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1.  Modulation of Radiation Injury Response in Retinal Endothelial Cells by Quinic Acid Derivative KZ-41 Involves p38 MAPK 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100210.
Radiation-induced damage to the retina triggers leukostasis, retinal endothelial cell (REC) death, and subsequent hypoxia. Resultant ischemia leads to visual loss and compensatory retinal neovascularization (RNV). Using human RECs, we demonstrated that radiation induced leukocyte adhesion through mechanisms involving p38MAPK, p53, and ICAM-1 activation. Additional phenotypic changes included p38MAPK-dependent tyrosine phosphorylation of the focal adhesion scaffolding protein, paxillin (Tyr118). The quinic acid derivative KZ-41 lessened leukocyte adhesion and paxillin-dependent proliferation via inhibition of p38MAPK-p53-ICAM-1 signaling. Using the murine oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) model, we examined the effect of KZ-41 on pathologic RNV. Daily ocular application of a KZ-41-loaded nanoemulsion significantly reduced both the avascular and neovascular areas in harvested retinal flat mounts when compared to the contralateral eye receiving vehicle alone. Our data highlight the potential benefit of KZ-41 in reducing both the retinal ischemia and neovascularization provoked by genotoxic insults. Further research into how quinic acid derivatives target and mitigate inflammation is needed to fully appreciate their therapeutic potential for the treatment of inflammatory retinal vasculopathies.
PMCID: PMC4067294  PMID: 24956278
2.  Total synthesis of biologically active 20S-hydroxyvitamin D3 
Steroids  2015;104:153-162.
A total synthetic strategy of 20S-hydroxyvitamin D3 [20S-(OH)D3] involving modified synthesis of key intermediates 7 and 12, Grignard reaction to stereoseletively generate 20S-OH and Wittig-Horner coupling to establish D3 framework, was completed in 16 steps with an overall yield of 0.4 %. The synthetic 20S-(OH)D3 activated vitamin D receptor (VDR) and initiated the expression of downstream genes. In addition, 20S-(OH)D3 showed similar inhibitory potency as calcitriol [1,25(OH)2D3] on proliferation of melanoma cells.
PMCID: PMC4659745  PMID: 26433048
20S-hydroxyvitamin D3; total chemical synthesis; PCR; reporter assay; thymidine incorporation; VDR activation
3.  Chemical Synthesis and Biological Activities of 20S,24S/R-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 Epimers and Their 1α-Hydroxyl Derivatives 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2015;58(19):7881-7887.
Bioactive vitamin D3 metabolites 20S,24S-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [20S,24S(OH)2D3] and 20S,24R-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [20S,24R(OH)2D3] were chemically synthesized and confirmed to be identical to their enzymatically generated counterparts. The absolute configurations at C24 and its influence on the kinetics of 1α-hydroxylation by CYP27B1 were determined. Their corresponding 1α-hydroxyl derivatives were subsequently produced. Biological comparisons of these products showed different properties with respect to vitamin D3 receptor activation, anti-inflammatory activity, and antiproliferative activity, with 1α,20S,24R(OH)2D3 being the most potent compound.
PMCID: PMC4613797  PMID: 26367019
4.  Structural Optimization of Indole Derivatives Acting at Colchicine Binding Site as Potential Anticancer Agents 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2015;6(9):993-997.
A new series of indole analogues based on our earlier lead compound, 2-(1H-indol-5-yl)-4-(3,4,5-trimethoxyphenyl)-1H-imidazo[4,5-c]pyridine (42), was prepared as tubulin inhibitors in an effort to find a molecule with improved cytotoxic potency and metabolic stability. A series of indolyl-imidazopyridines (IIP) were synthesized and exhibited potent tubulin polymerization inhibitory activity with potent IC50 values ranging from 3 to 175 nM against a panel of human melanoma and prostate cancer cell lines. Among these compounds, the 6-indolyl compound 43 showed improved cytotoxic potency (average IC50 of 9.75 nM vs 55.75 nM) and metabolic stability in human liver microsomes (half-life time was 56.3 min vs. 45.4 min) as compared to previously reported 42. It was also shown to be effective against P-glycoprotein (P-gp) mediated multiple drug resistance (MDR) and taxol resistance.
PMCID: PMC4569884  PMID: 26396686
Colchicine-binding site; tubulin polymerization inhibitor; prostate cancer; melanoma; antiproliferative activity; structure−activity relationship (SAR); multiple drug resistance; liver microsomal stability
5.  The autotaxin-LPA2 GPCR axis is modulated by γ-irradiation and facilitates DNA damage repair 
Cellular signalling  2015;27(9):1751-1762.
