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1.  A systematic study of mitochondrial toxicity of environmental chemicals using quantitative high throughput screening 
Chemical research in toxicology  2013;26(9):1323-1332.
A goal of the Tox21 program is to transit toxicity testing from traditional in vivo models to in vitro assays that assess how chemicals affect cellular responses and toxicity pathways. A critical contribution of the NIH Chemical Genomics center (NCGC) to the Tox21 program is the implementation of a quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) approach, using cell- and biochemical-based assays to generate toxicological profiles for thousands of environmental compounds. Here, we evaluated the effect of chemical compounds on mitochondrial membrane potential in HepG2 cells by screening a library of 1,408 compounds provided by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in a qHTS platform. Compounds were screened over 14 concentrations, and results showed that 91 and 88 compounds disrupted mitochondrial membrane potential after treatment for one or five h, respectively. Seventy-six compounds active at both time points were clustered by structural similarity, producing 11 clusters and 23 singletons. Thirty-eight compounds covering most of the active chemical space were more extensively evaluated. Thirty-six of the 38 compounds were confirmed to disrupt mitochondrial membrane potential using a fluorescence plate reader and 35 were confirmed using a high content imaging approach. Among the 38 compounds, 4 and 6 induced LDH release, a measure of cytotoxicity, at 1 or 5 h, respectively. Compounds were further assessed for mechanism of action (MOA) by measuring changes in oxygen consumption rate, which enabled identification of 20 compounds as uncouplers. This comprehensive approach allows for evaluation of thousands of environmental chemicals for mitochondrial toxicity and identification of possible MOAs.
doi:10.1021/tx4001754
PMCID: PMC4154066  PMID: 23895456
mitochondrial membrane potential assay; mitochondrial toxicity; NTP 1408 compound library; oxygen consumption rate; qHTS; Tox21 collaboration
2.  Profiling of the Tox21 10K compound library for agonists and antagonists of the estrogen receptor alpha signaling pathway 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:5664.
The U.S. Tox21 program has screened a library of approximately 10,000 (10K) environmental chemicals and drugs in three independent runs for estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) agonist and antagonist activity using two types of ER reporter gene cell lines, one with an endogenous full length ERα (ER-luc; BG1 cell line) and the other with a transfected partial receptor consisting of the ligand binding domain (ER-bla; ERα β-lactamase cell line), in a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) format. The ability of the two assays to correctly identify ERα agonists and antagonists was evaluated using a set of 39 reference compounds with known ERα activity. Although both assays demonstrated adequate (i.e. >80%) predictivity, the ER-luc assay was more sensitive and the ER-bla assay more specific. The qHTS assay results were compared with results from previously published ERα binding assay data and showed >80% consistency. Actives identified from both the ER-bla and ER-luc assays were analyzed for structure-activity relationships (SARs) revealing known and potentially novel ERα active structure classes. The results demonstrate the feasibility of qHTS to identify environmental chemicals with the potential to interact with the ERα signaling pathway and the two different assay formats improve the confidence in correctly identifying these chemicals.
doi:10.1038/srep05664
PMCID: PMC4092345  PMID: 25012808
3.  Drug repurposing screen identifies lestaurtinib amplifies the ability of the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 inhibitor AG14361 to kill breast cancer associated gene-1 mutant and wild type breast cancer cells 
Introduction
Breast cancer is a devastating disease that results in approximately 40,000 deaths each year in the USA. Current drug screening and chemopreventatitive methods are suboptimal, due in part to the poor specificity of compounds for cancer cells. Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) inhibitor (PARPi)-mediated therapy is a promising approach for familial breast cancers caused by mutations of breast cancer-associated gene-1 and -2 (BRCA1/2), yet drug resistance frequently occurs during the treatment. Moreover, PARPis exhibit very little effect on cancers that are proficient for DNA repair and clinical efficacy for PARPis as single-agent therapies has yet to be illustrated.
Methods
Using a quantitative high-throughput screening approach, we screened a library containing 2,816 drugs, most of which are approved for human or animal use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other countries, to identify compounds that sensitize breast cancer cells to PARPi. After initial screening, we performed further cellular and molecular analysis on lestaurtinib, which is an orally bioavailable multikinase inhibitor and has been used in clinical trials for myeloproliferative disorders and acute myelogenous leukemia.
