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1.  Targeting Mutant p53 by a SIRT1 Activator YK-3-237 Inhibits the Proliferation of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells 
Oncotarget  2013;4(7):984-994.
Many types of mutations in tumor suppressor p53 are oncogenic through gain-of-function. Therefore, targeting mutant p53 (mtp53) is a promising therapeutic approach to fight against many types of cancers. We report here a small molecule compound YK-3-237 that reduces acetylation of mtp53 and exhibits anti-proliferative effects toward triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells carrying mtp53. YK-3-237 activates SIRT1 enzyme activities in vitro and deacetylation of both mtp53 and wild type p53 (WTp53) in a SIRT1-dependent manner. Deacetylation of mtp53 resulted in depletion of mtp53 protein level and up-regulated the expression of WTp53-target genes, PUMA and NOXA. YK-3-237 also induces PARP-dependent apoptotic cell death and arrests the cell cycle at G2/M phase in mtp53 TNBC cells. Taken together, our data suggest that targeting acetylation of mtp53 is a potential target to treat human cancers.
PMCID: PMC3759676  PMID: 23846322
mutant p53 (mtp53); deacetylation; SIRT1; activator; triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)
2.  Chemistry and Pharmacological Studies of 3-Alkoxy-2,5-Disubstituted-Pyridinyl Compounds as Novel Selective α4β2 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Ligands That Reduces Alcohol Intake in Rats 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(7):10.1021/jm4000374.
Neuronal acetylcholine receptors mediate the addictive effects of nicotine and may also be involved in alcohol addiction. Varenicline, an approved smoking cessation medication, showed clear efficacy in reducing alcohol consumption in heavy-drinking smokers. More recently, sazetidine-A, which selectively desensitizes α4β2 nicotinic receptors, was shown to significantly reduce alcohol intake in a rat model. To develop novel therapeutics for treating alcohol use disorder, we designed and synthesized novel sazetidine-A analogs containing a methyl group at the 2-position of the pyridine ring. In vitro pharmacological studies revealed that some of the novel compounds showed similar overall pharmacological property profiles with that of sazetidine-A, but exhibited reduced agonist activity across all nicotinic receptor subtypes tested. In animal studies, compound (S)-9 significantly reduced alcohol uptake in rats. More importantly, preliminary results from studies in a ferret model indicate that these novel nAChR ligands have an improved adverse side-effect profile in comparison with that of varenicline.
PMCID: PMC3809750  PMID: 23540678
nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; sazetidine-A; varenicline; desensitization; addiction; alcohol use disorders
3.  Expression of Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel Nav1.8 in Human Prostate Cancer is Associated with High Histological Grade 
Journal of clinical & experimental oncology  2012;1(2):10.4172/2324-9110.1000102.
Voltage-gated sodium (Nav) channels are required for impulse conductance in excitable tissues. Navs have been linked to human cancers, including prostate. The expression and distribution of Nav isoforms (Nav1.1-Nav1.9) in human prostate cancer are not well established. Here, we evaluated the expression of these isoforms and investigated the expression of Nav1.8 in human prostate cancer tissues. Nav1.8 was highly expressed in all examined cells. Expression of Nav1.1, Nav1.2, and Nav1.9 were high in DU-145, PC-3 and PC-3M cells compared to LNCaP (hormone-dependent), C4-2, C4-2B, and CWR22Rv-1 cells. Nav1.5 and Nav1.6 were expressed in all cells examined. Nav1.7 expression was absent in PC-3M and CWR22Rv-1, but expressed in the other cells examined. Immunohistochemistry revealed intensive Nav1.8 staining correlated with more advanced pathologic stage of disease. Increased intensity of nuclear Nav1.8 correlated with increased Gleason grade. Our results revealed that Nav1.8 is universally expressed in human prostate cancer cells. Nav1.8 expression statistically correlated with pathologic stage (P=0.04) and Gleason score (P=0.01) of human prostate tissue specimens. The aberrant nuclear localization of Nav1.8 with advanced prostate cancer tissues warrant further investigation into use of Nav1.8 as a potential biomarker to differentiate between early and advanced disease.
PMCID: PMC3807742  PMID: 24163825
Voltage-gated sodium channel; Prostate cancer; Prostate biomarker; Gleason score
4.  Predicting New Indications for Approved Drugs Using a Proteo-Chemometric Method 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2012;55(15):6832-6848.
