The E3 ubiquitin ligase Siah regulates key cellular events that are central to cancer development and progression. A promising route to Siah inhibition is disrupting its interactions with adaptor proteins. However, typical of protein-protein interactions, traditional unbiased approaches to ligand discovery did not produce viable hits against this target, despite considerable effort and a multitude of approaches. Ultimately, a rational structure-based design strategy was successful for the identification of novel Siah inhibitors in which peptide binding drives specific covalent bond formation with the target. X-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry and functional data demonstrate that these peptide-mimetics are efficient covalent inhibitors of Siah and antagonize Siah-dependent regulation of Erk and Hif signaling in cell. The strategy proposed may result useful as a general approach to the design of peptide-based inhibitors of other protein-protein interactions.
YSA is an EphA2-targeting peptide that effectively delivers anti-cancer agents to prostate cancer tumors (1). Here, we report on how we increased the drug-like properties of this delivery system.
By introducing non-natural amino acids, we have designed two new EphA2 targeting peptides: YNH, where norleucine and homoserine replace the two methionine residues of YSA, and dYNH, where a D-tyrosine replaces the L-tyrosine at the first position of the YNH peptide. We describe the details of the synthesis of YNH and dYNH paclitaxel conjugates (YNH-PTX and dYNH-PTX) and their characterization in cells and in vivo.
dYNH-PTX showed improved stability in mouse serum and significantly reduced tumor size in a prostate cancer xenograft model and also reduced tumor vasculature in a syngeneic orthotopic allograft mouse model of renal cancer compared to vehicle or paclitaxel treatments.
This study reveals that targeting EphA2 with dYNH drug conjugates could represent an effective way to deliver anti-cancer agents to a variety of tumor types.
Overexpression of the EphA2 positively correlates with tumor malignancy and poor prognosis. For this reason, EphA2 is an attractive target for cancer cell specific drug delivery. In this study, we report on the development of dYNH, an EphA2 targeting peptide that when coupled to paclitaxel (PTX) has favorable pharmacological properties and possesses powerful anti-tumor activity in vivo. dYNH-PTX may allow for an expanded therapeutic index of paclitaxel as well as precluding the need for complex formulations and long infusion times.
Successful Influenza A viral replication requires both viral proteins and host cellular factors. Here we utilized a cellular assay to screen for small molecules capable of interfering with any of such necessary viral or cellular components. We employed an established reporter assay assessing influenza viral replication by monitoring the activity of co-expressed luciferase. We screened a diverse chemical compound library, resulting in the identification of compound 7, inhibiting a novel yet elusive target. Quantitative real-time PCR studies confirmed the dose dependent inhibitory activity of compound 7 in a viral replication assay. Furthermore, we showed that compound 7 was effective in rescuing high dose influenza infection in an in vivo mouse model. As oseltamivir-resistant influenza strains emerge, compound 7 could be further investigated as a possible novel scaffold for the development of anti-influenza agents acting on novel targets.
Influenza virus; Drug discovery; Ugi reaction; tetrazole formation
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.
Progression Elevated Gene-3; Sabutoclax; Apogossypol; BI-97C1; Gossypol; AP-1; PEA3; ETV4; E1AF; c-fos; c-jun; Cancer Terminator Virus
Membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) is a promising drug target in malignancy. The structure of MT1-MMP includes the hemopexin domain (PEX) that is distinct from and additional to the catalytic domain. Current MMP inhibitors target the conserved active site in the catalytic domain and, as a result, repress the proteolytic activity of multiple MMPs instead of MT1-MMP alone. In our search for non-catalytic inhibitors of MT1-MMP, we compared the pro-tumorigenic activity of wild-type MT1-MMP with a MT1-MMP mutant lacking PEX (ΔPEX). In contrast to MT1-MMP, ΔPEX did not support tumor growth in vivo, and its expression resulted in small fibrotic tumors that contained increased levels of collagen. Because these findings suggested an important role for PEX in tumor growth, we performed an inhibitor screen to identify small molecules targeting the PEX domain of MT1-MMP. Using the Developmental Therapeutics Program (NCI/NIH) virtual ligand screening compound library as a source and the X-ray crystal structure of PEX as a target, we identified and validated a novel PEX inhibitor. Low dosage, intratumoral injections of PEX inhibitor repressed tumor growth and caused a fibrotic, ΔPEX-like tumor phenotype in vivo. Together, our findings provide a preclinical proof-of-principle rationale for the development of novel and selective MT1-MMP inhibitors that specifically target the PEX domain.