In this study we characterized the effects of radiation injury on the expression and function of the autotaxin (ATX)-LPA2 GPCR axis. In IEC-6 crypt cells and jejunum enteroids quantitative RT-PCR showed a time- and dose-dependent upregulation of lpa2 in response to γ-irradiation that was abolished by mutation of the NF-κB site in the lpa2 promoter or by inhibition of ATM/ATR kinases with CGK-733, suggesting that lpa2 is a DNA damage response gene upregulated by ATM via NF-κB. The resolution kinetics of the DNA damage marker γ-H2AX in LPA-treated IEC-6 cells exposed to γ-irradiation was accelerated compared to vehicle, whereas pharmacological inhibition of LPA2 delayed the resolution of γ-H2AX. In LPA2-reconstituted MEF cells lacking LPA1&3 the levels of γ-H2AX decreased rapidly, whereas in Vector MEF were high and remained sustained. Inhibition of ERK1&2 or PI3K/AKT signaling axis by pertussis toxin or the C311A/C314A/L351A mutation in the C-terminus of LPA2 abrogated the effect of LPA on DNA repair. LPA2 transcripts in Lin−Sca-1+c-Kit+ enriched for bone marrow stem cells were 27- and 5-fold higher than in common myeloid or lymphoid progenitors, respectively. Furthermore, after irradiation higher residual γ-H2AX levels were detected in the bone marrow or jejunum of irradiated LPA2-KO mice compared to WT mice. We found that γ-irradiation increases plasma ATX activity and LPA level that is in part due to the previously established radiation-induced upregulation of TNFα. These findings identify ATX and LPA2 as radiation-regulated genes that appear to play a physiological role in DNA repair.
Graphical abstract
PMCID: PMC4514920  PMID: 26027517
DNA damage repair; lysophosphatidic acid; ATX; LPA2; γH2AX; NF-κB
6.  Systemic Delivery of Nanoparticle Formulation of Novel Tubulin Inhibitor for Treating Metastatic Melanoma 
Clinical translation of tubulin inhibitors for treating melanoma is limited by multidrug efflux transporters, poor aqueous solubility and dose limiting peripheral toxicities. Tubulin inhibitors with efficacy in taxane resistant cancers are promising drug candidates and can be used as single agent or in conjunction with other chemotherapy. Systemic therapy of such a novel tubulin inhibitor, 2-(1H-Indol-5-yl) thiazol-4-yl) 3, 4, 5-trimethoxyphenyl methanone (abbreviated as LY293) is limited by its poor aqueous solubility. The objective of this study was to design a polymeric nanocarrier for systemic administration of LY293 to improve tumor accumulation and reduce side effects of tubulin inhibitor in a lung metastasis melanoma mouse model. Methoxy polyethylene glycol-b-poly (carbonate-co-lactide) (mPEG-b-P (CB-co-LA)) random copolymer was synthesized and characterized by 1H NMR and gel permeation chromatography (GPC). Polymeric nanoparticles were formulated using o/w emulsification method with a mean particle size of 150 nm and loading efficiency of 7.40%. Treatment with LY293 loaded nanoparticles effectively inhibited the proliferation of melanoma cells in vitro and exhibited concentration dependent cell cycle arrest in G2/M phase. Mitotic arrest activated the intrinsic apoptotic machinery by increasing the cellular levels of cleaved poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) and fraction of sub G1 cells. In vivo, LY293 loaded nanoparticles significantly inhibited the proliferation of highly aggressive metastasized melanoma in a syngeneic lung metastasis melanoma mouse model without toxicity to vital organs. In conclusion, we have designed a promising polymeric nanocarrier for systemic delivery of LY293 for treating metastatic melanoma while minimizing the toxicity associated with the administration of cosolvents.
PMCID: PMC4423421  PMID: 25924699
7.  Mitigation of the Hematopoietic and Gastrointestinal Acute Radiation Syndrome by Octadecenyl Thiophosphate, a Small Molecule Mimic of Lysophosphatidic Acid 
Radiation research  2015;183(4):465-475.
