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1.  Resolution of Quadruplex Polymorphism by Size Exclusion Chromatography 
This unit describes a method for the separation of quadruplex species formed from the same sequence via size exclusion chromatography (SEC). Polymorphism is inherent to quadruplex formation, and even relatively simple quadruplex forming sequences, such as the human telomere sequence d(GGG(TTAGGG)3), can form a myriad of possible configurations. High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), especially reverse phase and anion exchange methods, has been a mainstay of nucleic acids research and purification for many decades. We have applied these methods for the separation of individual quadruplex species formed in a mixture from the same parent sequence.
PMCID: PMC3963359  PMID: 21638270
SEC; quadruplex; size exclusion chromatography; telomere
2.  Global structure–activity relationship model for nonmutagenic carcinogens using virtual ligand-protein interactions as model descriptors 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(10):1940-1945.
Structure–activity relationship (SAR) models are powerful tools to investigate the mechanisms of action of chemical carcinogens and to predict the potential carcinogenicity of untested compounds. We describe the use of a traditional fragment-based SAR approach along with a new virtual ligand-protein interaction-based approach for modeling of nonmutagenic carcinogens. The ligand-based SAR models used descriptors derived from computationally calculated ligand-binding affinities for learning set agents to 5495 proteins. Two learning sets were developed. One set was from the Carcinogenic Potency Database, where chemicals tested for rat carcinogenesis along with Salmonella mutagenicity data were provided. The second was from Malacarne et al. who developed a learning set of nonalerting compounds based on rodent cancer bioassay data and Ashby’s structural alerts. When the rat cancer models were categorized based on mutagenicity, the traditional fragment model outperformed the ligand-based model. However, when the learning sets were composed solely of nonmutagenic or nonalerting carcinogens and noncarcinogens, the fragment model demonstrated a concordance of near 50%, whereas the ligand-based models demonstrated a concordance of 71% for nonmutagenic carcinogens and 74% for nonalerting carcinogens. Overall, these findings suggest that expert system analysis of virtual chemical protein interactions may be useful for developing predictive SAR models for nonmutagenic carcinogens. Moreover, a more practical approach for developing SAR models for carcinogenesis may include fragment-based models for chemicals testing positive for mutagenicity and ligand-based models for chemicals devoid of DNA reactivity.
PMCID: PMC3463155  PMID: 22678118
3.  An Improved Model for the hTERT Promoter Quadruplex 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115580.
Mutations occur at four specific sites in the hTERT promoter in >75% of glioblastomas and melanomas, but the mechanism by which the mutations affect gene expression remains unexplained. We report biophysical computational studies that show that the hTERT promoter sequence forms a novel G-quadruplex structure consisting of three contiguous, stacked parallel quadruplexes. The reported hTERT mutations map to the central quadruplex within this structure, and lead to an alteration of its hydrodynamic properties and stability.
PMCID: PMC4272262  PMID: 25526084
4.  Activation of the Proapoptotic Bcl-2 Protein Bax by a Small Molecule Induces Tumor Cell Apoptosis 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2014;34(7):1198-1207.
The proapoptotic Bcl-2 protein Bax by itself is sufficient to initiate apoptosis in almost all apoptotic paradigms. Thus, compounds that can facilitate disruptive Bax insertion into mitochondrial membranes have potential as cancer therapeutics. In our study, we have identified small-molecule compounds predicted to associate with the Bax hydrophobic groove by a virtual-screen approach. Among these, one lead compound (compound 106) promotes Bax-dependent but not Bak-dependent apoptosis. Importantly, this compound alters Bax protein stability in vitro and promotes the insertion of Bax into mitochondria, leading to Bax-dependent permeabilization of the mitochondrial outer membrane. Furthermore, as a single agent, compound 106 inhibits the growth of transplanted tumors, probably by inducing apoptosis in tumors. Our study has revealed a compound that activates Bax and induces Bax-dependent apoptosis, which may lead to the development of new therapeutic agents for cancer.
PMCID: PMC3993561  PMID: 24421393
5.  Targeting 6-Phosphofructo-2-Kinase (PFKFB3) as a Therapeutic Strategy against Cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(8):1461-1470.
