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1.  Complex regulation of γ-secretase: from obligatory to modulatory subunits 
γ-Secretase is a four subunit, 19-pass transmembrane enzyme that cleaves amyloid precursor protein (APP), catalyzing the formation of amyloid beta (Aβ) peptides that form amyloid plaques, which contribute to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis. γ-Secretase also cleaves Notch, among many other type I transmembrane substrates. Despite its seemingly promiscuous enzymatic capacity, γ-secretase activity is tightly regulated. This regulation is a function of many cellular entities, including but not limited to the essential γ-secretase subunits, nonessential (modulatory) subunits, and γ-secretase substrates. Regulation is also accomplished by an array of cellular events, such as presenilin (active subunit of γ-secretase) endoproteolysis and hypoxia. In this review we discuss how γ-secretase is regulated with the hope that an advanced understanding of these mechanisms will aid in the development of effective therapeutics for γ-secretase-associated diseases like AD and Notch-addicted cancer.
PMCID: PMC4285130  PMID: 25610395
γ-Secretase; Alzheimer’s disease; presenilin; β-amyloid; Notch; APP; Hif-1α
2.  PRSS1_p.Leu81Met mutation results in autoimmune pancreatitis 
AIM: To describe protease serine 1 (PRSS1) gene mutations in patients with autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) and the clinical features of AIP.
METHODS: Fourteen patients with AIP, 56 with other chronic pancreatitis, 254 with pancreatic cancer and 120 normal controls were studied. The mutations and polymorphisms of four genes involved with pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer, PRSS1, SPINK1, CFTR and MEN1, were sequenced. The pathogenic mechanism of AIP was investigated by comparing the wild-type expression system with the p.81Leu→Met mutant expression system.
RESULTS: Two novel mutations (p.81Leu→Met and p.91Ala→Ala) were found in PRSS1 gene from four patients with AIP. PRSS1_p.81Leu→Met mutation led to a trypsin display reduction (76.2%) combined with phenyl agarose (Ca2+ induced failure). Moreover, the ratio of trypsin/amylase in patients with AIP was higher than in the patients with pancreatic cancer and other pancreatitis. A large number of lymphocytes and plasma cells were found in the bile ducts accompanied by hyperplasia of myofibroblasts.
CONCLUSION: Autoimmune pancreatitis may be related to PRSS1 gene mutations.
PMCID: PMC3671086  PMID: 23745036
Autoimmune pancreatitis; Molecular mechanism; p.81Leu→Met; PRSS1
3.  Development of CBAP-BPyne, a probe for γ-secretase and presenilinase 
MedChemComm  2013;5(3):338-341.
γ-Secretase undergoes endoproteolysis of its catalytic subunit, presenilin (PS), to form PS N-terminal and C-terminal fragments (PS1-NTF/CTF), which generate the active site. PS endoproteolysis, catalyzed by presenilinase (PSase), remains poorly understood and requires novel chemical approaches for its mechanistic study. CBAP is a dual inhibitor that suppresses both γ-secretase and PSase activities. To probe γ-secretase and PSase activity in cells, we have synthesized the clickable photoaffinity probe CBAP-BPyne. We found that CBAP-BPyne specifically labels PS1-NTF and signal peptide peptidase (SPP). CBAP-BPyne is a valuable tool to directly study the mechanism of endoproteolysis.
PMCID: PMC4048150  PMID: 24914408
4.  Familial Alzheimer’s mutations within APPTM increase Aβ42 production by enhancing accessibility of ε-cleavage site 
Nature communications  2014;5:3037.
