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2.  Targeted Inhibition of the Molecular Chaperone Hsp90 Overcomes ALK Inhibitor Resistance in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Cancer discovery  2013;3(4):430-443.
EML4-ALK gene rearrangements define a unique subset of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients and the clinical success of the ALK inhibitor crizotinib in this population has become a paradigm for molecularly-targeted therapy. Here we show that the Hsp90 inhibitor ganetespib induced loss of EML4-ALK expression and depletion of multiple oncogenic signaling proteins in ALK-driven NSCLC cells, resulting in greater in vitro potency, superior antitumor efficacy and prolonged animal survival compared to crizotinib. In addition, combinatorial benefit was seen when ganetespib was used with other targeted ALK agents both in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, ganetespib overcame multiple forms of crizotinib resistance, including secondary ALK mutations, consistent with activity seen in a NSCLC patient with crizotinib-resistant disease. Cancer cells driven by ALK amplification and oncogenic rearrangements of ROS1 and RET kinases were also sensitive to ganetespib exposure. Taken together, these results highlight the therapeutic potential of ganetespib for ALK-driven NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC4086149  PMID: 23533265
Hsp90 inhibition; non-small cell lung cancer; anaplastic lymphoma kinase; ganetespib; crizotinib resistance
3.  Matrix Stiffness–Induced Myofibroblast Differentiation Is Mediated by Intrinsic Mechanotransduction 
The mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix have recently been shown to promote myofibroblast differentiation and lung fibrosis. Mechanisms by which matrix stiffness regulates myofibroblast differentiation are not fully understood. The goal of this study was to determine the intrinsic mechanisms of mechanotransduction in the regulation of matrix stiffness–induced myofibroblast differentiation. A well established polyacrylamide gel system with tunable substrate stiffness was used in this study. Megakaryoblastic leukemia factor-1 (MKL1) nuclear translocation was imaged by confocal immunofluorescent microscopy. The binding of MKL1 to the α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) gene promoter was quantified by quantitative chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. Normal human lung fibroblasts responded to matrix stiffening with changes in actin dynamics that favor filamentous actin polymerization. Actin polymerization resulted in nuclear translocation of MKL1, a serum response factor coactivator that plays a central role in regulating the expression of fibrotic genes, including α-SMA, a marker for myofibroblast differentiation. Mouse lung fibroblasts deficient in Mkl1 did not respond to matrix stiffening with increased α-SMA expression, whereas ectopic expression of human MKL1 cDNA restored the ability of Mkl1 null lung fibroblasts to express α-SMA. Furthermore, matrix stiffening promoted production and activation of the small GTPase RhoA, increased Rho kinase (ROCK) activity, and enhanced fibroblast contractility. Inhibition of RhoA/ROCK abrogated stiff matrix–induced actin cytoskeletal reorganization, MKL1 nuclear translocation, and myofibroblast differentiation. This study indicates that actin cytoskeletal remodeling–mediated activation of MKL1 transduces mechanical stimuli from the extracellular matrix to a fibrogenic program that promotes myofibroblast differentiation, suggesting an intrinsic mechanotransduction mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3488695  PMID: 22461426
lung fibrosis; transcription factor; α-smooth muscle actin
4.  Design, synthesis and initial biological evaluation of a novel pladienolide analog scaffold† 
MedChemComm  2011;2(9):904-908.
A novel and simplified synthetic scaffold based on pladienolide was designed using a consensus pharmacophore hypothesis. An initial target was synthesized and evaluated to examine the role of the 3-hydroxy group and the methyl groups present at positions 10, 16, 20, 22 in 1, on biological activity. We report the first totally synthetic analog of this macrolide that shows biological activity. Our novel synthetic strategy enables the rapid synthesis of other new analogs of pladienolide in order to develop selective anticancer lead compounds.
PMCID: PMC3171832  PMID: 21927710
5.  An Evolutionary Conserved Role for Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase in Behavioral Responses to Ethanol 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22636.