MT1-MMP; hemopexin domain; small molecule; tumor growth; migration; type I collagen
The efficacy of anti-cancer drugs is often limited by their systemic toxicities and adverse side effects. We report that the EphA2 receptor is over-expressed preferentially in several human cancer cell lines compared to normal tissues and that an EphA2 targeting peptide (YSAYPDSVPMMS) can be effective in delivering anti-cancer agents to such tumors. Hence, we report on the synthesis and characterizations of a novel EphA2-targeting agent conjugated with the chemotherapeutic drug paclitaxel. We found that the peptide-drug conjugate is dramatically more effective than paclitaxel alone at inhibiting tumor growth in a prostate cancer xenograft model, delivering significantly higher levels of drug to the tumor site. We believe these studies open the way to the development of a new class of therapeutic compounds that exploit the EphA2 receptor for drug delivery to cancer cells.
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.
Human cancers are genetically and epigenetically heterogeneous and have the capacity to commandeer a variety of cellular processes to aid in their survival, growth and resistance to therapy. One strategy is to overexpress proteins that suppress apoptosis, such as the Bcl-2 family protein Mcl-1. The Mcl-1 protein plays a pivotal role in protecting cells from apoptosis and is overexpressed in a variety of human cancers.
Targeting Mcl-1 for extinction in these cancers, using genetic and pharmacological approaches, represents a potentially effectual means of developing new efficacious cancer therapeutics. Here we review the multiple strategies that have been employed in targeting this fundamental protein, as well as the significant potential these targeting agents provide in not only suppressing cancer growth, but also in reversing resistance to conventional cancer treatments.
We discuss the potential issues that arise in targeting Mcl-1 and other Bcl-2 anti-apoptotic proteins, as well problems with acquired resistance. The application of combinatorial approaches that involve inhibiting Mcl-1 and manipulation of additional signaling pathways to enhance therapeutic outcomes is also highlighted. The ability to specifically inhibit key genetic/epigenetic elements and biochemical pathways that maintain the tumor state represent a viable approach for developing rationally based, effective cancer therapies.
c-Jun N-terminal Kinases (JNKs) represent valuable targets in the development of new therapies. Present on the surface of JNK is a binding pocket for substrates and the scaffolding protein JIP1 in close proximity to the ATP binding pocket. We propose that bi-dentate compounds linking the binding energies of weakly interacting ATP and substrate mimetics could result in potent and selective JNK inhibitors. We describe here a bi-dentate molecule, 19, designed against JNK. 19 inhibits JNK kinase activity (IC50 = 18 nM; Ki = 1.5 nM) and JNK/substrate association in a displacement assay with a substrate peptide (compound 20; IC50 = 46 nM; Ki = 2 nM). Our data demonstrate that 19 targets for the ATP and substrate-binding sites on JNK concurrently. Finally, compound 19 not only inhibits JNK in a variety of cell-based experiments, but it elicits also in vivo activity where it is shown to improve glucose tolerance in diabetic mice.
In melanoma, the activation of pro-survival signaling pathways, such as the AKT and NF-κB pathways, are critical for tumor growth. We have recently reported that the AKT inhibitor BI-69A11 causes efficient inhibition of melanoma growth. Here, we show that in addition to its AKT inhibitory activity, BI-69A11 also targets the NF-κB pathway. In melanoma cell lines, BI-69A11 inhibited TNF-α-stimulated IKKα/β and IκB phosphorylation as well as NF-κB reporter gene expression. Furthermore, the effective inhibition of melanoma growth by BI-69A11 was attenuated upon NF-κB activation. Mechanistically, reduced NF-κB signaling by BI-69-A11 is mediated by the inhibition of sphingosine kinase 1, identified in a screen of 315 kinases. Significantly, we demonstrate that BI-69A11 is well-tolerated and orally active against UACC 903 and SW1 melanoma xenografts. Our results demonstrate that BI-69A11 inhibits both the AKT and NF-κB pathways and that the dual targeting of these pathways may be efficacious as a therapeutic strategy in melanoma.
