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1.  TR-FRET-Based High-Throughput Screening Assay for Identification of UBC13 Inhibitors 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2011;17(2):163-176.
UBC13 is a non-canonical Ubiquitin Conjugating Enzyme (E2) that has been implicated in a variety of cellular signaling processes due to its ability to catalyze formation of Lysine 63-linked polyubiquitin chains on various substrates. In particular, UBC13 is required for signaling by a variety of receptors important in immune regulation, making it a candidate target for inflammatory diseases. UBC13 is also critical for double-strand DNA repair, and thus a potential radiosensitizer and chemosensitizer target for oncology. We developed a high-throughput screening (HTS) assay for UBC13 based on the method of time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer (TR-FRET). The TR-FRET assay combines fluorochrome (Fl)-conjugated ubiquitin (fluorescence acceptor) with terbium (Tb)-conjugated ubiquitin (fluorescence donor), such that the assembly of mixed chains of Fl- and Tb-ubiquitin creates a robust TR-FRET signal. We defined conditions for optimized performance of the TR-FRET assay in both 384 and 1536-well formats. Chemical library screens (total 456,865 compounds) were conducted in high-throughput mode using various compound collections, affording superb Z' scores (typically > 0.7) and thus validating the performance of the assays. Altogether, the HTS assays described here are suitable for large-scale, automated screening of chemical libraries in search of compounds with inhibitory activity against UBC13.
doi:10.1177/1087057111423417
PMCID: PMC4172584  PMID: 22034497
2.  Selected Approaches for Rational Drug Design and High Throughput Screening to Identify Anti-Cancer Molecules 
Structure-based modeling combined with rational drug design, and high throughput screening approaches offer significant potential for identifying and developing lead compounds with therapeutic potential. The present review focuses on these two approaches using explicit examples based on specific derivatives of Gossypol generated through rational design and applications of a cancer-specific-promoter derived from Progression Elevated Gene-3. The Gossypol derivative Sabutoclax (BI-97C1) displays potent anti-tumor activity against a diverse spectrum of human tumors. The model of the docked structure of Gossypol bound to Bcl-XL provided a virtual structure-activity-relationship where appropriate modifications were predicted on a rational basis. These structure-based studies led to the isolation of Sabutoclax, an optically pure isomer of Apogossypol displaying superior efficacy and reduced toxicity. These studies illustrate the power of combining structure-based modeling with rational design to predict appropriate derivatives of lead compounds to be empirically tested and evaluated for bioactivity. Another approach to cancer drug discovery utilizes a cancer-specific promoter as readouts of the transformed state. The promoter region of Progression Elevated Gene-3 is such a promoter with cancer-specific activity. The specificity of this promoter has been exploited as a means of constructing cancer terminator viruses that selectively kill cancer cells and as a systemic imaging modality that specifically visualizes in vivo cancer growth with no background from normal tissues. Screening of small molecule inhibitors that suppress the Progression Elevated Gene-3-promoter may provide relevant lead compounds for cancer therapy that can be combined with further structure-based approaches leading to the development of novel compounds for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3763986  PMID: 22931411
Progression Elevated Gene-3; Sabutoclax; Apogossypol; BI-97C1; Gossypol; AP-1; PEA3; ETV4; E1AF; c-fos; c-jun; Cancer Terminator Virus
3.  Interleukin-1 Receptor-Associated Kinase-2 (IRAK2) Is a Critical Mediator of Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) Stress Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64256.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress occurs when unfolded proteins accumulate in the lumen of the organelle, triggering signal transduction events that contribute either to cellular adaptation and recovery or alternatively to cellular dysfunction and death. ER stress has been implicated in numerous diseases. To identify novel modulators of ER stress, we undertook a siRNA library screen of the kinome, revealing Interleukin-1 Receptor-Associated Kinase-2 (IRAK2) as a contributor to unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling and ER stress-induced cell death. Knocking down expression of IRAK2 (but not IRAK1) in cultured mammalian cells suppresses ER stress-induced expression of the pro-apoptotic transcription factor CHOP and activation of stress kinases. Similarly, RNAi-mediated silencing of the IRAK family member Tube (but not Pelle) suppresses activation of stress kinase signaling induced by ER stress in Drosophila cells. The action of IRAK2 maps to the IRE1 pathway, rather than the PERK or ATF6 components of the UPR. Interestingly, ER stress also induces IRAK2 gene expression in an IRE1/XBP1-dependent manner, suggesting a mutually supporting amplification loop involving IRAK2 and IRE1. In vivo, ER stress induces Irak2 expression in mice. Moreover, Irak2 gene knockout mice display defects in ER stress-induced CHOP expression and IRE1 pathway signaling. These findings demonstrate an unexpected linkage of the innate immunity machinery to UPR signaling, revealing IRAK2 as a novel amplifier of the IRE1 pathway.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064256
PMCID: PMC3665826  PMID: 23724040
4.  Identification of Inhibitors of NOD1-Induced Nuclear Factor-κB Activation 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2011;2(10):780-785.
NOD1 (nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain 1) protein is a member of the NLR (NACHT and leucine rich repeat domain containing proteins) protein family, which plays a key role in innate immunity as a sensor of specific microbial components derived from bacterial peptidoglycans and induction of inflammatory responses. Mutations in NOD proteins have been associated with various inflammatory diseases that affect NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) activity, a major signaling pathway involved in apoptosis, inflammation, and immune response. A luciferase-based reporter gene assay was utilized in a high-throughput screening program conducted under the NIH-sponsored Molecular Libraries Probe Production Center Network program to identify the active scaffolds. Herein, we report the chemical synthesis, structure–activity relationship studies, downstream counterscreens, secondary assay data, and pharmacological profiling of the 2-aminobenzimidazole lead (compound 1c, ML130) as a potent and selective inhibitor of NOD1-induced NF-κB activation.
doi:10.1021/ml200158b
PMCID: PMC3193285  PMID: 22003428
NOD1; NF-κB activation; 2-aminobenzimidazole; hit-to-probe; ML130; MLPCN
5.  Role of Excitatory Amino Acid Transporter-2 (EAAT2) and Glutamate in Neurodegeneration: Opportunities for Developing Novel Therapeutics 
Journal of Cellular Physiology  2011;226(10):2484-2493.