In human cancers, loss of PTEN, stabilization of HIF-1α and activation of Ras and AKT converge to increase the activity of a key regulator of glycolysis, 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase(PFKFB3). This enzyme synthesizes fructose 2,6-bisphosphate (F26BP) which is an activator of 6-phosphofructo-1-kinase, a key step of glycolysis. Previously, a weak competitive inhibitor of PFKFB3, 3-(3-pyridinyl)-1-(4-pyridinyl)-2-propen-1-one (3PO), was found to reduce the glucose metabolism and proliferation of cancer cells. We have synthesized 73 derivatives of 3PO and screened each compound for activity against recombinant PFKFB3. One small molecule, 1-(4-pyridinyl)-3-(2-quinolinyl)-2-propen-1-one (PFK15), was selected for further pre-clinical evaluation of its pharmacokinetic, anti-metabolic and anti-neoplastic properties in vitro and in vivo. We found that PFK15 causes a rapid induction of apoptosis in transformed cells, has adequate pharmacokinetic properties, suppresses the glucose uptake and growth of Lewis lung carcinomas in syngeneic mice and yields anti-tumor effects in three human xenograft models of cancer in athymic mice that are comparable to FDA-approved chemotherapeutic agents. As a result of this study, asynthetic derivative and formulation of PFK15 has undergone IND-enabling toxicology and safety studies. A phase I clinical trial of its efficacy in advanced cancer patients will initiate in 2013 and we anticipate that this new class of anti-metabolic agents will yield acceptable therapeutic indices and prove to be synergistic with agents that disrupt neoplastic signaling.
PMCID: PMC3742633  PMID: 23674815
Glycolysis; Apoptosis; Chemotherapy; ATP; Glucose
6.  Structure-based Drug Design: From Nucleic Acid to Membrane Protein Targets 
The in silico methods for drug discovery are becoming increasingly powerful and useful. That, in combination with increasing computer processor power, in our case using a novel distributed computing grid, has enabled us to greatly enhance our virtual screening efforts. Herein we review some of these efforts using both receptor and ligand-based virtual screening, with the goal of finding new anticancer agents. In particular, nucleic acids are a neglected set of targets, especially the different morphologies of duplex, triplex, and quadruplex DNA, many of which have increasing biological relevance. We also review examples of molecular modeling to understand receptors and using virtual screening against G-protein coupled receptor membrane proteins.
PMCID: PMC3143464  PMID: 19454265
Virtual screening; drug discovery; membrane protein; G-protein coupled receptor; telomere; quadruplex; DNA
7.  An integrated molecular dynamics and experimental study of higher order human telomeric quadruplexes 
Biopolymers  2010;93(6):533-548.
Structural knowledge of telomeric DNA is critical for understanding telomere biology and for the utilization of telomeric DNA as a therapeutic target. Very little is known about the structure of long human DNA sequences that may form more than one quadruplex unit. Here we report a combination of molecular dynamics simulations and experimental biophysical studies to explore the structural and dynamic properties of the human telomeric sequence (TTAGGG)8TT that folds into two contiguous quadruplexes. Five higher order quadruplex models were built combining known single human telomeric quadruplex structures as unique building blocks. The biophysical properties of this sequence in K+ solution were experimentally investigated by means of analytical ultracentrifugation and UV spectroscopy. Additionally, the environments of loop adenines were probed by fluorescence studies using systematic single-substitutions of 2-aminopurine for the adenine bases. The comparison of the experimentally determined properties with the corresponding quantities predicted from the models allowed us to test the validity of each of the structural models. One model emerged whose properties are most consistent with the predictions, and which therefore is the most probable structure in solution. This structure features contiguous quadruplex units in an alternating hybrid-1-hybrid-2 conformation with a highly-ordered interface composed of loop residues from both quadruplexes.
PMCID: PMC3131549  PMID: 20095044
8.  Polymorphism and resolution of oncogene promoter quadruplex-forming sequences 
Organic & biomolecular chemistry  2011;9(22):7633-7637.
We report the separation of several quadruplex species formed by ten promoter sequences by Size Exclusion Chromatography (SEC). Modification at the 5’ or 3’ ends or in loop regions of quadruplex forming sequences has become the standard technique for dealing with quadruplex polymorphism. However, conformations produced employing this method or by other means of artificially shifting the equilibrium may not represent the species that are present in vivo. This method enables an unperturbed view of the structural polymorphism inherent to quadruplex formation. Separation via SEC facilitates studies on quadruplex structure and biophysical properties without the need for sequence modification.