Although B-RAF and MEK inhibitors have shown promise in the clinic against melanoma, the development of resistance to these singly targeted agents inevitably results. These observations underscore the plasticity of melanoma to chemotherapeutic agents and further emphasize the need to apply combinatorial targeting of signaling pathways as a strategy to maximize therapeutic response. The PI3K/AKT and NF-κB signaling pathways are altered in melanoma, presenting additional opportunities for target inhibition. Our studies demonstrate that the AKT inhibitor, BI-69A11, also inhibits the NF-κB pathway and that dual inhibition of both pathways is responsible for the anti-tumor efficacy of this molecule.
melanoma; AKT; NF-kB; targeted therapy
We report comprehensive structure activity relationship studies on a novel series of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitors. Intriguingly, the compounds have a dual inhibitory activity by functioning as both ATP and JIP mimetics, possibly by binding to both the ATP binding site and to the docking site of the kinase. Several of such novel compounds display potent JNK inhibitory profiles both in vitro and in cell.
Overexpression of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins is commonly related with tumor maintenance, progression, and chemoresistance. Inhibition of these anti-apoptotic proteins is an attractive approach for cancer therapy. Guided by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) binding assays, a series of 5, 5′ substituted compound 6a (Apogossypolone) derivatives was synthesized and identified pan-active antagonists of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins, with binding potency in the low micromolar to nanomolar range. Compound 6f inhibits the binding of BH3 peptides to Bcl-XL, Bcl-2 and Mcl-1 with IC50 values of 3.10, 3.12 and 2.05 μM, respectively. In a cellular assay, 6f potently inhibits cell growth in several human cancer cell lines in a dose-dependent manner. Compound 6f further displays in vivo efficacy in transgenic mice and demonstrated superior single-agent antitumor efficacy in a PPC-1 mouse xenograft model. Together with its negligible toxicity, compound 6f represents a promising drug lead for the development of novel apoptosis-based therapies for cancer.
In our continued attempts to identify novel and effective pan-Bcl-2 antagonists, we have recently reported a series of compound 2 (Apogossypol) derivatives, resulting in the chiral compound 4 (8r). We report here on synthesis and evaluation on its optically pure individual isomers. Compound 11 (BI-97C1), the most potent diastereoisomer of compound 4, inhibits the binding of BH3 peptides to Bcl-XL, Bcl-2, Mcl-1 and Bfl-1 with IC50 values of 0.31, 0.32, 0.20 and 0.62 μM, respectively. The compound also potently inhibits cell growth of human prostate cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma cell lines with EC50 values of 0.13, 0.56 and 0.049 μM, respectively and shows little cytotoxicity against bax−/−bak−/− cells. Compound 11 displays in vivo efficacy in transgenic mice models and also demonstrated superior single-agent antitumor efficacy in a prostate cancer mouse xenograft model. Therefore, compound 11 represents a potential drug lead for the development of novel apoptosis-based therapies against cancer.
A series of thiadiazole derivatives has been designed as potential allosteric, substrate competitive inhibitors of the protein kinase JNK. We report on the synthesis, characterization and evaluation of a series of compounds that resulted in the identification of potent and selective JNK inhibitors targeting its JIP-1 docking site.
Our focus in the past several years has been on the identification of novel and effective pan-Bcl-2 antagonists. We have recently reported a series of Apogossypolone (ApoG2) derivatives, resulting in the chiral compound (±) BI97D6. We report here the synthesis and evaluation on its optically pure (−) and (+) atropisomers. Compound (−) BI97D6 potently inhibits the binding of BH3 peptides to Bcl-XL, Bcl-2, Mcl-1, and Bfl-1 with IC50 values of 76 ± 5, 31 ± 2, 25 ± 8, and 122 ± 28 nM, respectively. In a cellular assay, compound (−) BI97D6 effectively inhibits cell growth in the PC-3 human prostate cancer and H23 human lung cancer cell lines with EC50 values of 0.22 ± 0.08 and 0.14 ± 0.02 μM, respectively. Similarly, compound (−) BI97D6 effectively induces apoptosis in the BP3 human lymphoma cell line in a dose-dependent manner. The compound also shows little cytotoxicity against bax−/−/bak−/− cells, suggesting that it kills cancers cells predominantly via a Bcl-2 pathway. Moreover, compound (−) BI97D6 displays in vivo efficacy in both a Bcl-2-transgenic mouse model and in a prostate cancer xenograft model in mice. Therefore, compound (−) BI97D6 represents a promising drug lead for the development of novel apoptosis-based therapies for cancer.