Results
Our study indicated that lestaurtinib is highly potent against breast cancers as a mono-treatment agent. It also strongly enhanced the activity of the potent PARPi AG14361 on breast cancer cell growth both in vitro and in vivo conditions. The inhibition of cancer growth is measured by increased apoptosis and reduced cell proliferation. Consistent with this, the treatment results in activation of caspase 3/7, and accumulation of cells in the G2 phase of the cell cycle, irrespective of their BRCA1 status. Finally, we demonstrated that AG14361 inhibits NF-κB signaling, which is further enhanced by lestaurtinib treatment.
Conclusions
Lestaurtinib amplifies the ability of the PARP1 inhibitor AG14361 to kill BRCA1 mutant and wild-type breast cancer cells, at least in part, by inhibiting NF-κB signaling. Each of these drugs has been approved for clinical trials for several different cancers, thus, their combination treatment should be applicable for a breast cancer trial in the future.
doi:10.1186/bcr3682
PMCID: PMC4229979  PMID: 24962108
4.  Synthesis and Evaluation of Quinazolin-4-ones as Hypoxia-inducible Factor-1α Inhibitors 
Quinazolin-4-one 1 was identified as an inhibitor of the HIF-1α transcriptional factor from a high-throughput screen. HIF-1α up-regulation is common in many cancer cells. In this paper, we describe an efficient one-pot sequential reaction for the synthesis of quinazolin-4-one 1 analogues. The structure-activity relationship (SAR) study led to the 5-fold more potent analogue, 16.
doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2011.07.043
PMCID: PMC3681418  PMID: 21831635
hypoxia-inducible factor-1α; quinazolin-4-ones; parallel synthesis
5.  Identification of repurposed small molecule drugs for chordoma therapy 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2013;14(7):638-647.
Chordoma is a rare, slow growing malignant tumor arising from remnants of the fetal notochord. Surgery is the first choice for chordoma treatment, followed by radiotherapy, although postoperative complications remain significant. Recurrence of the disease occurs frequently due to the anatomy of the tumor location and violation of the tumor margins at the initial surgery. Currently, there are no effective drugs available for patients with chordoma. Due to the rarity of the disease, there is limited opportunity to test agents in clinical trials and no concerted effort to develop agents for chordoma in the pharmaceutical industry. To rapidly and efficiently identify small molecules that inhibit chordoma cell growth, we screened the NCGC Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC) containing approximately 2800 clinically approved and investigational drugs at 15 different concentrations in chordoma cell lines, U-CH1 and U-CH2. We identified a group of drugs including bortezomib, 17-AAG, digitoxin, staurosporine, digoxin, rubitecan, and trimetrexate that inhibited chordoma cell growth, with potencies from 10 to 370 nM in U-CH1 cells, but less potently in U-CH2 cells. Most of these drugs also induced caspase 3/7 activity with a similar rank order as the cytotoxic effect on U-CH1 cells. Cantharidin, digoxin, digitoxin, staurosporine, and bortezomib showed similar inhibitory effect on cell lines and 3 primary chordoma cell cultures. The combination treatment of bortezomib with topoisomerase I and II inhibitors increased the therapeutic potency in U-CH2 and patient-derived primary cultures. Our results provide information useful for repurposing currently approved drugs for chordoma and potential approach of combination therapy.
doi:10.4161/cbt.24596
PMCID: PMC3742493  PMID: 23792643
chordoma; NCGC Pharmaceutical Collection; cell viability; caspase 3/7; U-CH1; U-CH2; qHTS
6.  Characterization of environmental chemicals with potential for DNA damage using isogenic DNA repair-deficient chicken DT40 cell lines 
Included among the quantitative high throughput screens (qHTS) conducted in support of the U.S. Tox21 program are those being evaluated for the detection of genotoxic compounds. One such screen is based on the induction of increased cytotoxicity in 7 isogenic chicken DT40 cell lines deficient in DNA repair pathways compared to the parental DNA repair-proficient cell line. To characterize the utility of this approach for detecting genotoxic compounds and identifying the type(s) of DNA damage induced, we evaluated nine of 42 compounds identified as positive for differential cytotoxicity in qHTS (actinomycin D, adriamycin, alachlor, benzotrichloride, diglycidyl resorcinol ether, lovastatin, melphalan, trans-1,4-dichloro-2-butene, tris(2,3-epoxypropyl)isocyanurate) and one non-cytotoxic genotoxic compound (2-aminothiamine) for (1) clastogenicity in mutant and wild-type cells; (2) the comparative induction of γH2AX positive foci by melphalan; (3) the extent to which a 72-hr exposure duration increased assay sensitivity or specificity; (4) the use of 10 additional DT40 DNA repair-deficient cell lines to better analyze the type(s) of DNA damage induced; and (5) the involvement of reactive oxygen species in the induction of DNA damage. All compounds but lovastatin and 2-aminothiamine were more clastogenic in at least one DNA repair-deficient cell line than the wild-type cells. The differential responses across the various DNA repair-deficient cell lines provided information on the type(s) of DNA damage induced. The results demonstrate the utility of this DT40 screen for detecting genotoxic compounds, for characterizing the nature of the DNA damage, and potentially for analyzing mechanisms of mutagenesis.