PMCID: PMC3962748  PMID: 21938285
9.  Not All G-Quadruplexes are Created Equally: An Investigation of the Structural Polymorphism of the c-Myc G-Quadruplex-Forming Sequence and its Interaction with the Porphyrin meso-Tetra(N-methyl-4-pyridyl)porphine 
Organic & biomolecular chemistry  2012;10(47):9393-9404.
G-quadruplexes, DNA tertiary structures highly localized to functionally important sites within the human genome, have emerged as important new drug targets. The putative G-quadruplex-forming sequence (Pu27) in the NHE-III1 promoter region of the c-Myc gene is of particular interest as stabilization of this G-quadruplex with TMPyP4 has been shown to repress c-Myc transcription. In this study, we examine the Pu27 G-quadruplex-forming sequence and its interaction with TMPyP4. We report that the Pu27 sequence exists as a heterogeneous mixture of monomeric and higher-order G-quadruplex species in vitro and that this mixture can be partially resolved by size exclusion chromatography (SEC) separation. Within this ensemble of configurations, the equilibrium can be altered by modifying the buffer composition, annealing procedure, and dialysis protocol thereby affecting the distribution of G-quadruplex species formed. TMPyP4 was found to bind preferentially to higher-order G-quadruplex species suggesting the possibility of stabilization of the junctions of the c-Myc G-quadruplex multimers by porphyrin end-stacking. We also examined four modified c-Myc sequences that have been previously reported and found a narrower distribution of quadruplex configurations compared to the parent Pu27 sequence. We could not definitively conclude whether these G-quadruplex structures were selected from the original ensemble or if they are new G-quadruplex structures. Since these sequences differ considerably from the wild-type promoter sequence, it is unclear whether their structures have any actual biological relevance. Additional studies are needed to examine how the polymorphic nature of G-quadruplexes affects the interpretation of in vitro data for c-Myc and other G-quadruplexes. The findings reported here demonstrate that experimental conditions contribute significantly to G-quadruplex formation and should be carefully considered, controlled, and reported in detail.
PMCID: PMC3501587  PMID: 23108607
10.  Polyethylene glycol binding alters human telomere G-quadruplex structure by conformational selection 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(16):7934-7946.
Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are widely used to perturb the conformations of nucleic acids, including G-quadruplexes. The mechanism by which PEG alters G-quadruplex conformation is poorly understood. We describe here studies designed to determine how PEG and other co-solutes affect the conformation of the human telomeric quadruplex. Osmotic stress studies using acetonitrile and ethylene glycol show that conversion of the ‘hybrid’ conformation to an all-parallel ‘propeller’ conformation is accompanied by the release of about 17 water molecules per quadruplex and is energetically unfavorable in pure aqueous solutions. Sedimentation velocity experiments show that the propeller form is hydrodynamically larger than hybrid forms, ruling out a crowding mechanism for the conversion by PEG. PEGs do not alter water activity sufficiently to perturb quadruplex hydration by osmotic stress. PEG titration experiments are most consistent with a conformational selection mechanism in which PEG binds more strongly to the propeller conformation, and binding is coupled to the conformational transition between forms. Molecular dynamics simulations show that PEG binding to the propeller form is sterically feasible and energetically favorable. We conclude that PEG does not act by crowding and is a poor mimic of the intranuclear environment, keeping open the question of the physiologically relevant quadruplex conformation.
PMCID: PMC3763525  PMID: 23804761
11.  Calculation of Hydrodynamic Properties for G-Quadruplex Nucleic Acid Structures from in silico Bead Models 
Topics in current chemistry  2013;330:179-210.
Nucleic acids enriched in guanine bases can adopt unique quadruple helical tertiary structures known as G-quadruplexes. G-quadruplexes have emerged as attractive drug targets as many G-quadruplex-forming sequences have been discovered in functionally critical sites within the human genome, including the telomere, oncogene promoters, and mRNA processing sites. A single G-quadruplex-forming sequence can adopt one of multiple folding topologies often resulting in a lack of a single definitive atomic-level resolution structure for many of these sequences and a major challenge to the discovery of G-quadruplex-selective small molecule drugs. Low-resolution techniques employed to study G-quadruplex structures (e.g. CD spectroscopy) are often unable to discern between G-quadruplex structural ensembles while high-resolution techniques (e.g. NMR spectroscopy) can be overwhelmed by a highly polymorphic system. Hydrodynamic bead modeling is an approach to studying G-quadruplex structures that could bridge the gap between low-resolution techniques and high-resolution molecular models. Here, we present a discussion of hydrodynamic bead modeling in the context of studying G-quadruplex structures, highlighting recent successes and limitations to this approach, as well as an example featuring a G-quadruplex structure formed from the human telomere. This example can easily be adapted to the investigation of any other G-quadruplex-forming sequences.