The most effective way to move from target identification to the clinic is to identify already approved drugs with the potential for activating or inhibiting unintended targets (repurposing or repositioning). This is usually achieved by high throughput chemical screening, transcriptome matching or simple in silico ligand docking. We now describe a novel rapid computational proteo-chemometric method called “Train, Match, Fit, Streamline” (TMFS) to map new drug-target interaction space and predict new uses. The TMFS method combines shape, topology and chemical signatures, including docking score and functional contact points of the ligand, to predict potential drug-target interactions with remarkable accuracy. Using the TMFS method, we performed extensive molecular fit computations on 3,671 FDA approved drugs across 2,335 human protein crystal structures. The TMFS method predicts drug-target associations with 91% accuracy for the majority of drugs. Over 58% of the known best ligands for each target were correctly predicted as top ranked, followed by 66%, 76%, 84% and 91% for agents ranked in the top 10, 20, 30 and 40, respectively, out of all 3,671 drugs. Drugs ranked in the top 1–40, that have not been experimentally validated for a particular target now become candidates for repositioning. Furthermore, we used the TMFS method to discover that mebendazole, an anti-parasitic with recently discovered and unexpected anti-cancer properties, has the structural potential to inhibit VEGFR2. We confirmed experimentally that mebendazole inhibits VEGFR2 kinase activity as well as angiogenesis at doses comparable with its known effects on hookworm. TMFS also predicted, and was confirmed with surface plasmon resonance, that dimethyl celecoxib and the anti-inflammatory agent celecoxib can bind cadherin-11, an adhesion molecule important in rheumatoid arthritis and poor prognosis malignancies for which no targeted therapies exist. We anticipate that expanding our TMFS method to the >27,000 clinically active agents available worldwide across all targets will be most useful in the repositioning of existing drugs for new therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3419493  PMID: 22780961
5.  Trans-resveratrol boronic acid exhibits enhanced anti-proliferative activity on estrogen-dependent MCF-7 breast cancer cells 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2012;13(10):925-934.
Resveratrol (RSV), a natural compound present in the skin and seeds of red grapes, is considered a phytoestrogen and has structural similarity to the synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol. RSV inhibits tumor cell growth in estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) and negative (ER-) breast cancer cell lines resulting in cell specific regulation of the G1/S and G2/M stages of the cell cycle. However apoptotic cell death was only observed in ER+ MCF-7 cells. In this study, we designed and synthesized boronic acid derivative of RSV and evaluated their biological effects on ER+ MCF-7 breast cancer cells. The trans-4 analog inhibited the growth of MCF-7 cells and is not a substrate for p-glycoprotein. The trans-4 analog induces G1 cell cycle arrest, which coincides with marked inhibition of G1 cell cycle proteins and a greater pro-apoptotic effect. Finally, the trans-4 analog had no effect on the estrogen-stimulated growth of MCF-7 cells. Our results demonstrate that the trans-4 analog inhibits MCF-7 breast cancer cells by a different mechanism of action than that of RSV (S-phase arrest), and provides a new class of novel boronic acids of RSV that inhibit breast cancer cell growth.
PMCID: PMC3679116  PMID: 22785207
anticancer agent; boronic acid; estrogen receptor positive breast cancer; resveratrol
6.  Enhanced expression of SOS1 is detected in prostate cancer epithelial cells from African American men 
International journal of oncology  2009;35(4):751-760.
African-American (AA) men experience increased risk of developing prostate cancers as well as increased mortality following treatment as compared to European-American (EA) men. The aim of our study was to identify biological factors with potential to predispose AA men to prostate tumor progression and metastasis. To identify cancer-specific gene expression patterns in AA men, we established primary prostate cancer epithelial cells from 14 AA and 13 EA men. High-throughput microarrays were used to investigate differences in global gene expression comparing the two groups. Quantitative RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry validated mRNA and protein expression levels. RNAi knockdowns provided support for biological significance for the identified genes in prostate cancer cells. Son of sevenless homolog 1 (SOS1) was overexpressed in AA-derived primary prostate cancer epithelial cells. Depletion of SOS1 in PC3 and DU145 prostate cancer cells resulted in decreased capacities for cell proliferation, migration and invasion, at least partially through inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2). Tissue microarray analyses of SOS1 expression in prostate carcinomas correlated with Gleason’s grades of tumors, consistent with a possible role in prostate cancer progression. Investigation of prostate cancer derived epithelial cells has led to identification of SOS1 as a potential candidate biomarker and molecular therapeutic target in prostate cancer in AA men, consistent with the hypothesis that a biological basis exists for prostate cancer aggressiveness in AA men.
PMCID: PMC3727633  PMID: 19724911
Prostate cancer; African American men; global mRNA expression profiling; migration and survival
Psychopharmacology  2012;222(2):269-276.
Sazetidine-A is a selective α4β2 nicotinic receptor desensitizing agent and partial agonist. It has been shown in previous studies to significantly reduce nicotine self-administration in rats after acute or repeated injections. However, the effects of continuous chronic infusions of sazetidine-A on maintenance of nicotine self-administration and relapse after abstinence have yet to be examined.