doi:10.1002/em.20656
PMCID: PMC3278799  PMID: 21538559
DT40 DNA repair-deficient cell lines; quantitative high throughput screens; cytotoxicity; genotoxicity; chromosomal aberrations; γH2AX positive foci
7.  Chemical Genomics Profiling of Environmental Chemical Modulation of Human Nuclear Receptors 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;119(8):1142-1148.
Background: The large and increasing number of chemicals released into the environment demands more efficient and cost-effective approaches for assessing environmental chemical toxicity. The U.S. Tox21 program has responded to this challenge by proposing alternative strategies for toxicity testing, among which the quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) paradigm has been adopted as the primary tool for generating data from screening large chemical libraries using a wide spectrum of assays.
Objectives: The goal of this study was to develop methods to evaluate the data generated from these assays to guide future assay selection and prioritization for the Tox21 program.
Methods: We examined the data from the Tox21 pilot-phase collection of approximately 3,000 environmental chemicals profiled in qHTS format against a panel of 10 human nuclear receptors (AR, ERα, FXR, GR, LXRβ, PPARγ, PPARδ, RXRα, TRβ, and VDR) for reproducibility, concordance of biological activity profiles with sequence homology of the receptor ligand binding domains, and structure–activity relationships.
Results: We determined the assays to be appropriate in terms of biological relevance. We found better concordance for replicate compounds for the agonist-mode than for the antagonist-mode assays, likely due to interference of cytotoxicity in the latter assays. This exercise also enabled us to formulate data-driven strategies for discriminating true signals from artifacts, and to prioritize assays based on data quality.
Conclusions: The results demonstrate the feasibility of qHTS to identify the potential for environmentally relevant chemicals to interact with key toxicity pathways related to human disease induction.
doi:10.1289/ehp.1002952
PMCID: PMC3237348  PMID: 21543282
assay performance; chemical genomics; cytotoxicity; nuclear receptors; qHTS; Tox21
8.  Identification of Known Drugs that Act as Inhibitors of NF-κB Signaling and their Mechanism of Action 
Biochemical pharmacology  2010;79(9):1272-1280.
Nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) is a transcription factor that plays a critical role across many cellular processes including embryonic and neuronal development, cell proliferation, apoptosis, immune responses to infection, and inflammation. Dysregulation of NF-κB signaling is associated with inflammatory diseases and certain cancers. Constitutive activation of NF-κB signaling has been found in some types of tumors including breast, colon, prostate, skin and lymphoid, hence therapeutic blockade of NF-κB signaling in cancer cells provides an attractive strategy for the development of anticancer drugs. To identify small molecule inhibitors of NF-κB signaling, we screened approximately 2,800 clinically approved drugs and bioactive compounds from the NIH Chemical Genomics Center Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC) in a NF-κB mediated β-lactamase reporter gene assay. Each compound was tested at fifteen different concentrations in a quantitative high throughput screening format. We identified nineteen drugs that inhibited NF-κB signaling, with potencies as low as 20 nM. Many of these drugs, including emetine, fluorosalan, sunitinib malate, bithionol, narasin, tribromsalan, and lestaurtinib, inhibited NF-κB signaling via inhibition of IκBα phosphorylation. Others, such as ectinascidin 743, chromomycin A3 and bortezomib utilized other mechanisms. Furthermore, many of these drugs induced caspase 3/7 activity and had an inhibitory effect on cervical cancer cell growth. Our results indicate that many currently approved pharmaceuticals have previously unappreciated effects on NF-κB signaling, which may contribute to anticancer therapeutic effects. Comprehensive profiling of approved drugs provides insight into their molecular mechanisms, thus providing a basis for drug repurposing.
doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2009.12.021
PMCID: PMC2834878  PMID: 20067776
caspase 3/7; cervical cancer; IκBα phosphorylation; NCGC Pharmaceutical Collection; NF-κB signaling
9.  Analysis of Eight Oil Spill Dispersants Using Rapid, In Vitro Tests for Endocrine and Other Biological Activity 
Environmental science & technology  2010;44(15):5979-5985.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has led to the use of >1 M gallons of oil spill dispersants, which are mixtures of surfactants and solvents. Because of this large scale use there is a critical need to understand the potential for toxicity of the currently used dispersant and potential alternatives, especially given the limited toxicity testing information that is available. In particular, some dispersants contain nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which can degrade to nonylphenol (NP), a known endocrine disruptor. Given the urgent need to generate toxicity data, we carried out a series of in vitro high-throughput assays on eight commercial dispersants. These assays focused on the estrogen and androgen receptors (ER and AR), but also included a larger battery of assays probing other biological pathways. Cytotoxicity in mammalian cells was also quantified. No activity was seen in any AR assay. Two dispersants showed a weak ER signal in one assay (EC50 of 16 ppm for Nokomis 3-F4 and 25 ppm for ZI-400). NPs and NPEs also had a weak signal in this same ER assay. Note that Corexit 9500, the currently used product, does not contain NPEs and did not show any ER activity. Cytotoxicity values for six of the dispersants were statistically indistinguishable, with median LC50 values ∼100 ppm. Two dispersants, JD 2000, SAF-RON GOLD, were significantly less cytotoxic than the others with LC50 values approaching or exceeding 1000 ppm.
doi:10.1021/es102150z
PMCID: PMC2930403  PMID: 20602530
10.  Identification of small molecule compounds that inhibit the HIF-1 signaling pathway 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:117.
Background
Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is the major hypoxia-regulated transcription factor that regulates cellular responses to low oxygen environments. HIF-1 is composed of two subunits: hypoxia-inducible HIF-1α and constitutively-expressed HIF-1β. During hypoxic conditions, HIF-1α heterodimerizes with HIF-1β and translocates to the nucleus where the HIF-1 complex binds to the hypoxia-response element (HRE) and activates expression of target genes implicated in cell growth and survival. HIF-1α protein expression is elevated in many solid tumors, including those of the cervix and brain, where cells that are the greatest distance from blood vessels, and therefore the most hypoxic, express the highest levels of HIF-1α. Therapeutic blockade of the HIF-1 signaling pathway in cancer cells therefore provides an attractive strategy for development of anticancer drugs. To identify small molecule inhibitors of the HIF-1 pathway, we have developed a cell-based reporter gene assay and screened a large compound library by using a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) approach.
Results
The assay is based upon a β-lactamase reporter under the control of a HRE. We have screened approximate 73,000 compounds by qHTS, with each compound tested over a range of seven to fifteen concentrations. After qHTS we have rapidly identified three novel structural series of HIF-1 pathway Inhibitors. Selected compounds in these series were also confirmed as inhibitors in a HRE β-lactamase reporter gene assay induced by low oxygen and in a VEGF secretion assay. Three of the four selected compounds tested showed significant inhibition of hypoxia-induced HIF-1α accumulation by western blot analysis.
Conclusion
The use of β-lactamase reporter gene assays, in combination with qHTS, enabled the rapid identification and prioritization of inhibitors specific to the hypoxia induced signaling pathway.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-8-117
PMCID: PMC2797767  PMID: 20003191
11.  HTS-Compatible β-Lactamase Transcriptional Reporter Gene Assay for Interrogating the Heat Shock Response Pathway 
Moderate environmental and physiological stressors are known to initiate protective heat shock response (HSR) leading to cell survival. HSR is largely mediated by the activation of heat shock factor (HSF), resulting in increased heat shock protein expression. Dysregulation of the HSR signaling has been associated with various diseases including cancer, inflammation and neurodegenerative disorders. Compounds that can modulate HSR have been pursued for the treatment of these diseases. To facilitate the discovery of HSR modulators, we developed a high-throughput amenable betalactamase transcriptional reporter gene assay for monitoring the function of HSF. HeLa cells were engineered to express the beta-lactamase reporter under the control of HSF response elements (HSE) present in the HSP70 gene promoter. The HSE-beta lactamase (HSE-bla) reporter gene assay was validated by using HSF-specific siRNAs and known small molecule modulators. Taking the advantage of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based cell permeable betalactamase substrate, this assay can be miniaturized into 1536-well format. Our results demonstrate that the assay is robust and can be applied to high-throughput screening (HTS) for modulators of HSR.
doi:10.2174/1875397300903010001
PMCID: PMC2793398  PMID: 20161831

Results 1-11 (11)