PMCID: PMC3580009  PMID: 22886555
G-quadruplex; Nucleic acids; Drug discovery; Hydrodynamic; Bead Models; Sedimentation
12.  Structure and Stability of Higher-Order Human Telomeric Quadruplexes 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2011;133(51):20951-20961.
G-quadruplex formation in the sequences 5′-(TTAGGG)n and 5′(TTAGGG)nTT (n=4,8,12) was studied using circular dichroism, sedimentation velocity, differential scanning calorimetry and molecular dynamics simulations. Sequences containing 8 and 12 repeats formed higher-order structures with two and three contiguous quadruplexes, respectively. Plausible structures for these sequences were determined by molecular dynamics simulations followed by experimental testing of predicted hydrodynamic properties by sedimentation velocity. These structures featured folding of the strand into contiguous quadruplexes with mixed hybrid conformations. Thermodynamic studies showed the strands folded spontaneous to contain the maximum number contiguous quadruplexes. For the sequence 5′(TTAGGG)12TT, more than 90% of the strands contained completely folded structures with three quadruplexes. Statistical mechanical-based deconvolution of thermograms for three quadruplex structures showed that each quadruplex melted independently with unique thermodynamic parmameters. Thermodynamic analysis revealed further that quadruplexes in higher-ordered structures were destabilized relative to their monomeric counterparts, with unfavorable coupling free energies. Quadruplex stability thus depends critically on the sequence and structural context.
PMCID: PMC3244555  PMID: 22082001
13.  The solution structure of a DNA·RNA duplex containing 5-propynyl U and C; comparison with 5-Me modifications 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(10):2683-2693.
The addition of the propynyl group at the 5 position of pyrimidine nucleotides is highly stabilising. We have determined the thermodynamic stability of the DNA·RNA hybrid r(GAAGAGAAGC)·d(GCpUpUpCpUp CpUpUpC) where p is the propynyl group at the 5 position and compared it with that of the unmodified duplex and the effects of methyl substitutions. The incorporation of the propyne group at the 5 position gives rise to a very large stabilisation of the hybrid duplex compared with the analogous 5-Me modification. The duplexes have been characterised by gel electrophoresis and NMR spectroscopy, which indicate that methyl substitutions have a smaller influence on local and global conformation than the propynyl groups. The increased NMR spectral dispersion of the propyne-modified duplex allowed a larger number of experimental restraints to be measured. Restrained molecular dynamics in a fully solvated system showed that the propyne modification leads to substantial conformational rearrangements stabilising a more A-like structure. The propynyl groups occupy a large part of the major groove and make favourable van der Waals interactions with their nearest neighbours and the atoms of the rings. This enhanced overlap may account at least in part for the increased thermodynamic stability. Furthermore, the simulations show a spine of hydration in the major groove as well as in the minor groove involving the RNA hydroxyl groups.
PMCID: PMC156038  PMID: 12736318
14.  Biophysical and biological properties of quadruplex oligodeoxyribonucleotides 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(8):2097-2107.
Single-stranded guanosine-rich oligodeoxyribonucleotides (GROs) have a propensity to form quadruplex structures that are stabilized by G-quartets. In addition to intense speculation about the role of G-quartet formation in vivo, there is considerable interest in the therapeutic potential of quadruplex oligonucleotides as aptamers or non-antisense antiproliferative agents. We previously have described several GROs that inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis in cancer cell lines. The activity of these GROs was related to their ability to bind to a specific cellular protein (GRO-binding protein, which has been tentatively identified as nucleolin). In this report, we describe the physical properties and biological activity of a group of 12 quadruplex oligonucleotides whose structures have been characterized previously. This group includes the thrombin-binding aptamer, an anti-HIV oligonucleotide, and several quadruplexes derived from telomere sequences. Thermal denaturation and circular dichroism (CD) spectropolarimetry were utilized to investigate the stability, reversibility and ion dependence of G-quartet formation. The ability of each oligonucleotide to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and to compete for binding to the GRO-binding protein was also examined. Our results confirm that G-quartet formation is essential for biological activity of GROs and show that, in some cases, quadruplex structures formed in the presence of potassium ions are significantly more active than those formed in the presence of sodium ions. However, not all quadruplex structures exhibit antiproliferative effects, and the most accurate factor in predicting biological activity was the ability to bind to the GRO-binding protein. Our data also indicate that the CD spectra of quadruplex oligonucleotides may be more complex than previously thought.