This study evaluated the efficacy of continuous sazetidine-A infusions (sc) over a period of four weeks to reduce nicotine self-administration in male and female Sprague-Dawley rats.
Sazetidine-A was administered via Alzet osmotic minipumps to young adult female and male rats at doses of 0, 2 or 6 mg/kg/day for four weeks. The effects of sazetidine-A on IV nicotine self-administration were examined in repeated 3-hour sessions over the first two weeks of infusion followed by one week of forced abstinence from nicotine and one week of resumed nicotine access.
The 6 mg/kg/day sazetidine-A dose significantly reduced overall nicotine self-administration compared with vehicle control across the sessions for both male (p<0.001) and female (p<0.05) rats. The lower 2 mg/kg/day sazetidine-A infusion dose was effective in reducing nicotine self-administration for male (p<0.001), but not female rats. No attenuation in sazetidine-A effectiveness was seen over the course of the four-week treatment. In the vehicle control group, male rats self-administered significantly (p<0.001) more nicotine than females.
The continuing effectiveness of sazetidine-A in reducing nicotine self-administration in both male and female rats supports its promise as a new treatment to help people successfully quit smoking.
PMCID: PMC3426624  PMID: 22297831
Nicotine; Sazetidine-A; chronic; Self-administration; Sex differences
8.  Histone Deacetylase Cytoplasmic Trapping by a Novel Fluorescent HDAC Inhibitor 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2011;10(9):1591-1599.
Inhibitors of histone deacetylases (HDAC) are an important emerging class of drugs for the treatment of cancers. HDAC inhibitors are currently under evaluation in clinical trials as single agents and as sensitizers in combinations with chemotherapies and radiation therapy. Although these drugs have important effects on cancer cell growth and functions, the mechanisms underlying HDAC inhibitor activities remain to be fully defined. By using rational drug design, compound 2, a fluorescent class II HDAC targeting inhibitor, was synthesized and observed to accumulate in the cytoplasmic compartments of treated cells, but not in the nuclei. Furthermore, immunostaining of inhibitor exposed cells for HDAC4 showed accumulation of this enzyme in the cytoplasmic compartment with concomitant increased acetylation of tubulin and nuclear histones. These observations support a mechanism by which nuclear histone acetylation is increased as a result of HDAC4 trapping and sequestration in the cytoplasm after binding to compound 2. The HDAC inhibitor offers potential as a novel theranostic agent, combining diagnostic and therapeutic properties in the same molecule.
PMCID: PMC3695633  PMID: 21697394
9.  Comparative Molecular Field Analysis and Synthetic Validation of a Hydroxyamide-Propofol Binding and Functional Block of Neuronal Voltage-Dependent Sodium Channels 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2008;17(19):7056-7063.
Voltage gated sodium channels represent an important therapeutic target for a number of neurological disorders including epilepsy. Unfortunately, medicinal chemistry strategies for discovering new classes of antagonist for trans-membrane ion channels have been limited to mostly broad screening compound arrays. We have developed new sodium channel antagonist based on a propofol scaffold using the ligand based strategy of comparative molecular field analysis (CoMFA). The resulting CoMFA model was correlated and validated to provide insights into the design of new antagonists and to prioritize synthesis of these new structural analogues (compounds 4 and 5) that satisfied the steric and electrostatic model. Compounds 4 and 5 were evaluated for [3H]-batrachotoxinin-A-20-α-benzoate ([3H]-BTX-B) displacement yielding IC50's of 22 and 5.7 μM, respectively. We further examined the potency of these two compounds to inhibit neuronal sodium currents recorded from cultured hippocampal neurons. At a concentration of 50 μM, compounds 4 and 5 tonically inhibited sodium channels currents by 59 ± 7.8% (n=5) and 70 ± 7.5% (n=7) respectively. This clearly demonstrates that these compounds functionally antagonize native neuronal sodium channel currents. In summary, we have shown that CoMFA can be effectively used to discover new classes of sodium channel antagonists.
PMCID: PMC3569859  PMID: 19747831
amides; alcohols; sodium channels; hippocampal neurons; propofol
10.  Synthesis of C-Glycoside Analogues of β-Galactosamine-(1–>4)-3-O-Methyl-D-Chiro-Inositol and Assay as Activator of Protein Phosphatases PDHP and PP2Cα 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2010;18(3):1103-1110.