The high Aβ42/Aβ40 production ratio is a hallmark of familial Alzheimer’s disease, which can be caused by mutations in the amyloid precursor protein (APP). The C-terminus of Aβ is generated by γ-secretase cleavage within the transmembrane domain of APP (APPTM), a process that is primed by an initial ε-cleavage at either T48 or L49, resulting in subsequent production of Aβ42 or Aβ40, respectively. Here we solve the dimer structures of wild-type APPTM (AAPTM WT) and mutant APPTM (FAD mutants V44M) with solution NMR. The right-handed APPTM helical dimer is mediated by GXXXA motif. From the NMR structural and dynamic data, we show that the V44M and V44A mutations can selectively expose the T48 site by weakening helical hydrogen bonds and increasing hydrogen–deuterium exchange rate (kex). We propose a structural model in which FAD mutations (V44M and V44A) can open the T48 site γ-secretase for the initial ε-cleavage, and consequently shift cleavage preference towards Aβ42.
PMCID: PMC4082030  PMID: 24390130
5.  Development and Mechanism of γ-Secretase Modulators for Alzheimer Disease 
Biochemistry  2013;52(19):10.1021/bi400377p.
γ-Secretase is an aspartyl intramembranal protease composed of presenilin, Nicastrin, Aph1 and Pen2 with 19 transmembrane domains. γ-Secretase cleaves the amyloid precursor proteins (APP) to release Aβ peptides that likely play a causative role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease (AD). In addition, γ-secretase cleaves Notch and other type I membrane proteins. γ-Secretase inhibitors (GSIs) have been developed and used for clinical studies. However, clinical trials have shown adverse effects of GSIs that are potentially linked with non-discriminatory inhibition of Notch signaling, overall APP processing and other substrate cleavages. Therefore, these findings call for the development of disease modifying agents that target γ-secretase activity to lower Aβ42 production without blocking the overall processing of γ-secretase substrates. γ-Secretase modulators (GSMs) originally derived from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) display such characteristics and are the focus of this review. However, first generation GSMs have limited potential due to low potency and undesired neuropharmacokinetic properties. This generation of GSMs has been suggested to interact with the APP substrate, γ-secretase or both. To improve the potency and brain availability, second generation GSMs including NSAID-derived carboxylic acid and non-NSAID-derived heterocyclic chemotypes as well as natural product-derived GSMs have been developed. Animal studies of this generation of GSMs have shown encouraging preclinical profiles. Moreover, using potent GSM photoaffinity probes, multiple studies unambiguously have showed that both carboxylic acid and heterocyclic GSMs specifically target presenilin, the catalytic subunit of γ-secretase. In addition, two types of GSMs have distinct binding sites within the γ-secretase complex and exhibit different Aβ profiles. GSMs induce a conformational change of γ-secretase to achieve modulation. Various models are proposed and discussed. Despite the progress of GSM research, many outstanding issues remain to be investigated to achieve the ultimate goal of developing GSMs as effective AD therapies.
PMCID: PMC3796170  PMID: 23614767
6.  A Novel High-Throughput 1536-well Notch1 γ-Secretase AlphaLISA Assay 
The Notch pathway plays a crucial role in cell fate decisions through controlling various cellular processes. Overactive Notch signal contributes to cancer development from leukemias to solid tumors. γ-Secretase is an intramembrane protease responsible for the final proteolytic step of Notch that releases the membrane-tethered Notch fragment for signaling. Therefore, γ-secretase is an attractive drug target in treating Notch-mediated cancers. However, the absence of high-throughput γ-secretase assay using Notch substrate has limited the identification and development of γ-secretase inhibitors that specifically target the Notch signaling pathway. Here, we report on the development of a 1536-well γ-secretase assay using a biotinylated recombinant Notch1 substrate. We effectively assimilated and miniaturized this newly developed Notch1 substrate with the AlphaLISA detection technology and demonstrated its robustness with a calculated Z’ score of 0.66. We further validated this optimized assay by performing a pilot screening against a chemical library consisting of ~5,600 chemicals and identified known γ-secretase inhibitors e.g. DAPT, and Calpeptin; as well as a novel γ-secretase inhibitor referred to as KD-I-085. This assay is the first reported 1536-well AlphaLISA format and represents a novel high-throughput Notch1-γ-secretase assay, which provides an unprecedented opportunity to discover Notch-selective γ-secretase inhibitors that can be potentially used for the treatment of cancer and other human disorders.