PMCID: PMC153744  PMID: 12682360
15.  Tiny telomere DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(11):2307-2315.
We describe the design, synthesis and biophysical characterization of a novel DNA construct in which a folded quadruplex structure is joined to a standard double helix. Circular dichroism, gel electrophoresis, three-dimensional UV melting and differential scanning calorimetry were all used to characterize the structure. Rigorous molecular dynamics simulations were used to build a plausible atomic-level structural model of the DNA construct. This novel DNA construct provides a model for the duplex–quadruplex junction region at the end of chromosomal DNA and offers a system for the study of structure-selective ligand binding.
PMCID: PMC117210  PMID: 12034817
16.  Aldose Reductase-catalyzed Reduction of Aldehyde Phospholipids 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2004;279(51):53395-53406.
Oxidation of unsaturated phospholipids results in the generation of aldehyde side chains that remain esterified to the phospholipid backbone. Such “core” aldehydes elicit immune responses and promote inflammation. However, the biochemical mechanisms by which phospholipid aldehydes are metabolized or detoxified are not well understood. In the studies reported here, we examined whether aldose reductase (AR), which reduces hydrophobic aldehydes, metabolizes phospholipid aldehydes. Incubation with AR led to the reduction of 5-oxovaleroyl, 7-oxo-5-heptenoyl, 5-hydroxy-6-oxo-caproyl, and 5-hydroxy-8-oxo-6-octenoyl phospholipids generated upon oxidation of 1-palmitoyl-2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (PAPC). The enzyme also catalyzed the reduction of phospholipid aldehydes generated from the oxidation of 1-alkyl, and 1-alkenyl analogs of PAPC, and 1-palmitoyl-2-arachidonoyl phosphatidic acid or phosphoglycerol. Aldose reductase catalyzed the reduction of chemically synthesized 1-palmitoyl-2-(5-oxovaleroyl)-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (POVPC) with a Km of 10 μM. Addition of POVPC to the culture medium led to incorporation and reduction of the aldehyde in COS-7 and THP-1 cells. Reduction of POVPC in these cells was prevented by the AR inhibitors sorbinil and tolrestat and was increased in COS-7 cells overexpressing AR. Together, these observations suggest that AR may be a significant participant in the metabolism of several structurally diverse phospholipid aldehydes. This metabolism may be a critical regulator of the pro-inflammatory and immunogenic effects of oxidized phospholipids.
PMCID: PMC3475326  PMID: 15465833
17.  Small molecule inhibition of 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase suppresses t cell activation 
T cell activation is associated with a rapid increase in intracellular fructose-2,6-bisphosphate (F2,6BP), an allosteric activator of the glycolytic enzyme, 6-phosphofructo-1-kinase. The steady state concentration of F2,6BP in T cells is dependent on the expression of the bifunctional 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-bisphosphatases (PFKFB1-4) and the fructose-2,6-bisphosphatase, TIGAR. Of the PFKFB family of enzymes, PFKFB3 has the highest kinase:bisphosphatase ratio and has been demonstrated to be required for T cell proliferation. A small molecule antagonist of PFKFB3, 3-(3-pyridinyl)-1-(4-pyridinyl)-2-propen-1-one (3PO), recently has been shown to reduce F2,6BP synthesis, glucose uptake and proliferation in transformed cells. We hypothesized that the induction of PFKFB3 expression may be required for the stimulation of glycolysis in T cells and that exposure to the PFKFB3 antagonist, 3PO, would suppress T cell activation.