The glycan β-galactosamine-(1–4)-3-O-methyl-D-chiro-inositol, called INS-2, was previously isolated from liver as a putative second messenger-modulator for insulin. Synthetic INS-2 injected intravenously in rats is both insulin-mimetic and insulin-sensitizing. This bioactivity is attributed to allosteric activation of pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphatase (PDHP) and protein phosphatase 2Cα (PP2Cα). Towards identification of potentially metabolically stable analogues of INS-2 and illumination of the mechanism of enzymatic activation, C-INS-2, the exact C-glycoside of INS-2, and C-INS-2-OH the deaminated analog of C-INS-2, were synthesized and their activity against these two enzymes evaluated. C-INS-2 activates PDHP comparable to INS-2, but failed to activate PP2Cα. C-INS-2-OH was inactive against both phosphatases. These results and modeling of INS-2, C-INS-2 and C-INS-2-OH into the 3D structure of PDHP and PP2Cα, suggest that INS-2 binds to distinctive sites on the two different phosphatases to activate insulin signaling. Thus the carbon analog could selectively favor glucose disposal via oxidative pathways.
PMCID: PMC3408221  PMID: 20079654
C-glycoside; insulin mediator-modulator; pyruvate dehydrogenase; protein phosphatase
11.  Synthesis and Evaluation of Hermitamides A and B as Human Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel Blockers 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2011;19(14):4322-4329.
Hermitamides A and B are lipopeptides isolated from a Papau New Guinea collection of the marine cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula. We hypothesized that the hermitamides are ligands for the human voltage-gated sodium channel (hNaV) based on their structural similarity to the jamaicamides. Herein, we describe the nonracemic total synthesis of hermitamides A and B and their epimers. We report the ability of the hermitamides to displace [3H]-BTX at 10 μM more potently than phenytoin, a clinically used sodium channel blocker, a potential binding mode for (S)-hermitamide B in the BTX-binding site, and electrophysiology showing that these compounds are potent blockers of the hNav1.2 voltage-gated sodium channel.
PMCID: PMC3134794  PMID: 21683602
Sodium channel blockers; Hermitamide A; Hermitamide B; Lyngbic acid; Lyngbya majuscula
12.  Mechanisms of Unphosphorylated STAT3 Transcription Factor Binding to DNA* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(17):14192-14200.
Background: Unphosphorylated STAT3 (U-STAT3) regulates gene expression, but the mechanisms of its DNA binding are not fully understood.
Results: U-STAT3 binds to the same γ-activated sequence (GAS) DNA-binding site as phosphorylated STAT3. It also binds to AT-rich DNA structures.
Conclusion: U-STAT3 regulates gene expression by binding to GAS and influencing chromatin organization.
Significance: Our data provide an explanation of mechanisms of U-STAT3 binding to DNA.
Phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) on a single tyrosine residue in response to growth factors, cytokines, interferons, and oncogenes activates its dimerization, translocation to the nucleus, binding to the interferon γ (gamma)-activated sequence (GAS) DNA-binding site and activation of transcription of target genes. STAT3 is constitutively phosphorylated in various cancers and drives gene expression from GAS-containing promoters to promote tumorigenesis. Recently, roles for unphosphorylated STAT3 (U-STAT3) have been described in response to cytokine stimulation, in cancers, and in maintenance of heterochromatin stability. However, the mechanisms underlying U-STAT3 binding to DNA has not been fully investigated. Here, we explore STAT3-DNA interactions by atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging. We observed that U-STAT3 molecules bind to the GAS DNA-binding site as dimers and monomers. In addition, we observed that U-STAT3 binds to AT-rich DNA sequence sites and recognizes specific DNA structures, such as 4-way junctions and DNA nodes, within negatively supercoiled plasmid DNA. These structures are important for chromatin organization and our data suggest a role for U-STAT3 as a chromatin/genome organizer. Unexpectedly, we found that a C-terminal truncated 67.5-kDa STAT3 isoform recognizes single-stranded spacers within cruciform structures that also have a role in chromatin organization and gene expression. This isoform appears to be abundant in the nuclei of cancer cells and, therefore, may have a role in regulation of gene expression. Taken together, our data highlight novel mechanisms by which U-STAT3 binds to DNA and supports U-STAT3 function as a transcriptional activator and a chromatin/genomic organizer.
PMCID: PMC3340179  PMID: 22378781
Atomic Force Microscopy; DNA Structure; STAT Transcription Factor; STAT3; Transcription Factors; DNA Binding; Microscale Thermophoresis
13.  Single Enantiomer of YK-4-279 Demonstrates Specificity in Targeting the Oncogene EWS-FLI1 
Oncotarget  2012;3(2):172-182.