We have previously demonstrated that the small molecule octadecenyl thiophosphate (OTP), a synthetic mimic of the growth factor-like mediator lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), showed radioprotective activity in a mouse model of total-body irradiation (TBI) when given orally or intraperitoneally 30 min before exposure to 9 Gy γ radiation. In the current study, we evaluated the effects of OTP, delivered subcutaneously, for radioprotection or radiomitigation from −24 h before to up to +72 h postirradiation using a mouse TBI model with therapeutic doses at around 1 mg/kg. OTP was injected at 10 mg/kg without observable toxic side effects in mice, providing a comfortable safety margin. Treatment of C57BL/6 mice with a single dose of OTP over the time period from −12 h before to +26 h after a lethal dose of TBI reduced mortality by 50%. When administered at +48 h to +72 h postirradiation (LD50/30 to LD100/30), OTP reduced mortality by ≥34%. OTP administered at +24 h postirradiation significantly elevated peripheral white blood cell and platelet counts, increased crypt survival in the jejunum, enhanced intestinal glucose absorption and reduced endotoxin seepage into the blood. In the 6.4–8.6 Gy TBI range using LD50/10 as the end point, OTP yielded a dose modification factor of 1.2. The current data indicate that OTP is a potent radioprotector and radiomitigator ameliorating the mortality and tissue injury of acute hematopoietic as well as acute gastrointestinal radiation syndrome.
PMCID: PMC4428663  PMID: 25807318
8.  Combined Mitigation of the Gastrointestinal and Hematopoietic Acute Radiation Syndromes by a Novel LPA2 Receptor-specific Non-lipid Agonist 
Chemistry & biology  2015;22(2):206-216.
Pharmacological mitigation of injuries caused by high-dose ionizing radiation is an unsolved medical problem. A specific nonlipid agonists of the type 2 GPCR for lysophosphatidic acid (LPA2) 2-[4-(1,3-Dioxo-1H,3H-benzoisoquinolin-2-yl)butylsulfamoyl]benzoic acid (DBIBB) when administered with a postirradiation delay up to 72 hours reduced mortality of C57BL/6 mice but not in LPA2 KO mice. DBIBB mitigated the gastrointestinal radiation syndrome, increased intestinal crypt survival and enterocyte proliferation, and reduced apoptosis. DBIBB enhanced DNA repair by augmenting the resolution of γ–H2AX foci, increased clonogenic survival of irradiated IEC-6 cells, attenuated the radiation-induced death of human CD34+ hematopoietic progenitors and enhanced the survival of the granulocyte/macrophage lineage. DBIBB also increased the survival of mice suffering of the hematopoietic acute radiation syndrome after total body irradiation. DBIBB represents the first drug candidate capable of mitigating acute radiation syndrome caused by high-dose γ-radiation to the hematopoietic and gastrointestinal system.
PMCID: PMC4336611  PMID: 25619933
9.  Design, Synthesis, and SAR Studies of 4-Substituted Methoxylbenzoyl-aryl-thiazoles Analogues as Potent and Orally Bioavailable Anticancer Agents 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(13):4678-4693.
In a continued effort to improve upon the previously published 4-substituted methoxybenzoyl-arylthiazole (SMART) template, we explored chemodiverse “B” rings and “B” to “C” ring linkage. Further, to overcome the poor aqueous solubility of this series of agents, we introduced polar and ionizable hydrophilic groups to obtain water-soluble compounds. For instance, based on in vivo pharmacokinetic (PK) studies, an orally bioavailable phenyl-aminothiazole (PAT) template was designed and synthesized in which an amino linkage was inserted between “A” and “B” rings of compound 1. The PAT template maintained nanomolar (nM) range potency against cancer cell lines via inhibiting tubulin polymerization and was not susceptible to P-glycoprotein mediated multidrug resistance in vitro, and markedly improved solubility and bioavailability compared with the SMART template (45a–c (PAT) vs 1 (SMART)).
PMCID: PMC4755333  PMID: 21557538
10.  Autotaxin, LPA Receptors (1 and 5) Exert Disparate Functions in Tumor Cells Versus the Host Tissue Microenvironment in Melanoma Invasion and Metastasis 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2014;13(1):174-185.
Autotaxin (ENPP2/ATX) and lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptors represent two key players in regulating cancer progression. The present study sought to understand the mechanistic role of LPA G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR), not only in the tumor cells but also in stromal cells of the tumor microenvironment. B16F10 melanoma cells predominantly express LPA5 and LPA2 receptors but lack LPA1. LPA dose-dependently inhibited invasion of cells across a Matrigel layer. RNAi-mediated knockdown of LPA5 relieved the inhibitory effect of LPA on invasion without affecting basal invasion. This suggests that LPA5 exerts an anti-invasive action in melanoma cells in response to LPA. In addition, both siRNA-mediated knockdown and pharmacological inhibition of LPA2 reduced the basal rate invasion. Unexpectedly, when probing the role of this GPCR in host tissues, it was found that the incidence of melanoma-derived lung metastasis was greatly reduced in LPA5 knockout (KO) mice compared to wild-type (WT) mice. LPA1- but not LPA2-KO mice also showed diminished melanoma-derived lung metastasis, suggesting that host LPA1 and LPA5 receptors play critical roles in the seeding of metastasis. The decrease in tumor cell residence in the lungs of LPA1- and LPA5-KO animals was apparent 24 h after injection. However, KO of LPA1, LPA2 or LPA5 did not affect the subcutaneous growth of melanoma tumors.