We examined PFKFB1-4 and TIGAR expression and F2,6BP concentration in purified CD3+ T cells stimulated with microbead-conjugated agonist antibodies specific for CD3 and the co-stimulatory receptor, CD28. We then determined the effect of 3PO on anti-CD3/anti-CD28-induced T cell activation, F2,6BP synthesis, 2-[1-14C]-deoxy-d-glucose uptake, lactate secretion, TNF-α secretion and proliferation. Finally, we examined the effect of 3PO administration on the development of delayed type hypersensitivity to methylated BSA and on imiquimod-induced psoriasis in mice.
We found that purified human CD3+ T cells express PFKFB2, PFKFB3, PFKFB4 and TIGAR, and that anti-CD3/anti-CD28 conjugated microbeads stimulated a >20-fold increase in F2,6BP with a coincident increase in protein expression of the PFKFB3 family member and a decrease in TIGAR protein expression. We then found that exposure to the PFKFB3 small molecule antagonist, 3PO (1–10 μM), markedly attenuated the stimulation of F2,6BP synthesis, 2-[1-14C]-deoxy-D-glucose uptake, lactate secretion, TNF-α secretion and T cell aggregation and proliferation. We examined the in vivo effect of 3PO on the development of delayed type hypersensitivity to methylated BSA and on imiquimod-induced psoriasis in mice and found that 3PO suppressed the development of both T cell-dependent models of immunity in vivo.
Our data demonstrate that inhibition of the PFKFB3 kinase activity attenuates the activation of T cells in vitro and suppresses T cell dependent immunity in vivo and indicate that small molecule antagonists of PFKFB3 may prove effective as T cell immunosuppressive agents.
PMCID: PMC3441391  PMID: 22591674
Glycolysis; 6-Phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2, 6-bisphosphatase; Fructose-2; 6-bisphosphate; T cell
18.  A Discovery Funnel for Nucleic Acid Binding Drug Candidates 
Drug development research  2011;72(2):178-186.
Computational approaches are becoming increasingly popular for the discovery of drug candidates against a target of interest. Proteins have historically been the primary targets of many virtual screening efforts. While in silico screens targeting proteins has proven successful, other classes of targets, in particular DNA, remain largely unexplored using virtual screening methods. With the realization of the functional importance of many non-cannonical DNA structures such as G-quadruplexes, increased efforts are underway to discover new small molecules that can bind selectively to DNA structures. Here, we describe efforts to build an integrated in silico and in vitro platform for discovering compounds that may bind to a chosen DNA target. Millions of compounds are initially screened in silico for selective binding to a particular structure and ranked to identify several hundred best hits. An important element of our strategy is the inclusion of an array of possible competing structures in the in silico screen. The best hundred or so hits are validated experimentally for binding to the actual target structure by a high-throughput 96-well thermal denaturation assay to yield the top ten candidates. Finally, these most promising candidates are thoroughly characterized for binding to their DNA target by rigorous biophysical methods, including isothermal titration calorimetry, differential scanning calorimetry, spectroscopy and competition dialysis.This platform was validated using quadruplex DNA as a target and a newly discovered quadruplex binding compound with possible anti-cancer activity was discovered. Some considerations when embarking on virtual screening and in silico experiments are also discussed.
PMCID: PMC3090163  PMID: 21566705
drug discovery; in silico screening; SURFLEX-DOCK; DNA; G-quadruplex; high-throughput screening
19.  A Novel Small Molecule Antagonist of Choline Kinase-α That Simultaneously Suppresses MAPK and PI3K/AKT Signaling 
Oncogene  2011;30(30):3370-3380.