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (Alk) is a gene expressed in the nervous system that encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase commonly known for its oncogenic function in various human cancers. We have determined that Alk is associated with altered behavioral responses to ethanol in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, in mice, and in humans. Mutant flies containing transposon insertions in dAlk demonstrate increased resistance to the sedating effect of ethanol. Database analyses revealed that Alk expression levels in the brains of recombinant inbred mice are negatively correlated with ethanol-induced ataxia and ethanol consumption. We therefore tested Alk gene knockout mice and found that they sedate longer in response to high doses of ethanol and consume more ethanol than wild-type mice. Finally, sequencing of human ALK led to the discovery of four polymorphisms associated with a low level of response to ethanol, an intermediate phenotype that is predictive of future alcohol use disorders (AUDs). These results suggest that Alk plays an evolutionary conserved role in ethanol-related behaviors. Moreover, ALK may be a novel candidate gene conferring risk for AUDs as well as a potential target for pharmacological intervention.
PMCID: PMC3142173  PMID: 21799923
6.  Synthetic mRNA Splicing Modulator Compounds with In Vivo Anti-tumor Activity 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2009;52(22):6979-6990.
We report our progress on the development of new synthetic anti-cancer lead compounds that modulate the splicing of mRNA. We also report the synthesis evaluation of new biologically active ester and carbamate analogs. Further, we describe initial animal studies demonstrating the antitumor efficacy of compound 5 in vivo. Additionally, we report the enantioselective and diastereospecific synthesis of a new 1,3-dioxane series of active analogs. We confirm that compound 5 inhibits the splicing of mRNA in both cell-free nuclear extracts and in a cell-based dual-reporter mRNA splicing assay. In summary, we have developed totally synthetic novel spliceosome modulators as therapeutic lead compounds for a number of highly aggressive cancers. Future efforts will be directed toward the more complete optimization of these compounds as potential human therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2801547  PMID: 19877647
7.  Design and Synthesis of a Novel Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Template 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2009;17(9):3308-3316.
We report the design and synthesis of an insulin receptor kinase family-targeted inhibitor template using the inhibitor conformation observed in an IGF1R/inhibitor co-crystal complex by application of a novel molecular design approach that we have recently published. The synthesis of the template involves a one pot Opatz cyclization reaction that provides a versatile indole ester in good yields. We also developed the required chemistry to elaborate this template with additional substituents and have used this chemistry to prepare some initial compounds that show selective inhibition of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK).
PMCID: PMC2696309  PMID: 19362847
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase; ALK; de novo ligand design; kinase template synthesis; insulin receptor kinase family; inhibitor design
8.  Anaplastic lymphoma kinase: role in cancer pathogenesis and small-molecule inhibitor development for therapy 
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), a receptor tyrosine kinase in the insulin receptor superfamily, was initially identified in constitutively activated oncogenic fusion forms – the most common being nucleophosmin-ALK – in anaplastic large-cell lymphomas, and subsequent studies have identified ALK fusions in diffuse large B-cell lymphomas, systemic histiocytosis, inflammatory myofibroblastic tumors, esophageal squamous cell carcinomas and non-small-cell lung carcinomas. More recently, genomic DNA amplification and protein overexpression, as well as activating point mutations, of ALK have been described in neuroblastomas. In addition to those cancers for which a causative role for aberrant ALK activity is well validated, more circumstantial links implicate the full-length, normal ALK receptor in the genesis of other malignancies – including glioblastoma and breast cancer – via a mechanism of receptor activation involving autocrine and/or paracrine growth loops with the reported ALK ligands, pleiotrophin and midkine. This review summarizes normal ALK biology, the confirmed and putative roles of ALK in the development of human cancers and efforts to target ALK using small-molecule kinase inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC2780428  PMID: 19275511
anaplastic large-cell lymphoma; anaplastic lymphoma kinase; esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; glioblastoma; inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor; midkine; neuroblastoma; non-small-cell lung carcinoma; pleiotrophin; targeted cancer therapy; tyrosine kinase inhibitor
9.  Anti-tumor Compounds Based on a Natural Product Consensus Pharmacophore 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2008;51(19):6220-6224.
We report the design and highly enantioselective synthesis of a potent analog of the spliceosome inhibitor FR901464, based on a non-natural product scaffold. The design of this compound was facilitated by a pharmacophore hypothesis that assumed key interaction types that are common to FR901464 and an otherwise unrelated natural product (pladienolide). The synthesis allows for the preparation of numerous novel analogs. We present results on the in vitro activity for this compound against several tumor cell lines.