These findings suggest that tumor- and stromal-LPA receptors, in particular LPA1 and LPA5, play different roles in invasion and the seeding of metastasis.
PMCID: PMC4297753  PMID: 25158955
Autotaxin; Lysophosphatidic acid receptor; Invasion; Metastasis; Tumor microenvironment
11.  Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 Binding Protein 3 (IGFBP-3) Promotes Recovery From Trauma-induced Expression of Inflammatory and Apoptotic Factors in Retina 
Cytokine  2014;70(2):115-119.
Ocular trauma affects 20% of Americans in their lifetime and can cause permanent visual system damage. We have used a mouse model of ocular trauma (exposure to an air blast from a paintball gun) to examine pathways that trigger the resulting retinal damage and to develop treatment strategies that might ameliorate the deleterious effects of trauma on retinal tissue. Our previous studies have shown that ocular blast causes an increase in protein levels of inflammatory mediators and apoptotic factors, including tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and interleukin-1-beta (IL-1β), as well as the apoptotic markers, Bax, cytochrome C, and cleaved caspase 3. Furthermore, topical treatment by eye drop application of a β-adrenergic receptor agonist, Compound 49b, was shown to decrease these inflammation/apoptosis markers and thus ameliorate the effects of blast trauma. We postulate that the protective effect of Compound 49b may be linked to its demonstrated ability to activate the β-adrenergic receptor and in turn trigger production of insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3). In the current study, we tested this hypothesis using mice with minimal IGFBP-3 activity (IGFBP-3 knockdown mouse) vs. wildtype mice. We found that ocular blast alone did not affect IGFBP-3 levels in retinas of wild type or knockdown mice and surprisingly, the lower levels of IGFBP-3 in knockdown animals did not exacerbate the blast-induced increase in protein levels of inflammation/apoptosis markers. Nevertheless, the levels of IGFBP-3 were significantly increased in knockdown mouse retina by treatment with Compound 49b 24 hours post-trauma and as expected, the increase in IGFBP-3 was linked to a decrease in inflammation/apoptosis markers. We conclude that while lowered IGFBP-3 may not make the retina more vulnerable to blast injury, an increase in IGFBP-3 post-trauma may play an important role in limiting trauma-induced inflammatory and apoptotic pathways leading to retinal damage. Eye drop application of the β-adrenergic receptor agonist, Compound 49b, provides a promising treatment strategy for increasing IGFBP-3 levels to promote recovery from retinal inflammation and apoptosis after ocular blast.
PMCID: PMC4319096  PMID: 25082650
12.  Diallyl Sulfide: Potential Use in Novel Therapeutic Interventions in Alcohol, Drugs, and Disease Mediated Cellular Toxicity by Targeting Cytochrome P450 2E1 
Current drug metabolism  2015;16(6):486-503.
Diallyl sulfide (DAS) and other organosulfur compounds are chief constituents of garlic. These compounds have many health benefits, as they are very efficient in detoxifying natural agents. Therefore, these compounds may be useful for prevention/treatment of cancers. However, DAS has shown appreciable allergic reactions and toxicity, as they can also affect normal cells. Thus their use as in the prevention and treatment of cancer is limited. DAS is a selective inhibitor of cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1), which is known to metabolize many xenobiotics including alcohol and analgesic drugs in the liver. CYP2E1-mediated alcohol/drug metabolism produce reactive oxygen species and reactive metabolites, which damage DNA, protein, and lipid membranes, subsequently causing liver damage. Several groups have shown that DAS is not only capable of inhibiting alcohol- and drug-mediated cellular toxicities, but also HIV protein- and diabetes-mediated toxicities by selectively inhibiting CYP2E1 in various cell types. However, due to known DAS toxicities, its use as a treatment modality for alcohol/drug- and HIV/diabetes-mediated toxicity have only limited clinical relevance. Therefore, effort is being made to generate DAS analogs, which are potent and selective inhibitor of CYP2E1 and poor substrate of CYP2E1. This review summarizes current advances in the field of DAS, its anticancer properties, role as a CYP2E1 inhibitor, preventing agent of cellular toxicities from alcohol, analgesic drugs, xenobiotics, as well as, from diseases like HIV and diabetes. Finally, this review also provides insights toward developing novel DAS analogues for chemical intervention of many disease conditions by targeting CYP2E1 enzyme.