Choline kinase-α expression and activity are increased in multiple human neoplasms as a result of growth factor stimulation and activation of cancer-related signaling pathways. The product of choline kinase-α, phosphocholine, serves as an essential metabolic reservoir for the production of phosphatidylcholine, the major phospholipid constituent of membranes and substrate for the production of lipid second messengers. Using in silico screening for small molecules that may interact with the choline kinase-α substrate binding domain, we identified a novel competitive inhibitor, N-(3,5-dimethylphenyl)-2-[[5-(4-ethylphenyl)-1H-1,2,4-triazol-3-yl]sulfanyl] acetamide (termed CK37) that inhibited purified recombinant human choline kinase-α activity, reduced the steady-state concentration of phosphocholine in transformed cells, and selectively suppressed the growth of neoplastic cells relative to normal epithelial cells. Choline kinase-α activity is required for the downstream production of phosphatidic acid, a promoter of several Ras signaling pathways. CK37 suppressed MAPK and PI3K/AKT signaling, disrupted actin cytoskeletal organization, and reduced plasma membrane ruffling. Finally, administration of CK37 significantly decreased tumor growth in a lung tumor xenograft mouse model, suppressed tumor phosphocholine, and diminished activating phosphorylations of ERK and AKT in vivo. Together, these results further validate choline kinase-α as a molecular target for the development of agents that interrupt Ras signaling pathways, and indicate that receptor-based computational screening should facilitate the identification of new classes of choline kinase-α inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3136659  PMID: 21423211
Chemotherapy; Choline Kinase; Metabolism; In silico; Phosphocholine
20.  The Golgi-associated Protein p115 Mediates the Secretion of Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor (MIF) 
Macrophage migration inhibitory factor is a leaderless protein that is secreted from cells by a specialized, non-classical export pathway. The release of MIF nevertheless is regulated and its production in response to different inflammatory, mitogenic, and hormonal stimuli plays an important role in diverse physiologic and pathologic processes. We report herein the identification of the Golgi complex-associated protein, p115, as an intracellular binding partner for MIF. MIF interacts with p115 in the cytoplasm and the stimulated secretion of MIF results in the accumulation of both proteins in supernatants, which is consistent with MIF release from cells in conjunction with p115. The depletion of p115 from monocytes/macrophages decreases the release of MIF but not other cytokines following inflammatory stimulation or intracellular bacterial infection. Notably, the small molecule MIF inhibitor, 4-iodo-6-phenylpyrimidine, inhibits MIF secretion by targeting the interaction between MIF and p115. These data reveal p115 to be a critical intermediary component in the regulated secretion of MIF from monocytes/macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3135652  PMID: 19454686
cytokines; inflammation; lipopolysaccharide; monocytes/macrophages
21.  Characterization of a K+-Induced Conformational Switch in a Human Telomeric DNA Oligonucleotide Using 2-Aminopurine Fluorescence† 
Biochemistry  2010;49(1):179-194.
Human telomeric DNA consists of tandem repeats of the DNA sequence d(GGGTTA). Oligodeoxynucletotide telomere models such as d[A(GGGTTA)3GGG] (Tel22) fold in a cation-dependent manner into quadruplex structures consisting of stacked G-quartets linked by d(TTA) loops. NMR has shown that in Na+ solutions Tel22 forms a ‘basket’ topology of four antiparallel strands; in contrast, Tel22 in K+ solutions consists of a mixture of unknown topologies. Our previous studies on the mechanism of folding of Tel22 and similar telomere analogs utilized changes in UV absorption between 270 and 325 nm that report primarily on G-quartet formation and stacking showed that quadruplex formation occurs within milliseconds upon mixing with an appropriate cation. In the current study, we assessed the dynamics and equilibria of folding of specific loops by using Tel22 derivatives in which the dA residues were serially substituted with the fluorescent reporter base, 2-aminopurine (2-AP). Tel22 folding induced by Na+ or K+ assessed by changes in 2-AP fluorescence consists of at least three kinetic steps with time constants spanning a range of ms to several hundred seconds. Na+-dependent equilibrium titrations of Tel22 folding could be approximated as a cooperative two-state process. In contrast, K+-dependent folding curves were biphasic, revealing that different conformational ensembles are present in 1 mM and 30 mM K+. This conclusion was confirmed by 1H NMR. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed a K+ binding pocket in Tel22 located near dA1 that is specific for the so-called hybrid-1 conformation in which strand 1 is in a parallel arrangement. The possible presence of this topologically specific binding site suggests that K+ may play an allosteric role in regulating telomere conformation and function by modulating quadruplex tertiary structure.