Oncogenic fusion proteins, such as EWS-FLI1, are excellent therapeutic targets as they are only located within the tumor. However, there are currently no agents targeted toward transcription factors, which are often considered to be ‘undruggable.’ A considerable body of evidence is accruing that refutes this claim based upon the intrinsic disorder of transcription factors. Our previous studies show that RNA Helicase A (RHA) enhances the oncogenesis of EWS-FLI1, a putative intrinsically disordered protein. Interruption of this protein-protein complex by small molecule inhibitors validates this interaction as a unique therapeutic target. Single enantiomer activity from a chiral compound has been recognized as strong evidence for specificity in a small molecule-protein interaction. Our compound, YK-4-279, has a chiral center and can be separated into two enantiomers by chiral HPLC. We show that there is a significant difference in activity between the two enantiomers. (S)-YK-4-279 is able to disrupt binding between EWS-FLI1 and RHA in an immunoprecipitation assay and blocks the transcriptional activity of EWS-FLI1, while (R)-YK-4-279 cannot. Enantiospecific effects are also established in cytotoxicity assays and caspase assays, where up to a log-fold difference is seen between (S)-YK-4-279 and the racemic YK-4-279. Our findings indicate that only one enantiomer of our small molecule is able to specifically target a protein-protein interaction. This work is significant for its identification of a single enantiomer effect upon a protein interaction suggesting that small molecule targeting of intrinsically disordered proteins can be specific. Furthermore, proving YK-4-279 has only one functional enantiomer will be helpful in moving this compound towards clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3326647  PMID: 22383402
YK-4-279; EWS-FLI1; RHA
14.  VMY-1-103 is a novel CDK inhibitor that disrupts chromosome organization and delays metaphase progression in medulloblastoma cells 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2011;12(9):818-826.
Medulloblastoma is the most prevalent of childhood brain malignancies, constituting 25% of childhood brain tumors. Craniospinal radiotherapy is a standard of care, followed by a 12 mo regimen of multi-agent chemotherapy. For children less than 3 y of age, irradiation is avoided due to its destructive effects on the developing nervous system. Long-term prognosis is worst for these youngest children and more effective treatment strategies with a better therapeutic index are needed. VMY-1-103, a novel dansylated analog of purvalanol B, was previously shown to inhibit cell cycle progression and proliferation in prostate and breast cancer cells more effectively than purvalanol B. In the current study, we have identified new mechanisms of action by which VMY-1-103 affected cellular proliferation in medulloblastoma cells. VMY-1-103, but not purvalanol B, significantly decreased the proportion of cells in s phase and increased the proportion of cells in G2/M. VMY-1-103 increased the sub G1 fraction of apoptotic cells, induced paRp and caspase-3 cleavage and increased the levels of the Death Receptors DR4 and DR5, Bax and Bad while decreasing the number of viable cells, all supporting apoptosis as a mechanism of cell death. p21CIp1/WaF1 levels were greatly suppressed. Importantly, we found that while both VMY and flavopiridol inhibited intracellular CDK1 catalytic activity, VMY-1-103 was unique in its ability to severely disrupt the mitotic spindle apparatus, significantly delaying metaphase and disrupting mitosis. Our data suggest that VMY-1-103 possesses unique antiproliferative capabilities and that this compound may form the basis of a new candidate drug to treat medulloblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3367670  PMID: 21885916
medulloblastoma; apoptosis; mitotic catastrophe; CDK inhibitor; mitosis; cell cycle
15.  Mechanistic Exploration of Phthalimide Neovascular Factor 1 Using Network Analysis Tools 
Tissue engineering  2007;13(10):2561-2575.
Neovascularization is essential for the survival and successful integration of most engineering tissues after implantation in vivo. The objective of this study was to elucidate possible mechanisms of phthalimide neovascular factor 1 (PNF1), a new synthetic small molecule proposed for therapeutic induction of angiogenesis. Complementary deoxyribonucleic acid microarray analysis was used to identify 568 transcripts in human microvascular endothelial cells (HMVECs) that were significantly regulated after 24-h stimulation with 30 μM of PNF1, previously known as SC-3–149. Network analysis tools were used to identify genetic networks of the global biological processes involved in PNF1 stimulation and to describe known molecular and cellular functions that the drug regulated most highly. Examination of the most significantly perturbed networks identified gene products associated with transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β), which has many known effects on angiogenesis, and related signal transduction pathways. These include molecules integral to the thrombospondin, plasminogen, fibroblast growth factor, epidermal growth factor, ephrin, Rho, and Ras signaling pathways that are essential to endothelial function. Moreover, real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of select genes showed significant increases in TGF-β-associated receptors endoglin and beta glycan. These experiments provide important insight into the pro-angiogenic mechanism of PNF1, namely, TGF-β-associated signaling pathways, and may ultimately offer new molecular targets for directed drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3124853  PMID: 17723106
16.  YK-4-279 Inhibits ERG and ETV1 Mediated Prostate Cancer Cell Invasion 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19343.
Genomic rearrangements involving the ETS family of transcription factors occur in 40–70% of prostate cancer cases. ERG and ETV1 are the most common ETS members observed in these genetic alterations. The high prevalence of these rearrangements and their biological significance represents a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of prostate cancer.