PMCID: PMC4663692  PMID: 26264202
Diallyl sulfide; CYP2E1; alcohol; cancer
13.  Multi-Generational Pharmacophore Modeling for Ligands to the Cholane Steroid-Recognition Site in the β1 Modulatory Subunit of the BKCa Channel 
Large conductance, voltage- and Ca2+-gated K+ (BKCa) channels play a critical role in smooth muscle contractility and thus represent an emerging therapeutic target for drug development to treat vascular disease, gastrointestinal, bladder and uterine disorders. Several compounds are known to target the ubiquitously expressed BKCa channel-forming α subunit. In contrast, just a few are known to target the BKCa modulatory β1 subunit, which is highly expressed in smooth muscle and scarce in most other tissues. Lack of available high-resolution structural data makes structure-based pharmacophore modeling of β1 subunit-dependent BKCa channel activators a major challenge. Following recent discoveries of novel BKCa channel activators that act via β1 subunit recognition, we performed ligand-based pharmacophore modeling that led to the successful creation and fine-tuning of a pharmacophore over several generations. Initial models were developed using physiologically active cholane steroids (bile acids) as template. However, as more compounds that act on BKCa β1 have been discovered, our model has been refined to improve accuracy. Database searching with our best-performing model has uncovered several novel compounds as candidate BKCa β1 subunit ligands. Eight of the identified compounds were experimentally screened and two proved to be activators of recombinant BKCa β1 complexes. One of these activators, sobetirome, differs substantially in structure from any previously reported activator.
PMCID: PMC4268273  PMID: 25459769
BKCa Channel; beta subunit; pharmacophore model
14.  Design, Synthesis, and Biological Evaluation of Stable Colchicine Binding Site Tubulin Inhibitors as Potential Anticancer Agents 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(17):7355-7366.
To block the metabolically labile sites of novel tubulin inhibitors targeting the colchicine binding site based on SMART, ABI, and PAT templates, we have designed, synthesized, and biologically tested three focused sets of new derivatives with modifications at the carbonyl linker, the para-position in the C ring of SMART template, and modification of A ring of the PAT template. Structure–activity relationships of these compounds led to the identification of new benzimidazole and imidazo[4,5-c]pyridine-fused ring templates, represented by compounds 4 and 7, respectively, which showed enhanced antitumor activity and substantially improved the metabolic stability in liver microsomes compared to SMART. MOM group replaced TMP C ring and generated a potent analogue 15, which showed comparable potency to the parent SMART compound. Further modification of PAT template yielded another potent analogue 33 with 5-indolyl substituent at A ring.
PMCID: PMC4161160  PMID: 25122533
15.  Design and Synthesis of Sulfamoyl Benzoic Acid Analogues with Subnanomolar Agonist Activity Specific to the LPA2 Receptor 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(16):7136-7140.
Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is a growth factor-like mediator and a ligand for multiple GPCR. The LPA2 GPCR mediates antiapoptotic and mucosal barrier-protective effects in the gut. We synthesized sulfamoyl benzoic acid (SBA) analogues that are the first specific agonists of LPA2, some with subnanomolar activity. We developed an experimental SAR that is supported and rationalized by computational docking analysis of the SBA compounds into the LPA2 ligand-binding pocket.
PMCID: PMC4148159  PMID: 25100502
16.  Synthesis and Pharmacological Evaluation of the Stereoisomersof 3-Carba Cyclic-Phosphatidic Acid 
Cyclic phosphatidic acid (CPA) is a naturally occurring analog of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) in which the sn-2 hydroxy group forms a 5-membered ring with the sn-3 phosphate. Here we describe the synthesis of R-3-CCPA and S-3-CCPA along with their pharmacological properties as inhibitors of lysophospholipase D/autotaxin, agonists of the LPA5 GPCR, and blockers of lung metastasis of B16-F10 melanoma cells in a C57BL/6 mouse model. S-3CCPA was significantly more efficacious in the activation of LPA5 compared to the R stereoisomer. In contrast, no stereoselective differences were found between the two isomers toward the inhibition of autotaxin or lung metastasis of B16-F10 melanoma cells in vivo. These results extend the potential utility of these compounds as potential lead compounds warranting evaluation as cancer therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3040411  PMID: 21051230
lysophosphatidic acid; NPP2; autotaxin; GPR92; lysophospholipase D
17.  Design, Synthesis and Structure-Activity Relationship Studies of Novel Survivin Inhibitors with Potent Anti-Proliferative Properties 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(6):e0129807.