apoptosis; anti-apoptotic Bcl-2; cancer; apogossypolone; 5; 5′ apogossypolone derivatives
The E3 ubiquitin ligase Siah2 has been implicated in the regulation of the hypoxia response, as well as in the control of Ras, JNK/p38/NF-κB signaling pathways. Both Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and hypoxia pathways are important for melanoma development and progression, pointing to the possible use of Siah2 as target for treatment of this tumor type. In the present study, we have established a high-throughput electro-chemiluninescent-based assay in order to screen and identify inhibitors of Siah2 ubiquitin ligase activity. Of 1840 compounds screened, we identified and characterized menadione (MEN) as a specific inhibitor of Siah2 ligase activity. MEN attenuated Siah2 self-ubiquitination, and increased expression of its substrates PHD3 and Sprouty2, with concomitant decrease in levels of HIF-1α and pERK, the respective downstream effectors. MEN treatment no longer affected PHD3 or Sprouty2 in Siah-KO cells, pointing to its Siah-dependent effects. Further, MEN inhibition of Siah2 was not attenuated by free radical scavenger, suggesting it is ROS-independent. Significantly, growth of xenograft melanoma tumors was inhibited following the administration of MEN or its derivative. These findings reveal an efficient platform for the identification of Siah inhibitors while identifying and characterizing MEN as Siah inhibitor that attenuates hypoxia and MAPK signaling, and inhibits melanoma tumorigenesis.
Siah2; ubiquitin ligase; Meso-scale; melanoma; hypoxia; Ras
Guided by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) binding assays and computational docking studies, a series of 5, 5′ substituted Apogossypol derivatives was synthesized that resulted in potent pan-active inhibitors of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins. Compound 8r inhibits the binding of BH3 peptides to Bcl-XL, Bcl-2, Mcl-1 and Bfl-1 with IC50 values of 0.76, 0.32, 0.28 and 0.73 μM, respectively. The compound also potently inhibits cell growth of human lung cancer and BP3 human B-cell lymphoma cell lines with EC50 values of 0.33 and 0.66 μM, respectively. Compound 8r shows little cytotoxicity against bax−/−bak−/− cells, indicating that it kills cancers cells via the intented mechanism. The compound also displays in vivo efficacy in transgenic mice in which Bcl-2 is overexpressed in splenic B-cells. Together with its improved chemical, plasma and microsomal stability relative to compound 2 (Apogossypol), compound 8r represents a promising drug lead for the development of novel apoptosis-based therapies for cancer.
We report comprehensive structure activity relationship studies on a novel series of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitors. The compounds are substrate competitive inhibitors that bind to the docking site of the kinase. The reported medicinal chemistry and structure-based optimizations studies resulted in the discovery of selective and potent thiadiazole JNK inhibitors that displays promising in vivo activity in mouse models of insulin insensitivity.
A new series of 2-thioether-benzothiazoles has been synthesized and evaluated for JNK inhibition. The SAR studies led to the discovery of potent, allosteric JNK inhibitors with selectivity against p38.
JNK1; JNK2; JIP1; DJNKI; Allosteric kinase inbhibitors
Guided by a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance binding assays and computational docking studies, we synthesized a library of 5, 5’ substituted Apogossypol derivatives as potent Bcl-XL antagonists. Each compound was subsequently tested for its ability to inhibit Bcl-XL in an in vitro fluorescence polarization competition assay and to exert single-agent proapoptotic activity in human cancer cell lines. The most potent compound, BI79D10, binds to Bc1-XL, Bcl-2 and Mcl-1 with IC50 values of 190 nM, 360 nM and 520 nM, respectively, and potently inhibits cell growth in the H460 human lung cancer cell line with an EC50 value of 680 nM, which express high level of Bcl-2. BI79D10 also effectively induces apoptosis of the RS11846 human lymphoma cell line in a dose-dependent manner and shows little cytotoxicity against bax−/− bak−/− mouse embryonic fibroblast cells in which anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins lack a cytoprotective phenotype, implying that BI79D10 has little off-target effects. BI79D10 displays in vivo efficacy in transgenic mice in which Bcl-2 is over-expressed in splenic B-cells. Together with its improved plasma and microsomal stability relative to Apogossypol, BI79D10 represents a lead compound for the development of novel apoptosis-based therapies for cancer.