PMCID: PMC3664143  PMID: 23448293
Alzheimer disease; AlphaLISA; cancer; γ-secretase; γ-secretase modulators; Notch signaling
7.  BMS-708,163 Targets Presenilin and Lacks Notch-Sparing Activity 
Biochemistry  2012;51(37):7209-7211.
The “Notch-sparing” γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI) BMS-708,163 (Avagacestat) is currently in phase II clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike previously failed GSIs, BMS-708,163 is considered to be a promising drug candidate due to its reported Notch-sparing activity for the inhibition of Aβ production over Notch cleavage. We now report that BMS-708,163 binds directly to PS1-NTF, and that binding can be competed by other pan-GSIs, but not by γ-secretase modulators (GSMs). Furthermore, BMS-708,163 blocks the binding of four different active site-directed GSI photoaffinity probes. We therefore report that this compound acts as a non-selective γ-secretase inhibitor.
PMCID: PMC3470910  PMID: 22931393
8.  Development of clickable active site-directed photoaffinity probes for γ-secretase 
We have developed clickable active site-directed photoaffinity probes for γ-secretase which incorporate a photoreactive benzophenone group and an alkyne handle for subsequent click chemistry mediated conjugation with azide-linked reporter tags for visualization (e.g., TAMRA-azide) or enrichment (e.g., biotin-azide) of labeled proteins. Specifically, we synthesized clickable analogs of L646 (2) and L505 (3) and validated specific labeling to presenilin 1 N-terminal fragment (PS1-NTF), the active site aspartyl protease component within the γ-secretase complex. Additionally we were able to also identify signal peptide peptidase (SPP) by Western blot analysis. Furthermore, we analyzed the photo-labeled proteins in an unbiased fashion by click chemistry with TAMRA-azide followed by in-gel fluorescence detection. This approach expands the utility of γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI) photoaffinity probes in that labeled proteins can be tagged with any number of azide-linked reporters groups using a single clickable photoaffinity probe for target pull down and/or fluorescent imaging applications.
PMCID: PMC3321063  PMID: 22418280
γ-Secretase; Photoaffinity labeling; Click chemistry; Clickable photoprobe; Alzheimer’s disease
9.  Piperidine acetic acid based γ-secretase modulators directly bind to Presenilin-1 
ACS chemical neuroscience  2011;2(12):705-710.
Aβ42 is believed to play a causative role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis. γ-Secretase modulators (GSMs) are actively being pursued as potential AD therapeutics because they selectively alter the cleavage site of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) to reduce the formation of Aβ42. However, the binding partner of acid based GSMs was unresolved until now. We have developed clickable photoaffinity probes based on piperidine acetic acid GSM-1 and identified PS1 as the target within the γ-secretase complex. Furthermore, we provide evidence that allosteric interaction of GSMs with PS1 results in a conformational change in the active site of the γ-secretase complex leading to the observed modulation of γ-secretase activity.
PMCID: PMC3249837  PMID: 22229075
10.  Piperidine Acetic Acid Based γ-Secretase Modulators Directly Bind to Presenilin-1 
ACS Chemical Neuroscience  2011;2(12):705-710.
Aβ42 is believed to play a causative role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis. γ-Secretase modulators (GSMs) are actively being pursued as potential AD therapeutics because they selectively alter the cleavage site of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) to reduce the formation of Aβ42. However, the binding partner of acid based GSMs was unresolved until now. We have developed clickable photoaffinity probes based on piperidine acetic acid GSM-1 and identified PS1 as the target within the γ-secretase complex. Furthermore, we provide evidence that allosteric interaction of GSMs with PS1 results in a conformational change in the active site of the γ-secretase complex leading to the observed modulation of γ-secretase activity.