Glutamate is an essential excitatory neurotransmitter regulating brain functions. Excitatory amino acid transporter (EAAT)-2 is one of the major glutamate transporters expressed predominantly in astroglial cells and is responsible for 90% of total glutamate uptake. Glutamate transporters tightly regulate glutamate concentration in the synaptic cleft. Dysfunction of EAAT2 and accumulation of excessive extracellular glutamate has been implicated in the development of several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Analysis of the 2.5-kb human EAAT2 promoter showed that NF-κB is an important regulator of EAAT2 expression in astrocytes. Screening of approximately 1,040 FDA-approved compounds and nutritionals led to the discovery that many β-lactam antibiotics are transcriptional activators of EAAT2 resulting in increased EAAT2 protein levels. Treatment of animals with ceftriaxone (CEF), a β-lactam antibiotic, led to an increase of EAAT2 expression and glutamate transport activity in the brain. CEF has neuroprotective effects in both in vitro and in vivo models based on its ability to inhibit neuronal cell death by preventing glutamate excitotoxicity. CEF increases EAAT2 transcription in primary human fetal astrocytes (PHFA) through the NF-κB signaling pathway. The NF-κB binding site at −272 position was critical in CEF-mediated EAAT2 protein induction. These studies emphasize the importance of transcriptional regulation in controlling glutamate levels in the brain. They also emphasize the potential utility of the EAAT2 promoter for developing both low and high throughput screening assays to identify novel small molecule regulators of glutamate transport with potential to ameliorate pathological changes occurring during and causing neurodegeneration.
doi:10.1002/jcp.22609
PMCID: PMC3130100  PMID: 21792905
6.  Discovery and characterization of 2-aminobenzimidazole derivatives as selective NOD1 inhibitors 
Chemistry & biology  2011;18(7):825-832.
NLR family proteins play important roles in innate immune response. NOD1 (NLRC1) activates various signaling pathways including NF-κB in response to bacterial ligands. Hereditary polymorphisms in the NOD1 gene are associated with asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and other disorders. Using a high throughput screening (HTS) assay measuring NOD1-induced NF-κB reporter gene activity, followed by multiple downstream counter-screens that eliminated compounds impacting other NF-κB pathways, 2-aminobenzimidazole compounds were identified that selectively inhibit NOD1. Mechanistic studies of a prototypical compound, Nodinitib-1 (ML130; CID-1088438), suggest these small molecules cause conformational changes of NOD1 in vitro and alter NOD1 subcellular targeting in cells. Altogether, this inaugural class of inhibitors provides chemical probes for interrogating mechanisms regulating NOD1 activity and tools for exploring the roles of NOD1 in various infectious and inflammatory diseases.
doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2011.06.009
PMCID: PMC3152441  PMID: 21802003
NOD1; NOD2; NLR; NF-κB; HTS
7.  Versatile Assays for High Throughput Screening for Activators or Inhibitors of Intracellular Proteases and Their Cellular Regulators 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7655.
Background
Intracellular proteases constitute a class of promising drug discovery targets. Methods for high throughput screening against these targets are generally limited to in vitro biochemical assays that can suffer many technical limitations, as well as failing to capture the biological context of proteases within the cellular pathways that lead to their activation.
Methods & Findings
We describe here a versatile system for reconstituting protease activation networks in yeast and assaying the activity of these pathways using a cleavable transcription factor substrate in conjunction with reporter gene read-outs. The utility of these versatile assay components and their application for screening strategies was validated for all ten human Caspases, a family of intracellular proteases involved in cell death and inflammation, including implementation of assays for high throughput screening (HTS) of chemical libraries and functional screening of cDNA libraries. The versatility of the technology was also demonstrated for human autophagins, cysteine proteases involved in autophagy.
Conclusions
Altogether, the yeast-based systems described here for monitoring activity of ectopically expressed mammalian proteases provide a fascile platform for functional genomics and chemical library screening.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007655
PMCID: PMC2764853  PMID: 19876397
8.  Identification of Inhibitors of NOD1-Induced Nuclear Factor-κB Activation 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2011;2(10):780-785.
NOD1 (nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain 1) protein is a member of the NLR (NACHT and leucine rich repeat domain containing proteins) protein family, which plays a key role in innate immunity as a sensor of specific microbial components derived from bacterial peptidoglycans and induction of inflammatory responses. Mutations in NOD proteins have been associated with various inflammatory diseases that affect NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) activity, a major signaling pathway involved in apoptosis, inflammation, and immune response. A luciferase-based reporter gene assay was utilized in a high-throughput screening program conducted under the NIH-sponsored Molecular Libraries Probe Production Center Network program to identify the active scaffolds. Herein, we report the chemical synthesis, structure–activity relationship studies, downstream counterscreens, secondary assay data, and pharmacological profiling of the 2-aminobenzimidazole lead (compound 1c, ML130) as a potent and selective inhibitor of NOD1-induced NF-κB activation.
doi:10.1021/ml200158b
PMCID: PMC3193285  PMID: 22003428
NOD1; NF-κB activation; 2-aminobenzimidazole; hit-to-probe; ML130; MLPCN

Results 1-8 (8)