PMCID: PMC2701350  PMID: 18788726
10.  Activating mutations in ALK provide a therapeutic target in neuroblastoma 
Nature  2008;455(7215):975-978.
Neuroblastoma, an embryonal tumor of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system, accounts for approximately 15% of all deaths due to childhood cancer1. High-risk neuroblastomas, prevalent in the majority of patients, are rapidly progressive; even with intensive myeloablative chemotherapy, relapse is common and almost uniformly fatal2,3. Here we report the detection of previously unknown mutations in the ALK gene, which encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase, in 8% of primary neuroblastomas. Five non-synonymous sequence variations were identified in the kinase domain of ALK, of which three were somatic and two were germline. The most frequent mutation, F1174L, was also identified in three different neuroblastoma cell lines. ALK cDNAs encoding the F1174L and R1275Q variants, but not the wild-type ALK cDNA, transformed IL-3-dependent murine hematopoietic Ba/F3 cells to cytokine-independent growth. Ba/F3 cells expressing these mutations were sensitive to a small-molecule inhibitor of ALK, TAE6844. Furthermore, two human neuroblastoma cell lines harboring the F1174L mutation were sensitive to the inhibitor. Cytotoxicity was associated with increased levels of apoptosis as measured by TUNEL-labeling. shRNA-mediated knockdown of ALK expression in neuroblastoma cell lines with the F1174L mutation also resulted in apoptosis and impaired cell proliferation. Thus, activating alleles of the ALK receptor tyrosine kinase are present in primary neuroblastoma tumors and in established neuroblastoma cell lines, and confer sensitivity to ALK inhibition with small molecules, providing a molecular rationale for targeted therapy of this disease.
PMCID: PMC2587486  PMID: 18923525
11.  Rbm15 Modulates Notch-Induced Transcriptional Activation and Affects Myeloid Differentiation▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(8):3056-3064.
RBM15 is the fusion partner with MKL in the t(1;22) translocation of acute megakaryoblastic leukemia. To understand the role of the RBM15-MKL1 fusion protein in leukemia, we must understand the normal functions of RBM15 and MKL. Here, we show a role for Rbm15 in myelopoiesis. Rbm15 is expressed at highest levels in hematopoietic stem cells and at more moderate levels during myelopoiesis of murine cell lines and primary murine cells. Decreasing Rbm15 levels with RNA interference enhances differentiation of the 32DWT18 myeloid precursor cell line. Conversely, enforced expression of Rbm15 inhibits 32DWT18 differentiation. We show that Rbm15 alters Notch-induced HES1 promoter activity in a cell type-specific manner. Rbm15 inhibits Notch-induced HES1 transcription in nonhematopoietic cells but stimulates this activity in hematopoietic cell lines, including 32DWT18 and human erythroleukemia cells. Moreover, the N terminus of Rbm15 coimmunoprecipitates with RBPJκ, a critical factor in Notch signaling, and the Rbm15 N terminus has a dominant negative effect, impairing activation of HES1 promoter activity by full-length-Rbm15. Thus, Rbm15 is differentially expressed during hematopoiesis and may act to inhibit myeloid differentiation in hematopoietic cells via a mechanism that is mediated by stimulation of Notch signaling via RBPJκ.
PMCID: PMC1899951  PMID: 17283045
12.  Acute Myeloid Leukemia-Associated Mkl1 (Mrtf-a) Is a Key Regulator of Mammary Gland Function†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(15):5809-5826.
Transcription of immediate-early genes—as well as multiple genes affecting muscle function, cytoskeletal integrity, apoptosis control, and wound healing/angiogenesis—is regulated by serum response factor (Srf). Extracellular signals regulate Srf in part via a pathway involving megakaryoblastic leukemia 1 (Mkl1, also known as myocardin-related transcription factor A [Mrtf-a]), which coactivates Srf-responsive genes downstream of Rho GTPases. Here we investigate Mkl1 function using gene targeting and show the protein to be essential for the physiologic preparation of the mammary gland during pregnancy and the maintenance of lactation. Lack of Mkl1 causes premature involution and impairs expression of Srf-dependent genes in the mammary myoepithelial cells, which control milk ejection following oxytocin-induced contraction. Despite the importance of Srf in multiple transcriptional pathways and widespread Mkl1 expression, the spectrum of abnormalities associated with Mkl1 absence appears surprisingly restricted.