PMCID: PMC3249837  PMID: 22229075
Alzheimer's disease; presenilin; γ-secretase modulator; GSM-1; click chemistry; photoaffinity labeling
11.  Stereo-controlled Synthesis of Novel Photoreactive γ-Secretase Inhibitors 
The stereoselective synthesis of novel photoreactive γ-secretase inhibitors 2 and 3 has been achieved. Key steps of the strategy involve preparation of α-N-Boc-epoxide 8 and formation of lactone 14 in a practical and stereo-controlled fashion. Compounds 2 and 3 are potent γ-secretase inhibitors and directly interact with presenilin-1, a catalytic subunit of γ-secretase.
PMCID: PMC3254698  PMID: 19097779
12.  Gamma-Secretase Inhibitors Abrogate Oxaliplatin-Induced Activation of the Notch-1 Signaling Pathway in Colon Cancer Cells Resulting in Enhanced Chemosensitivity 
Cancer research  2009;69(2):573-582.
Because Notch signaling is implicated in colon cancer tumorigenesis and protects from apoptosis by inducing pro-survival targets, it was hypothesized that inhibition of Notch signaling with gamma-secretase inhibitors (GSIs) may enhance the chemosensitivity of colon cancer cells. We first show that the Notch-1 receptor and its downstream target Hes-1 is upregulated with colon cancer progression, similar to other genes involved in chemoresistance. We then report that chemotherapy induces Notch-1, as oxaliplatin, fluorouracil (5-FU), or SN-38 (the active metabolite of irinotecan), induced Notch-1 Intracellular Domain (NICD) protein and activated Hes-1. Induction of NICD was caused by an increase in the gamma-secretase protein subunits, nicastrin and presenilin-1, as suppression of nicastrin with small interfering RNA (siRNA) prevented NICD induction after oxaliplatin. Subsequent, inhibition of Notch-1 signaling with a sulfonamide GSI (GSI34) prevented the induction of NICD by chemotherapy and blunted Hes-1 activation. Blocking the activation of Notch signaling with GSI34 sensitized cells to chemotherapy and was synergistic with oxaliplatin, 5-FU, and SN-38. This chemosensitization was mediated by Notch-1, as inhibition of Notch-1 with siRNA, enhanced chemosensitivity whereas overexpression of NICD increased chemoresistance. Downregulation of Notch signaling also prevented the induction of pro-survival pathways, most notably PI3K/Akt, after oxaliplatin. In summary, colon cancer cells may upregulate Notch-1 as a protective mechanism in response to chemotherapy. Therefore, combining GSIs with chemotherapy may represent a novel approach for treating metastatic colon cancers by mitigating the development of chemoresistance.
PMCID: PMC3242515  PMID: 19147571
Notch; oxaliplatin; colon; chemosensitivity; Akt
13.  Increased Expression of PS1 Is Sufficient to Elevate the Level and Activity of γ-Secretase In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28179.
Increase in the generation and deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) plays a central role in the development of Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Elevation of the activity of γ-secretase, a key enzyme required for the generation for Aβ, can thus be a potential risk factor in AD. However, it is not known whether γ-secretase can be upregulated in vivo. While in vitro studies showed that expression of all four components of γ-secretase (Nicastrin, Presenilin, Pen-2 and Aph-1) are required for upregulation of γ-secretase, it remains to be established as to whether this is true in vivo. To investigate whether overexpressing a single component of the γ-secretase complex is sufficient to elevate its level and activity in the brain, we analyzed transgenic mice expressing either wild type or familial AD (fAD) associated mutant PS1. In contrast to cell culture studies, overexpression of either wild type or mutant PS1 is sufficient to increase levels of Nicastrin and Pen-2, and elevate the level of active γ-secretase complex, enzymatic activity of γ-secretase and the deposition of Aβ in brains of mice. Importantly, γ-secretase comprised of mutant PS1 is less active than that of wild type PS1-containing γ-secretase; however, γ-secretase comprised of mutant PS1 cleaves at the Aβ42 site of APP-CTFs more efficiently than at the Aβ40 site, resulting in greater accumulation of Aβ deposits in the brain. Our data suggest that whereas fAD-linked PS1 mutants cause early onset disease, upregulation of PS1/γ-secretase activity may be a risk factor for late onset sporadic AD.