Methods and Findings
We recently reported the development of YK-4-279, a small molecule inhibitor of EWS-FLI1 oncoprotein in Ewing's Sarcoma. Since ERG and ETV1 belong to the same class of ETS factors as FLI1, we tested the ability of YK-4-279 to inhibit biological functions of ERG and ETV1 proteins in prostate cancer. YK-4-279 inhibited ERG and ETV1 mediated transcriptional activity in a luciferase assay. YK-4-279 also decreased ERG and ETV1 downstream target mRNA and protein expression in ETV1-fusion positive LNCaP and ERG fusion positive VCaP cells. YK-4-279 reduced the motility of LNCaP cells in a scratch assay and the invasive phenotype of both LNCaP and VCaP cells in a HUVEC invasion assay. Fusion-negative PC3 cells were unresponsive to YK-4-279. SiRNA mediated ERG knockdown in VCaP cells resulted in a loss of drug responsiveness. Concurrently, transient ERG expression in PC-3 cells resulted in increased invasive potential, which was reduced by YK-4-279.
These data demonstrate that YK-4-279 inhibits ERG and ETV1 biological activity in fusion-positive prostate cancer cells leading to decreased motility and invasion. Therefore, YK-4-279 may have an impact on metastasis in prostate cancer and it may be further evaluated for its clinical applications in prostate cancer in addition to Ewing's sarcoma.
PMCID: PMC3084826  PMID: 21559405
17.  Ligand-based design and synthesis of novel sodium channel blockers from a combined phenytoin–lidocaine pharmacophore 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2008;17(19):7064-7072.
The voltage-gated sodium channel remains a rich area for the development of novel blockers. In this study we used comparative molecular field analysis (CoMFA), a ligand-based design strategy, to generate a 3D model based upon local anesthetics, hydantoins, and α-hydroxyphenylamides to elucidate a SAR for their binding site in the neuronal sodium channel. Correlation by partial least squares (PLS) analysis of in vitro sodium channel binding activity (expressed as pIC50) and the CoMFA descriptor column generated a final non-cross-validated model with q2 = 0.926 for the training set. The CoMFA steric and electrostatic maps described a binding site predominately hydrophobic in nature. This model was then used to design and predict a series of novel sodium channel blockers that utilized overlapping structural features of phenytoin, hydroxy amides, and the local anesthetic lidocaine. Synthesis and evaluation of these compounds for their ability to inhibit [3H]-batrachotoxin revealed that these compounds have potent sodium channel blockade. Furthermore, the CoMFA model was able to accurately predict the binding of these compounds to the neuronal sodium channel. Synthesis and subsequent sodium channel evaluation of compound 37 (predicted IC50 = 7 μM, actual IC50 = 6 μM), established that novel compounds based on overlapping regions of phenytoin and lidocaine are better binders to the sodium channel than phenytoin itself (IC50 = 40 μM).
PMCID: PMC3031908  PMID: 19346132
Sodium channels; CoMFA; Antagonist; Electrophysiology
18.  A boronic acid chalcone analog of combretastatin A-4 as a potent anti-proliferation agent 
Chalcones represent a class of natural products that inhibits tubulin assembly. In this study we designed and synthesized boronic acid analogs of chalcones in an effort to compare biological activities with combretastatin A-4, a potent inhibitor of tubulin polymerization. Systematic evaluation of the positional effects of the carbonyl moiety towards inhibition of tubulin polymerization, cancer cell proliferation and angiogenesis revealed that placement of the carbonyl adjacent to the trimethoxybenzene A-ring resulted in more active compounds than when the carbonyl group was placed adjacent to the C-ring. Our study identified a boronic acid chalcone with inhibition towards 16 human cancer cell lines in the 10–200 nM range, and another three cell lines with GI50-values below 10 nM. Furthermore, this drug has significant anti-angiogenesis effects demonstrated by HUVEC tube formation and aortic ring assay.
PMCID: PMC2819108  PMID: 20006519
Chalcone; Boronic acid; Combretastatin A-4; Tubulin polymerization; Anti-tumor agent
19.  Effects of a Fluorescent Myosin Light Chain Phosphatase Inhibitor on Prostate Cancer Cells 
Myosin light chain phosphatase (MLCP) is an enzyme important to regulation of cell cycle and motility that is shown to be upregulated in aggressive prostate cancer cells and tissue. We developed a fluorescent small molecule inhibitor of MLCP using structure based design in recombinant protein phosphatase 1C. Several best fit compounds were synthesized and evaluated by their inhibition of MLCP/32P-MLC dephosphorylation, which resulted in the identification of novel MLCP inhibitors. Androgen dependent (AD) and castration resistant prostate cancer cell (CRPC) lines were treated with the lead inhibitor resulting in decreased growth rate, reduced DNA synthesis, and G2/M cell cycle arrest. Moreover, CRPC cell lines showed an increased sensitivity to drug treatment having GI50 values four times lower than the AD prostate cancer cell line. This was reinforced by reduced BrdU DNA incorporation into CRPC cells compared to AD cells. β-actin disruption was also seen at much lower drug concentrations in CR cells which caused a dose dependent reduction in cellular chemotaxis of PC-3 cells. Since there are currently few clinical therapeutics targeting CR prostate cancer, MLCP represents a new target for preclinical and clinical development of new potential therapeutics which inhibit this disease phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3356144  PMID: 22655237
myosin phosphatase; prostate cancer; chemotaxis
20.  High ALDH Activity Identifies Chemotherapy-Resistant Ewing's Sarcoma Stem Cells That Retain Sensitivity to EWS-FLI1 Inhibition 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13943.
