphavirus inhibitors have shown moderate activity. To discover new classes of anti-VEEV inhibitors with novel viral targets, we used a high-throughput screen based on the measurement of cell protection from live VEEV TC-83-induced cytopathic effect to screen a 340,000 compound library. Of those, we identified five novel anti-VEEV compounds and chose a quinazolinone compound, CID15997213 (IC50 = 0.84 µM), for further characterization. The antiviral effect of CID15997213 was alphavirus-specific, inhibiting VEEV and Western equine encephalitis virus, but not Eastern equine encephalitis virus. In vitro assays confirmed inhibition of viral RNA, protein, and progeny synthesis. No antiviral activity was detected against a select group of RNA viruses. We found mutations conferring the resistance to the compound in the N-terminal domain of nsP2 and confirmed the target residues using a reverse genetic approach. Time of addition studies showed that the compound inhibits the middle stage of replication when viral genome replication is most active. In mice, the compound showed complete protection from lethal VEEV disease at 50 mg/kg/day. Collectively, these results reveal a potent anti-VEEV compound that uniquely targets the viral nsP2 N-terminal domain. While the function of nsP2 has yet to be characterized, our studies suggest that the protein might play a critical role in viral replication, and further, may represent an innovative opportunity to develop therapeutic interventions for alphavirus infection.
Author Summary
Alphaviruses occur worldwide, causing significant diseases such as encephalitis or arthritis in humans and animals. In addition, some alphaviruses, such as VEEV, pose a biothreat due to their high infectivity and lack of available treatments. To discover small molecule inhibitors with lead development potential, we used a cell-based assay to screen 348,140 compounds for inhibition of a VEEV-induced cytopathic effect. The screen revealed a scaffold with high inhibitory VEEV cellular potency and low cytotoxicity liability. While most previously reported anti-alphavirus compounds inhibit host proteins, evidence supported that this scaffold targeted the VEEV nsP2 protein, and that inhibition was associated with viral replication. Interestingly, compound resistance studies with VEEV mapped activity to the N-terminal domain of nsP2, to which no known function has been attributed. Ultimately, this discovery has delivered a small molecule-derived class of potent VEEV inhibitors whose activity is coupled to the nsP2 viral protein, a novel target with a previously unestablished biological role that is now implicated in viral replication.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004213
PMCID: PMC4072787  PMID: 24967809

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