PMCID: PMC3226664  PMID: 22140537
14.  (Z)-N-{3-[(2-Chloro-1,3-thia­zol-5-yl)meth­yl]-1,3-thia­zolidin-2-yl­idene}cyanamide 
In the title compound, C8H7ClN4S2, the thia­zole ring is essentially planar [r.m.s. deviation = 0.0011 (2) Å] and conformation of the thia­zolidine ring is twisted on the C—C bond. The C=N bond has a Z configuration.
PMCID: PMC3238956  PMID: 22199805
15.  A Dimeric Smac/Diablo Peptide Directly Relieves Caspase-3 Inhibition by XIAP: Dynamic and Cooperative Regulation of XIAP by Smac/Diablo 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(42):30718-30727.
Caspase activation, the executing event of apoptosis, is under deliberate regulation. IAP proteins inhibit caspase activity whereas Smac/Diablo antagonizes IAP. XIAP, a ubiquitous IAP, can inhibit both caspase-9, the initiator caspase of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, and the downstream effector caspases, caspase-3 and caspase-7. Smac neutralizes XIAP inhibition of caspase-9 by competing for binding of the BIR3 domain of XIAP with caspase-9, whereas how Smac liberates effector caspases from XIAP inhibition is not clear. It is generally believed that binding of Smac with IAP generates a steric hindrance that prevents XIAP from inhibiting effector caspases, and therefore small molecule mimics of Smac are not able to reverse inhibition of the effector caspases. Surprisingly, we show here that binding of a dimeric Smac N-terminal peptide with the BIR2 domain of XIAP effectively antagonizes inhibition of caspase-3 by XIAP. Further, we defined the dynamic and cooperative interaction of Smac with XIAP: binding of Smac with the BIR3 domain anchors the subsequent binding of Smac with the BIR2 domain, which in turn attenuates the caspase-3-inhibitory function of XIAP. We also show that XIAP homotrimerizes via its C-terminal Ring domain, making its inhibitory activity towards caspase-3 more susceptible to Smac.
PMCID: PMC3202417  PMID: 17724022
16.  Modulation of γ-Secretase Reduces β-Amyloid Deposition in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease 
Neuron  2010;67(5):769-780.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized pathologically by the abundance of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. We synthesized over 1200 novel gamma-secretase modulator (GSM) compounds that reduced Abeta42 levels without inhibiting epsilon-site cleavage of APP and Notch, the generation of the APP and Notch intracellular domains, respectively. These compounds also reduced Abeta40 levels while concomitantly elevating levels of Abeta38 and Abeta37.
Immobilization of a potent GSM onto an agarose matrix quantitatively recovered Pen-2 and to a lesser degree PS-1 NTFs from cellular extracts. Moreover, oral administration (once daily) of another potent GSM to Tg 2576 transgenic AD mice displayed dose-responsive lowering of plasma and brain Abeta42; chronic daily administration led to significant reductions in both diffuse and neuritic plaques. These effects were observed in the absence of Notch-related changes (e.g. intestinal proliferation of goblet cells), which are commonly associated with repeated exposure to functional gamma-secretase inhibitors (GSIs).
PMCID: PMC2947312  PMID: 20826309
17.  Characterization of an atypical γ-secretase complex from hematopoietic origin 
Biochemistry  2010;49(13):2796-2804.