We report on the synthesis and evaluation of an indazole-spin-labeled compound that was designed as an effective chemical probe for second site screening against the protein kinase JNK using NMR-based techniques. We demonstrate the utility of the derived compound in detecting and characterizing binding events at the protein kinase docking site. In addition, we report on the NMR-based design and synthesis of a bidentate compound spanning both the ATP site and the docking site. We show that the resulting compound has nanomolar affinity for JNK despite the relatively weak affinities of the individual fragments that constitute it. The approach demonstrates that targeting the docking site of protein kinases represents a valuable yet unexplored avenue to obtain potent kinase inhibitors with increased selectivity.
We report on a general structure- and NMR- based approach to derive drug-like small molecule inhibitors of protein-protein interactions in a rapid and efficient manner. We demonstrate the utility of the approach by deriving novel and effective SMAC mimetics targeting the anti-apoptotic protein X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein (XIAP). The XIAP baculovirus IAP repeat 3 (Bir3) domain binds directly to the N-terminal of Caspase-9 and thus inhibiting programmed cell death. It has been shown that in the cell this interaction can be displaced by the protein second mitochondrial activator of caspases (SMAC) and that its N-terminal tetrapeptide region (NH2-AVPI, Ala-Val-Pro-Ile) is responsible for this activity. However, due to their limited cell-permeability, synthetic SMAC peptides are inefficient when tested in cultured cells, limiting their use as potential chemical tools or drug candidates against cancer cells. Hence, as an application, we report on the derivation of novel, selective, drug-like, cell permeable SMAC mimics with cellular activity.
Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, plays a key role in normal tissue homeostasis ensuring a proper balance between cell production and cell loss. Anti-apoptotic Bcl-2-family proteins are central regulators of the apoptotic pathway and due to their ability to confer tumor resistance to chemotherapy or radiation, have been recently validated as targets for cancer drug discovery. Since the crucial interaction between pro- and anti-apoptotic members occurs via a conserved region located on the surface of the protein, a viable way to inhibit the anti-death activity of Bcl-2 proteins is to design small molecule inhibitors that occupy this cavity. Here, we describe a structure-based approach that led to the identification of four small molecule inhibitors directed at the hydrophobic groove on the surface of the Bcl-2 family protein Bcl-xL. The compounds were characterized in a number of assays including in vitro binding using 15N-labeled protein, a displacement DELFIA assay, and a cell-based viability assay with human cancer cells.
Apoptosis; Bcl-2; Bcl-xL; structure-based; NMR; DELFIA
The Hap4 protein of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae activates the transcription of genes that are required for growth on nonfermentable carbon sources. Previous reports suggested the presence of a transcriptional activation domain within the carboxyl-terminal half of Hap4 that can function in the absence of Gcn5, a transcriptional coactivator protein and histone acetyltransferase. The boundaries of this activation domain were further defined to a region encompassing amino acids 359 to 476. Within this region, several clusters of hydrophobic amino acids are critical for transcriptional activity. This activity does not require GCN5 or two other components of the SAGA coactivator complex, SPT3 and SPT8, but it does require SPT7 and SPT20. Contrary to previous reports, a Hap4 fragment comprising amino acids 1 to 330 can support the growth of yeast on lactate medium, and when tethered to lexA, can activate a reporter gene with upstream lexA binding sites, demonstrating the presence of a second transcriptional activation domain. In contrast to the C-terminal activation domain, the transcriptional activity of this N-terminal region depends on GCN5. We conclude that the yeast Hap4 protein has at least two transcriptional activation domains with strikingly different levels of dependence on specific transcriptional coactivator proteins.