The anti-apoptotic protein survivin is highly expressed in most human cancer cells, but has very low expression in normal differentiated cells. Thus survivin is considered as an attractive cancer drug target. Herein we report the design and synthesis of a series of novel survivin inhibitors based on the oxyquinoline scaffold from our recently identified hit compound UC-112. These new analogs were tested against a panel of cancer cell lines including one with multidrug-resistant phenotype. Eight of these new UC-112 analogs showed IC50 values in the nanomole range in anti-proliferative assays. The best three compounds among them along with UC-112 were submitted for NCI-60 cancer cell line screening. The results indicated that structural modification from UC-112 to our best compound 4g has improved activity by four folds (2.2 μM for UC-112 vs. 0.5 μM for 4g, average GI50 values over all cancer cell lines in the NCI-60 panel).Western blot analyses demonstrated the new compounds maintained high selectivity for survivin inhibition over other members in the inhibition of apoptosis protein family. When tested in an A375 human melanoma xenograft model, the most active compound 4g effectively suppressed tumor growth and strongly induced cancer cell apoptosis in tumor tissues. This novel scaffold is promising for the development of selective survivin inhibitors as potential anticancer agents.
PMCID: PMC4466525  PMID: 26070194
18.  Novel Vitamin D Analogs as Potential Therapeutics: The Metabolism, Toxicity Profiling, and Antiproliferative Activity 
Anticancer research  2014;34(5):2153-2163.
To discover novel [20(OH)D3] analogs as antiproliferative therapeutics.
Materials and Methods
We studied in vitro liver microsome stability, in vivo toxicity using mice, vitamin D receptor (VDR) translocation, in vitro antiproliferative effect, CYP enzyme metabolism.
20S- and 20R(OH)D3 had reasonable half-lives of 50 min and 30 min (average) respectively in liver microsomes. They were non-hypercalcemic at a high dose of 60 μg/kg. Three new 20(OH)D3 analogs were designed, synthesized and tested. They showed higher or comparable potency for inhibition of proliferation of normal keratinocytes and in the induction of VDR translocation from cytoplasm to nucleus, compared to 1,25(OH)2D3. These new analogs demonstrated different degrees of metabolism by a range of vitamin D-metabolizing CYP enzymes. Conclusion: Their lack of calcemic toxicity at high doses and their high biological activity suggest that this novel 20(OH)D3 scaffold may represent a promising platform for further development of therapeutically useful agents.
PMCID: PMC4015637  PMID: 24778017
20(OH)D3 analogs; VDR translocation; hypercalcemic effect; liver microsomal stability
19.  A sensitive and fast LC-MS/MS method for determination of β-receptor agonist JP-49b: Application to a pharmacokinetic study in rats 
Ocular administration of the beta (β)-adrenergic receptor agonist JP-49b prevents retinopathy-like damage in a preclinical rat model of diabetes. Importantly, JP-49b did not induce characteristic β-adrenergic agonist-related side effects (e.g., left ventricular damage), which led to the hypothesis that JP-49b systemic exposure was minimal following ocular administration. To test this hypothesis, a sensitive liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method was developed to study the preclinical pharmacokinetics of JP-49b in rats. Animals received either a single periocular or intravenous injection of JP-49b (10 mg/kg) and plasma and tissue samples were obtained. JP-49b and fenoterol hydrobromide (internal standard, IS) were isolated by liquid–liquid extraction and extracts were analyzed by reversed-phase liquid chromatography on a C18 column using a gradient elution (acetic acid in water and methanol). A triple quadrupole mass spectrometer operating in the positive electrospray ionization mode with multiple reaction monitoring was used to detect JP-49b and IS transitions of m/z 346.4→195.1 and 304.1→134.9. The method was validated for selectivity, linearity, accuracy, and precision in rat vitreous humor, tissue homogenates, and plasma. Following intravenous administration, JP-49b was found to have a rapid clearance (36 ± 5.8 L/h/kg), high volume of distribution (244 ± 51.5 L/kg) and a terminal half-life of 4.8 ± 1.6 h. JP-49b was rapidly absorbed and extensively distributed into ocular tissue following topical administration. However, JP-49b was undetectable in heart tissue 24h after ocular administration. High local drug concentrations coupled with minimal systemic exposure following ocular administration supports further testing of JP-49b as a localized therapy for diabetic retinopathy.