γ-Secretase is a widely expressed multi-subunit enzyme complex which is involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease and hematopoietic malignancies through its aberrant processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and Notch1, respectively. While γ-secretase has been extensively studied, there is a dearth of information surrounding the activity, composition, and function of γ-secretase expressed in distinct cellular populations. Here we show that endogenous γ-secretase complexes of hematopoietic origin are distinct from epithelial derived γ-secretase complexes. Hematopoietic γ-secretase has reduced activity for APP and Notch1 processing compared to epithelial γ-secretase. Characterization of the active complexes with small molecule affinity probes reveals that hematopoietic γ-secretase has an atypical subunit composition with significantly altered subunit stoichiometry. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these discrete complexes exhibit cell-line specific substrate selectivity suggesting a possible mechanism of substrate regulation. These data underscore the need for studying endogenous γ-secretase to fully understand of the biology of γ-secretase and its complexity as a molecular target for the development of disease therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2880330  PMID: 20178366
18.  A Miniaturized 1536-Well Format γ-Secretase Assay 
γ-Secretase is an aspartyl protease that cleaves multiple substrates including the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and the Notch proteins. Abnormal proteolysis of APP is involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and overactive Notch signaling plays an oncogenic role in a variety of cancers. γ-Secretase has emerged as a promising target for drug development in the treatment of AD and cancer. Assays with increased capacity for high-throughput screening would allow for quicker screening of chemical libraries and facilitate inhibitor development. We have developed a homogeneous time-resolved fluorescence (HTRF)-based assay that makes use of a novel biotinylated recombinant APP substrate and solubilized membrane preparation as the source of the γ-secretase enzyme. The assay was miniaturized to a 1536-well format and validated in a pilot screen against a library of ∼3,000 compounds. The overall assay performance was robust due to a calculated Z′ factor of 0.74 and its demonstrated ability to identify known γ-secretase inhibitors such as pepstatin A. This validated assay can readily be used for primary screening against large chemical libraries searching for novel inhibitors of γ-secretase activity that may represent potential therapeutics for AD and a variety of neoplasms.
PMCID: PMC3096545  PMID: 19715456
19.  NOTCH Pathway Blockade Depletes CD133-Positive Glioblastoma Cells and Inhibits Growth of Tumor Neurospheres and Xenografts 
Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio)  2010;28(1):5-16.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be critical for the engraftment and long-term growth of many tumors, including glioblastoma (GBM). The cells are at least partially spared by traditional chemotherapies and radiation therapies, and finding new treatments that can target CSCs may be critical for improving patient survival. It has been shown that the NOTCH signaling pathway regulates normal stem cells in the brain, and that GBMs contain stem-like cells with higher NOTCH activity. We therefore used low-passage and established GBM-derived neurosphere cultures to examine the overall requirement for NOTCH activity, and also examined the effects on tumor cells expressing stem cell markers. NOTCH blockade by γ-secretase inhibitors (GSIs) reduced neurosphere growth and clonogenicity in vitro, whereas expression of an active form of NOTCH2 increased tumor growth. The putative CSC markers CD133, NESTIN, BMI1, and OLIG2 were reduced following NOTCH blockade. When equal numbers of viable cells pretreated with either vehicle (dimethyl sulfoxide) or GSI were injected subcutaneously into nude mice, the former always formed tumors, whereas the latter did not. In vivo delivery of GSI by implantation of drug-impregnated polymer beads also effectively blocked tumor growth, and significantly prolonged survival, albeit in a relatively small cohort of animals. We found that NOTCH pathway inhibition appears to deplete stem-like cancer cells through reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis associated with decreased AKT and STAT3 phosphorylation. In summary, we demonstrate that NOTCH pathway blockade depletes stem-like cells in GBMs, suggesting that GSIs may be useful as chemotherapeutic reagents to target CSCs in malignant gliomas.
PMCID: PMC2878196  PMID: 19904829
Cancer Stem Cell; NOTCH; Glioblastoma; γ-Secretase inhibitor
20.  Ligand-dependent Notch signaling is involved in tumor initiation and tumor maintenance in pancreatic cancer 
Aberrant activation of the Notch signaling pathway is commonly observed in human pancreatic cancer, although the mechanisms for this activation have not been elucidated.
Experimental Design
A panel of 20 human pancreatic cancer cell lines was profiled for the expression of Notch pathway related ligands, receptors and target genes. Disruption of intracellular Notch signaling – either genetically by RNA interference targeting NOTCH1 or pharmacologically by means of the gamma secretase inhibitor GSI-18, was used for assessing requirement of Notch signaling in pancreatic cancer initiation and maintenance.