Cancer stem cells are a chemotherapy-resistant population capable of self-renewal and of regenerating the bulk tumor, thereby causing relapse and patient death. Ewing's sarcoma, the second most common form of bone tumor in adolescents and young adults, follows a clinical pattern consistent with the Cancer Stem Cell model – remission is easily achieved, even for patients with metastatic disease, but relapse remains frequent and is usually fatal.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We have isolated a subpopulation of Ewing's sarcoma cells, from both human cell lines and human xenografts grown in immune deficient mice, which express high aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDHhigh) activity and are enriched for clonogenicity, sphere-formation, and tumor initiation. The ALDHhigh cells are resistant to chemotherapy in vitro, but this can be overcome by the ATP binding cassette transport protein inhibitor, verapamil. Importantly, these cells are not resistant to YK-4-279, a small molecule inhibitor of EWS-FLI1 that is selectively toxic to Ewing's sarcoma cells both in vitro and in vivo.
Ewing's sarcoma contains an ALDHhigh stem-like population of chemotherapy-resistant cells that retain sensitivity to EWS-FLI1 inhibition. Inhibiting the EWS-FLI1 oncoprotein may prove to be an effective means of improving patient outcomes by targeting Ewing's sarcoma stem cells that survive standard chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2978678  PMID: 21085683
21.  VMY-1-103, a dansylated analog of purvalanol B, induces caspase-3-dependent apoptosis in LNCaP prostate cancer cells 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2010;10(4):320-325.
The 2,6,9-trisubstituted purine group of cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors have the potential to be clinically relevant inhibitors of cancer cell proliferation. We have recently designed and synthesized a novel dansylated analog of purvalanol B, termed VMY-1-103, that inhibited cell cycle progression in breast cancer cell lines more effectively than did purvalanol B and allowed for uptake analyses by fluorescence microscopy.
ErbB-2 plays an important role in the regulation of signal transduction cascades in a number of epithelial tumors, including prostate cancer (PCa). Our previous studies demonstrated that transgenic expression of activated ErbB-2 in the mouse prostate initiated PCa and either the overexpression of ErbB-2 or the addition of the ErbB-2/ErbB-3 ligand, heregulin (HRG), induced cell cycle progression in the androgen-responsive prostate cancer cell line, LNCaP.
In the present study, we tested the efficacy of VMY-1-103 in inhibiting HRG-induced cell proliferation in LNCaP prostate cancer cells. At concentrations as low as 1 µM, VMY-1-103 increased both the proportion of cells in G1 and p21CIP1 protein levels. At higher concentrations (5 µM or 10 µM), VMY-1-103 induced apoptosis via decreased mitochondrial membrane polarity and induction of p53 phosphorylation, caspase-3 activity and PARP cleavage. Treatment with 10 µM Purvalanol B failed to either influence proliferation or induce apoptosis.
Our results demonstrate that VMY-1-103 was more effective in inducing apoptosis in PCa cells than its parent compound, purvalanol B, and support the testing of VMY-1-103 as a potential small molecule inhibitor of prostate cancer in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3040852  PMID: 20574155
prostate cancer; apoptosis; cell cycle; CDK inhibitor; p53
22.  Expansion of microvascular networks in vivo by phthalimide neovascular factor 1 (PNF1) 
Biomaterials  2008;29(35):4698-4708.