PMCID: PMC1592762  PMID: 16847333
13.  Megakaryoblastic Leukemia 1, a Potent Transcriptional Coactivator for Serum Response Factor (SRF), Is Required for Serum Induction of SRF Target Genes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(18):6597-6608.
Megakaryoblastic leukemia 1 (MKL1) is a myocardin-related transcription factor that we found strongly activated serum response element (SRE)-dependent reporter genes through its direct binding to serum response factor (SRF). The c-fos SRE is regulated by mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphorylation of ternary complex factor (TCF) but is also regulated by a RhoA-dependent pathway. The mechanism of this pathway is unclear. Since MKL1 (also known as MAL, BSAC, and MRTF-A) is broadly expressed, we assessed its role in serum induction of c-fos and other SRE-regulated genes with a dominant negative MKL1 mutant (DN-MKL1) and RNA interference (RNAi). We found that DN-MKL1 and RNAi specifically blocked SRE-dependent reporter gene activation by serum and RhoA. Complete inhibition by RNAi required the additional inhibition of the related factor MKL2 (MRTF-B), showing the redundancy of these factors. DN-MKL1 reduced the late stage of serum induction of endogenous c-fos expression, suggesting that the TCF- and RhoA-dependent pathways contribute to temporally distinct phases of c-fos expression. Furthermore, serum induction of two TCF-independent SRE target genes, SRF and vinculin, was nearly completely blocked by DN-MKL1. Finally, the RBM15-MKL1 fusion protein formed by the t(1;22) translocation of acute megakaryoblastic leukemia had a markedly increased ability to activate SRE reporter genes, suggesting that its activation of SRF target genes may contribute to leukemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC193697  PMID: 12944485
14.  Nucleophosmin-Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase of Large-Cell Anaplastic Lymphoma Is a Constitutively Active Tyrosine Kinase That Utilizes Phospholipase C-γ To Mediate Its Mitogenicity 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(12):6951-6961.
Large-cell anaplastic lymphoma is a subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma characterized by the expression of CD30. More than half of these lymphomas have a chromosomal translocation, t(2;5), that leads to the expression of a hybrid protein comprised of the nucleolar phosphoprotein nucleophosmin (NPM) and the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK). Here we show that transfection of the constitutively active tyrosine kinase NPM-ALK into Ba/F3 and Rat-1 cells leads to a transformed phenotype. Oncogenic tyrosine kinases transform cells by activating the mitogenic signal transduction pathways, e.g., by binding and activating SH2-containing signaling molecules. We found that NPM-ALK binds most specifically to the SH2 domains of phospholipase C-γ (PLC-γ) in vitro. Furthermore, we showed complex formation of NPM-ALK and PLC-γ in vivo by coimmunoprecipitation experiments in large-cell anaplastic lymphoma cells. This complex formation leads to the tyrosine phosphorylation and activation of PLC-γ, which can be corroborated by enhanced production of inositol phosphates (IPs) in NPM-ALK-expressing cells. By phosphopeptide competition experiments, we were able to identify the tyrosine residue on NPM-ALK responsible for interaction with PLC-γ as Y664. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we constructed a comprehensive panel of tyrosine-to-phenylalanine NPM-ALK mutants, including NPM-ALK(Y664F). NPM-ALK(Y664F), when transfected into Ba/F3 cells, no longer forms complexes with PLC-γ or leads to PLC-γ phosphorylation and activation, as confirmed by low IP levels in these cells. Most interestingly, Ba/F3 and Rat-1 cells expressing NPM-ALK(Y664F) also show a biological phenotype in that they are not stably transformed. Overexpression of PLC-γ can partially rescue the proliferative response of Ba/F3 cells to the NPM-ALK(Y664F) mutant. Thus, PLC-γ is an important downstream target of NPM-ALK that contributes to its mitogenic activity and is likely to be important in the molecular pathogenesis of large-cell anaplastic lymphomas.
PMCID: PMC109278  PMID: 9819383

Results 1-14 (14)