Striking overexpression of Notch ligand transcripts was detectable in the vast majority of pancreatic cancer cell lines, most prominently, JAGGED2 (18/20 cases; 90%) and DLL4 (10/20 cases; 50%). In two cell lines, genomic amplification of the DLL3 locus was observed, mirrored by overexpression of DLL3 transcripts. In contrast, coding region mutations of NOTCH1 or NOTCH2 were not observed. Genetic and pharmacological inhibition of Notch signaling mitigated anchorage independent growth in pancreatic cancer cells, confirming that sustained Notch activation is a requirement for pancreatic cancer maintenance. Further, transient pre-treatment of pancreatic cancer cells with GSI-18 resulted in depletion in the proportion of tumor-initiating aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)-expressing subpopulation, and was associated with inhibition of colony formation in vitro and xenograft engraftment in vivo, underscoring a requirement for the Notch-dependent ALDH-expressing cells in pancreatic cancer initiation.
Our studies confirm that Notch activation is almost always ligand-dependent in pancreatic cancer, and inhibition of Notch signaling is a promising therapeutic strategy in this malignancy.
PMCID: PMC2711441  PMID: 19258443
Pancreatic cancer; Notch; NOTCH-1; gamma secretase inhibitor; aldehyde dehydrogenase; tumor initiating cells
21.  Soluble oligomers of the intramembrane serine protease YqgP are catalytically active in the absence of detergents 
Biochemistry  2008;47(46):11920-11929.
Rhomboid, a polytopic membrane serine protease, represents a unique class of proteases that cleave substrates within the transmembrane domain. Elucidating the mechanism of this extraordinary catalysis comes with inherent challenges related to membrane-associated peptide hydrolysis. Here we established a system that allows expression and isolation of YqgP, a rhomboid homolog from Bacillus Subtilis, as a soluble protein. Intriguingly, soluble YqgP is able to specifically cleave a peptide substrate that contains the transmembrane domain of Spitz. Mutation of the catalytic dyad abolished protease activity, and substitution of another highly conserved residue Asn241 with Ala or Asp significantly reduced the catalytic efficiency of YqgP. We have identified the cleavage site that resides in the middle of the transmembrane domain of Spitz. Replacement of two residues that contribute the scissile bond by Ala did not eliminate cleavage, rather led to additional or alternative cleavages. Moreover, we have demonstrated that soluble YqgP exists as oligomers that are required for catalytic activity. These results suggest that soluble oligomers of MBP-YqgP form micelle-like structures that are able to retain the active conformation of the protease for catalysis. Therefore, this work not only provides a unique system to elucidate the reaction mechanism of rhomboid, but will also facilitate the characterization of other intramembrane proteases as well as non-protease membrane proteins.
PMCID: PMC2643057  PMID: 18937501
22.  An exo-cell assay for examining real-time γ-secretase activity and inhibition 
γ-Secretase is an aspartyl protease that cleaves multiple substrates that are involved in broad biological processes ranging from stem cell development to neurodegeneration. The investigation of γ-secretase has been limited by currently available assays that require genetic or biochemical manipulation in the form of substrate transfection or membrane preparation. Here we report an exo-cell assay that is capable of characterizing γ-secretase activity in any cellular system without limitation. Using a highly active, recombinant substrate this assay can quickly and easily ascertain the status of γ-secretase activity in cell systems and patient samples. We have applied this method to determine the activity of γ-secretase in primary cell samples where transfection and/or membrane isolation are not viable options. Importantly, it allows for the detection of real time γ-secretase activity after inhibitor or drug treatment. The application of this assay to determine the role of γ-secretase in physiological and pathological conditions will greatly facilitate our characterization of this complex protease and help in the development and evaluation of γ-secretase-targeted therapies in Alzheimer's disease or a variety of neoplasms.