Phthalimide neovascular factor (PNF1, formerly SC-3-149) is a potent stimulator of proangiogenic signaling pathways in endothelial cells. In this study, we evaluated the in vivo effects of sustained PNF1 release to promote ingrowth and expansion of microvascular networks surrounding biomaterial implants. The dorsal skinfold window chamber was used to evaluate the structural remodeling response of the local microvasculature. PNF1 was released from poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLAGA) films, and a transport model was utilized to predict PNF1 penetration into the surrounding tissue. PNF1 significantly expanded microvascular networks within a 2 mm radius from implants after 3 and 7 days by increasing microvessel length density and lumenal diameter of local arterioles and venules. Staining of histological sections with CD11b showed enhanced recruitment of circulating white blood cells, including monocytes, which are critical for the process of vessel enlargement through arteriogenesis. As PNF1 has been shown to modulate MT1-MMP, a facilitator of CCL2 dependent leukocyte transmigration, aspects of window chamber experiments were repeated in CCR2−/− (CCL2 receptor) mouse chimeras to more fully explore the critical nature of monocyte recruitment on the therapeutic benefits of PNF1 function in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2885000  PMID: 18804278
Small molecule delivery; Controlled release; Microvascular remodeling; Monocyte recruitment
23.  AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Promotes Human Prostate Cancer Cell Growth and Survival 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2009;8(4):733-741.
The molecular mechanisms underlying the development and progression of prostate cancer are poorly understood. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a serine-threonine kinase that is activated in response to the hypoxic conditions found in human prostate cancers. In response to energy depletion, AMPK activation promotes metabolic changes to maintain cell proliferation and survival. Here, we report prevalent activation of AMPK in human prostate cancers and provide evidence that inhibition or depletion of AMPK leads to decreased cell proliferation and increased cell death. AMPK was highly activated in 40% of human prostate cancer specimens examined. Endogenous AMPK was active in both the androgen-sensitive LNCap cells and the androgen-independent CWR22Rv1 human prostate cancer cells. Depletion of AMPK catalytic subunits by siRNA or inhibition of AMPK activity with a small molecule AMPK inhibitor (compound C) suppresses human prostate cancer cell proliferation. Apoptotic cell death was induced in LNCap and CWR22Rv1 cells at compound C concentrations that inhibited AMPK activity. The evidence provided here is the first report that the activated AMPK pathway is involved in the growth and survival of human prostate cancer and offers novel potential targets for chemoprevention of human prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC2775041  PMID: 19372545
Prostate cancer; AMP-activated protein kinase; tissue microarray; hypoxia; proliferation; apoptosis; chemoprevention; small molecule inhibitor; drug discovery; stress signaling pathway; glycolysis; Warburg effect
24.  Small molecule selected to disrupt oncogenic protein EWS-FLI1 interaction with RNA Helicase A inhibits Ewing's Sarcoma 
Nature medicine  2009;15(7):750-756.
Many sarcomas and leukemias carry non-random chromosomal translocations encoding mutant fusion transcription factors that are essential to their molecular pathogenesis. These novel, tumor-specific proteins provides a unique opportunity for the development of highly selective anticancer drugs that has yet to be exploited. A particularly clear example is provided by Ewing's Sarcoma Family Tumors (ESFT) which contain a characteristic t(11;22) translocation leading to expression of the oncogenic fusion protein EWS-FLI1. EWS-FLI1 is a disordered protein that precluded standard structure-based small molecule inhibitor design. Using surface plasmon resonance screening, we discovered a lead compound, NSC635437. A derivative compound, YK-4-279, blocks RHA binding to EWS-FLI1, induces apoptosis in ESFT cells, and reduces the growth of ESFT orthotopic xenografts. These findings provide proof of principle that inhibiting the interaction of mutant cancer-specific transcription factors with the normal cellular binding partners required for their oncogenic activity provides a promising strategy for the development of uniquely effective, tumor-specific anticancer agents.
PMCID: PMC2777681  PMID: 19584866
25.  Novel pathway compendium analysis elucidates mechanism of pro-angiogenic synthetic small molecule 
Bioinformatics  2008;24(20):2384-2390.
Motivation: Computational techniques have been applied to experimental datasets to identify drug mode-of-action. A shortcoming of existing approaches is the requirement of large reference databases of compound expression profiles. Here, we developed a new pathway-based compendium analysis that couples multi-timepoint, controlled microarray data for a single compound with systems-based network analysis to elucidate drug mechanism more efficiently.
Results: We applied this approach to a transcriptional regulatory footprint of phthalimide neovascular factor 1 (PNF1)—a novel synthetic small molecule that exhibits significant in vitro endothelial potency—spanning 1–48 h post-supplementation in human micro-vascular endothelial cells (HMVEC) to comprehensively interrogate PNF1 effects. We concluded that PNF1 first induces tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) signaling pathway function which in turn affects transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) signaling. These results are consistent with our previous observations of PNF1-directed TGF-β signaling at 24 h, including differential regulation of TGF-β-induced matrix metalloproteinase 14 (MMP14/MT1-MMP) which is implicated in angiogenesis. Ultimately, we illustrate how our pathway-based compendium analysis more efficiently generates hypotheses for compound mechanism than existing techniques.
Availability: The microarray data generated as part of this study are available in the Gene Expression Omnibus (
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2562016  PMID: 18718940

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