PMCID: PMC3985067  PMID: 24576769
LC-MS/MS; β-receptor agonist; JP-49b; rat pharmacokinetics
20.  EDL-360: A Potential Novel Antiglioma Agent 
Glioma is a brain tumor that arises from glial cells or glial progenitor cells, and represents 80% of malignant brain tumor incidence in the United States. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive primary brain tumor malignancy with fewer than 8% of patients with GBM surviving for more than 3 years. Over the past 10 years, despite improvement in diagnosis and therapies for cancer, the survival rate for high-grade glioma patients remains dismal. The main focus of our research is to identify potent novel antiglioma small molecules. We previously showed that EDL-360, a tetrahydroisoquinoline (THIQ) analog, as being highly cytotoxic to human glioma cell cultures. Here we show that EDL-360 significantly induced apoptosis in human glioma cell lines (U87 and LN18). However, in normal astrocytic cells, EDL-360 induced a modest G0/G1 cell cycle arrest but did not induce apoptosis. In an attempt to enhance EDL-360 induced cell death, we tested simultaneous treatment with EDL-360 and embelin (an inhibitor of the anti-apoptotic protein, XIAP). We found that, glioma cells had significant lower viability when EDL-360 and embelin were used in combination when compared to EDL-360 alone. We also used combination treatment of EDL-360 with decylubiquinone (dUb), a caspase-9 inhibitor, and found that the combination treatment induced a significant cell death when compared to treatment with EDL-360 alone. This is the first report that suggests that dUb has anticancer activity, and perhaps acts as a XIAP inhibitor. Finally, our in vivo data showed that EDL-360 treatment induced a partial regression in glioma tumorigenesis and induced cell death in the treated tumors as shown by H&E staining. Taken together these data suggests that EDL-360 has a potential therapeutic application for treating glioma, especially when combined with XIAP inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4285352  PMID: 25574358
Ovarian cancer; PARP inhibitors; Angiogenesis
21.  Synergistic Combination of Novel Tubulin Inhibitor ABI-274 and Vemurafenib Overcome Vemurafenib Acquired Resistance in BRAFV600E Melanoma 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;13(1):16-26.
Acquired clinical resistance to vemurafenib, a selective BRAFV600E inhibitor, arises frequently after short term chemotherapy. Since inhibitions of targets in the RAF-MEK-ERK pathway result in G0/G1 cell cycle arrest, vemurafenib-resistant cancer cells are expected to escape this cell cycle arrest and progress to subsequent G2/M phase. We hypothesized that a combined therapy using vemurafenib with a G2/M phase blocking agent will trap resistant cells and overcome vemurafenib resistance. To test this hypothesis, we first determined the combination index (CI) values of our novel tubulin inhibitor ABI-274 and vemurafenib on parental human A375 and MDA-MB-435 melanoma cell lines to be 0.32 and 0.1, respectively, suggesting strong synergy for the combination. We then developed an A375RF21 subline with significant acquired resistance to vemurafenib and confirmed the strong synergistic effect. Next we studied the potential mechanisms of overcoming vemurafenib resistance. Flow cytometry confirmed that the combination of ABI-274 and vemurafenib synergistically arrested cells in G1/G2/M phase, and significantly increased apoptosis in both parental A375 and the vemurafenib-resistant A375RF21 cells. Western blot analysis revealed that the combination treatment effectively reduced the level of phosphorylated and total AKT, activated the apoptosis cascade, and increased cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP, but had no significant influence on the level of ERK phosphorylation. Finally, in vivo co-administration of vemurafenib with ABI-274 showed strong synergistic efficacy in the vemurafenib-resistant xenograft model in nude mice. Overall, these results offer a rational combination strategy to significantly enhance the therapeutic benefit in melanoma patients who inevitably become resistant to current vemurafenib therapy.
PMCID: PMC3947172  PMID: 24249714
tubulin inhibitor; vemurafenib resistance; synergistic combination
22.  Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) Negatively Regulate Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Growth and Epithelial:Mesenchymal Stem Cell Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103202.
The androgen receptor (AR) is the most highly expressed steroid receptor in breast cancer with 75–95% of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and 40–70% of ER-negative breast cancers expressing AR. Though historically breast cancers were treated with steroidal androgens, their use fell from favor because of their virilizing side effects and the emergence of tamoxifen. Nonsteroidal, tissue selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) may provide a novel targeted approach to exploit the therapeutic benefits of androgen therapy in breast cancer.
Materials and Methods
Since MDA-MB-453 triple-negative breast cancer cells express mutated AR, PTEN, and p53, MDA-MB-231 triple-negative breast cancer cells stably expressing wildtype AR (MDA-MB-231-AR) were used to evaluate the in vitro and in vivo anti-proliferative effects of SARMs. Microarray analysis and epithelial:mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) co-culture signaling studies were performed to understand the mechanisms of action.
Dihydrotestosterone and SARMs, but not bicalutamide, inhibited the proliferation of MDA-MB-231-AR. The SARMs reduced the MDA-MB-231-AR tumor growth and tumor weight by greater than 90%, compared to vehicle-treated tumors. SARM treatment inhibited the intratumoral expression of genes and pathways that promote breast cancer development through its actions on the AR. SARM treatment also inhibited the metastasis-promoting paracrine factors, IL6 and MMP13, and subsequent migration and invasion of epithelial:MSC co-cultures.