PMCID: PMC3224971  PMID: 19490610
23.  Notch signaling activation in human embryonic stem cells is required for embryonic but not trophoblastic lineage commitment 
Cell stem cell  2008;2(5):461-471.
The Notch signaling pathway plays important roles in cell fate determination during embryonic development and adult life. In this study, we focus on the role of Notch signaling in governing cell fate choices in human embryonic stem (hES) cells. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches, we achieved both blockade and conditional activation of Notch signaling in several hES cell lines. We report here that activation of Notch signaling is required for undifferentiated hES cells to form the progeny of all three embryonic germ layers, but not trophoblast cells. In addition, transient Notch signaling pathway activation enhanced generation of hematopoietic cells from committed hES cells. These new insights into the roles of Notch in hES cell fate determination may help to efficiently direct hES cell differentiation into therapeutically relevant cell types.
PMCID: PMC2442567  PMID: 18462696
Notch; HES; ES cells; cell fate; pluripotency; self-renew; differentiation; trophoblast
24.  Gender- and Age-Dependent γ-Secretase Activity in Mouse Brain and Its Implication in Sporadic Alzheimer Disease 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5088.
Alzheimer disease (AD) is an age-related disorder. Aging and female gender are two important risk factors associated with sporadic AD. However, the mechanism by which aging and gender contribute to the pathogenesis of sporadic AD is unclear. It is well known that genetic mutations in γ-secretase result in rare forms of early onset AD due to the aberrant production of Aβ42 peptides, which are the major constituents of senile plaques. However, the effect of age and gender on γ-secretase has not been fully investigated. Here, using normal wild-type mice, we show mouse brain γ-secretase exhibits gender- and age-dependent activity. Both male and female mice exhibit increased Aβ42∶Aβ40 ratios in aged brain, which mimics the effect of familial mutations of Presenilin-1, Presenlin-2, and the amyloid precursor protein on Aβ production. Additionally, female mice exhibit much higher γ-secretase activity in aged brain compared to male mice. Furthermore, both male and female mice exhibit a steady decline in Notch1 γ-secretase activity with aging. Using a small molecule affinity probe we demonstrate that male mice have less active γ-secretase complexes than female mice, which may account for the gender-associated differences in activity in aged brain. These findings demonstrate that aging can affect γ-secretase activity and specificity, suggesting a role for γ-secretase in sporadic AD. Furthermore, the increased APP γ-secretase activity seen in aged females may contribute to the increased incidence of sporadic AD in women and the aggressive Aβ plaque pathology seen in female mouse models of AD. In addition, deceased Notch γ-secretase activity may also contribute to neurodegeneration. Therefore, this study implicates altered γ-secretase activity and specificity as a possible mechanism of sporadic AD during aging.
PMCID: PMC2661375  PMID: 19352431
25.  High-Throughput Identification of Inhibitors of Human Mitochondrial Peptide Deformylase 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2007;12(4):521-535.
The human mitochondrial peptide deformylase (HsPDF) provides a potential new target for broadly acting antiproliferative agents. To identify novel nonpeptidomimetic and nonhydroxamic acid–based inhibitors of HsPDF, the authors have developed a high-throughput screening (HTS) strategy using a fluorescence polarization (FP)–based binding assay as the primary assay for screening chemical libraries, followed by an enzymatic-based assay to confirm hits, prior to characterization of their antiproliferative activity against established tumor cell lines. The authors present the results and performance of the established strategy tested in a pilot screen of 2880 compounds and the identification of the 1st inhibitors. Two common scaffolds were identified within the hits. Furthermore, cytotoxicity studies revealed that most of the confirmed hits have antiproliferative activity. These findings demonstrate that the designed strategy can identify novel functional inhibitors and provide a powerful alternative to the use of functional assays in HTS and support the hypothesis that HsPDF inhibitors may constitute a new class of antiproliferative agent.
PMCID: PMC2234356  PMID: 17435169
human peptide deformylase; high-throughput screening; fluorescence polarization; antiproliferative agents

Results 1-25 (26)