PMCID: PMC2803354  PMID: 19961180
22.  Discovery and Development of the G-rich Oligonucleotide AS1411 as a Novel Treatment for Cancer 
Certain guanine-rich (G-rich) DNA and RNA molecules can associate intermolecularly or intramolecularly to form four stranded or “quadruplex” structures, which have unusual biophysical and biological properties. Several synthetic G-rich quadruplex-forming oligodeoxynucleotides have recently been investigated as therapeutic agents for various human diseases. We refer to these biologically active G-rich oligonucleotides as aptamers because their activities arise from binding to protein targets via shape-specific recognition (analogous to antibody-antigen binding). As therapeutic agents, the G-rich aptamers may have some advantages over monoclonal antibodies and other oligonucleotide-based approaches. For example, quadruplex oligonucleotides are non-immunogenic, heat stable and they have increased resistance to serum nucleases and enhanced cellular uptake compared to unstructured sequences. In this review, we describe the characteristics and activities of G-rich oligonucleotides. We also give a personal perspective on the discovery and development of AS1411, an antiproliferative G-rich phosphodiester oligonucleotide that is currently being tested as an anticancer agent in Phase II clinical trials. This molecule functions as an aptamer to nucleolin, a multifunctional protein that is highly expressed by cancer cells, both intracellularly and on the cell surface. Thus, the serendipitous discovery of the G-rich oligonucleotides also led to the identification of nucleolin as a new molecular target for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC2716701  PMID: 19454272
AS1411; aptamer; G-rich oligonucleotides; quadruplex; G-quartets; nucleolin; NF-kappaB; PRMT5; T-oligos; Dz13
23.  Resolution and characterization of the structural polymorphism of a single quadruplex-forming sequence 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(14):4877-4888.
The remarkable structural polymorphism of quadruplex-forming sequences has been a considerable impediment in the elucidation of quadruplex folds. Sequence modifications have commonly been used to perturb and purportedly select a particular form out of the ensemble of folds for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) or X-ray crystallographic analysis. Here we report a simple chromatographic technique that separates the individual folds without need for sequence modification. The sequence d(GGTGGTGGTGGTTGTGGTGGTGGTGG) forms a compact quadruplex according to a variety of common biophysical techniques. However, NMR and chromatography showed that this oligonucleotide produces at least eight monomeric quadruplex species that interconvert very slowly at room temperature. We have used a combination of spectroscopic, hydrodynamic and thermodynamic techniques to evaluate the physicochemical properties of the mixture and the individual species. These species have almost identical thermodynamic, hydrodynamic and electrophoretic properties, but significantly different NMR and circular dichroism (CD) spectra, as well as kinetic stability. These results demonstrate that simple standard low-resolution techniques cannot always be used for quadruplex fold determination or quality control purposes, and that simple thermodynamic analysis does not directly provide interpretable thermodynamic parameters.
PMCID: PMC2919704  PMID: 20348136
24.  Mutations in Growth Factor Independent-1 Associated with Human Neutropenia Block Murine Granulopoiesis through Colony Stimulating Factor-1 
Immunity  2008;28(3):370-380.
Severe congenital neutropenia (SCN) is characterized by a deficiency of mature neutrophils, leading to recurrent bacterial and fungal infections. Although mutations in Elastase-2, neutrophil (ELA2) predominate in human SCN, mutation of Ela2 in mice does not recapitulate SCN. The growth factor independent-1 (GFI1) transcription factor regulates ELA2. Mutations in GFI1 are associated with human SCN, and genetic deletion of Gfi1 results in murine neutropenia. We examined whether human SCN-associated GFI1N382S mutant proteins are causal in SCN and found that GFI1 functions as a rate-limiting granulopoietic molecular switch. The N382S mutation inhibited GFI1 DNA binding and resulted in a dominant-negative block to murine granulopoiesis. Moreover, Gfi1N382S selectively derepressed the monopoietic cytokine CSF1 and its receptor. Gfi1N382S–expressing Csf1−/− cells formed neutrophils. These results reveal a common transcriptional program that underlies both human and murine myelopoiesis, and that is central to the pathogenesis of SCN associated with mutations in GFI1. This shared transcriptional pathway may provide new avenues for understanding SCN caused by mutations in other genes and for clinical intervention into human neutropenias.
PMCID: PMC2835494  PMID: 18328744
25.  The Tail of the Telomere 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2008;130(49):16530-16532.
The structure of a higher-order G-quadruplex structure for human telomeric DNA is presented. The structure was determined by a novel integrated approach in which molecular dynamics simulations were used to produce a stable structure, from which specific experimentally accessible properties were predicted. These properties were tested by sedimentation velocity and steady-state fluorescence measurements. The structure that emerges is a dimeric structure with two quadruplex units, each with a different structure. The interface between the quadruplex units is stabilized by specific stacking interactions of loop nucleotides. The interface is a unique structure and a unique target for drug design.
PMCID: PMC2636551  PMID: 19049455

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