1. AR stimulation inhibits paracrine factors that are important for MSC interactions and breast cancer invasion and metastasis. 2. SARMs may provide promise as novel targeted therapies to treat AR-positive triple-negative breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4114483  PMID: 25072326
23.  Discovery of 4-Aryl-2-benzoyl-imidazoles As Tubulin Polymerization Inhibitor with Potent Antiproliferative Properties 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(8):3318-3329.
A series of 4-aryl-2-benzoyl-imidazoles were designed and synthesized based on our previously reported 2-aryl-4-benzoyl-imidazole (ABI) derivatives. The new structures reversed the aryl group and the benzoyl group of previous ABI structures and were named as reverse ABI (RABI) analogs. RABIs were evaluated for biological activity against 8 cancer cell lines including multidrug-resistant cancer cell lines. In vitro assays indicated that several RABI compounds had excellent antiproliferative properties with IC50 values in the low nanomolar range. The average IC50 of the most active compound 12a is 14 nM. In addition, the mechanism of action of these new analogs was investigated by cell cycle analysis, tubulin polymerization assay, competitive mass spectrometry binding assay and molecular docking studies. These studies confirmed that these new RABI analogs maintain their mechanisms of action by disrupting tubulin polymerization, similar to their parental ABI analogs.
PMCID: PMC3668676  PMID: 23547728
24.  Novel Quinic Acid Derivative KZ-41 Prevents Retinal Endothelial Cell Apoptosis Without Inhibiting Retinoblastoma Cell Death Through p38 Signaling 
To determine whether a novel NF-κB inhibitor, KZ-41, can inhibit melphalan's actions on retinal endothelial cell (REC) inflammation and apoptosis, without eliminating the chemotherapeutic efficacy of melphalan on cell death of retinoblastoma cells (Y79).
RECs were cultured in M131 medium supplemented with growth factors and antibiotics. Once cells reached confluence, they were treated with or without 10 μM KZ-41, following treatment with 4 μg/mL melphalan. Cell proteins were extracted and analyzed for intracellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) levels and Cell Death ELISA. RECs were also transfected with or without NF-κB siRNA or treated with SB202190 (p38 [mitogen activated protein kinase] MAPK inhibitor) before melphalan treatment to determine the involvement of NF-κB and p38 MAPK in REC apoptosis and ICAM-1 levels. We also cultured retinoblastoma cells (Y79) in RMPI-1640 medium supplemented with 20% fetal bovine serum and performed a Cell Death ELISA after melphalan + KZ-41 treatment to determine if the treatments altered melphalan's ability to promote cell death of Y79 cells.
KZ-41 inhibited melphalan-stimulation of ICAM-1 levels and REC apoptosis, whereas KZ-41 did not alter melphalan's effects on Y79 cells. KZ-41's protective effects on REC were mediated through p38 MAPK activation. Although KZ-41 blocked both NF-κB- and p38 MAPK–dependent ICAM-1 stimulation; the p38 MAPK/ICAM-1 pathway appears to be the primary pathway involved in melphalan-induced REC apoptosis.
KZ-41 protects REC against melphalan-induced upregulation of ICAM-1 and apoptosis through p38 MAPK–dependent pathways.
Novel quinic acid derivative KZ-41 protects retinal endothelial cells from increased ICAM-1 and apoptosis after treatment with melphalan, a chemotherapy agent used for retinoblastoma. KZ-41 does not alter melphalan's actions on retinoblastoma cells.
PMCID: PMC3762329  PMID: 23942968
KZ-41; NF-κB; Y79; retinal endothelial cell; cell death; inflammation
25.  Discovery of 4-Substituted Methoxybenzoyl-Aryl-Thiazole as Novel Anticancer Agents: Synthesis, Biological Evaluation and Structure-Activity Relationships 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2009;52(6):1701-1711.
A series of 4-substituted methoxylbenzoyl-aryl-thiazoles (SMART) have been discovered and synthesized as a result of structural modifications of the lead compound 2-arylthiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid amides (ATCAA). The antiproliferative activity of the SMART agents against melanoma and prostate cancer cells was improved from μM to low nM range compared with ATCAA series. The structure-activity relationship was discussed from modifications of “A”, “B” “C” rings and the linker. Preliminary mechanism of action studies indicated that these compounds exert their anticancer activity through inhibition of tubulin polymerization.
PMCID: PMC2760094  PMID: 19243174
Thiazolidine; Thiazole; Melanoma; Prostate cancer; Antiproliferative activity; Structure-activity relationship; X-ray Crystal structure; Tubulin polymerization inhibitor

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