RAS proteins require membrane association for their biological activity, making this association a logical target for anti-RAS therapeutics. Lipid modification of RAS proteins by a farnesyl isoprenoid is an obligate step in that association, and is an enzymatic process. Accordingly, farnesyltransferase inhibitors (FTIs) were developed as potential anti-RAS drugs. The lack of efficacy of FTIs as anti-cancer drugs was widely seen as indicating that blocking RAS membrane association was a flawed approach to cancer treatment. However, a deeper understanding of RAS modification and trafficking has revealed that this was an erroneous conclusion. In the presence of FTIs, KRAS and NRAS, which are the RAS isoforms most frequently mutated in cancer, become substrates for alternative modification, can still associate with membranes, and can still function. Thus, FTIs failed not because blocking RAS membrane association is an ineffective approach, but because FTIs failed to accomplish that task. Recent findings regarding RAS isoform trafficking and the regulation of RAS subcellular localization have rekindled interest in efforts to target these processes. In particular, improved understanding of the palmitoylation/depalmitoylation cycle that regulates RAS interaction with the plasma membrane, endomembranes and cytosol, and of the potential importance of RAS chaperones, have led to new approaches. Efforts to validate and target other enzymatically regulated post-translational modifications are also ongoing. In this review, we revisit lessons learned, describe the current state of the art, and highlight challenging but promising directions to achieve the goal of disrupting RAS membrane association and subcellular localization for anti-RAS drug development.
Despite a high degree of structural homology and shared exchange factors, effectors and GTPase activating proteins, a large body of evidence suggests functional heterogeneity among Ras isoforms. One aspect of Ras biology that may explain this heterogeneity is the differential subcellular localizations driven by the C-terminal hypervariable regions of Ras proteins. Spatial heterogeneity has been documented at the level of organelles: palmitoylated Ras isoforms (H-Ras and N-Ras) localize on the Golgi apparatus whereas K-Ras4B does not. We tested the hypothesis that spatial heterogeneity also exists at the sub-organelle level by studying the localization of differentially palmitoylated Ras isoforms within the Golgi apparatus. Using confocal, live cell fluorescent imaging and immunogold electron microscopy we found that, whereas the doubly palmitoylated H-Ras is distributed throughout the Golgi stacks, the singly palmitoylated N-Ras is polarized with a relative paucity of expression on the trans Golgi. Using palmitoylation mutants we show that the different sub-Golgi distributions of the Ras proteins are a consequence of their differential degree of palmitoylation. Thus, the acylation state of Ras proteins controls not only their distribution between the Golgi apparatus and the plasma membrane but also their distribution within the Golgi stacks.
Golgi membrane localization; GTPases; Ras; palmitoylation; confocal imaging; immunogold electron microscopy
Brain metastases (BM) from primary breast cancer can arise despite use of systemic therapies that provide excellent extracranial disease control. Local modalities for treating BM include surgery, whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT), and stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). We sought to determine the benefits of SRS for management of BM arising from different biologic breast cancer subtypes. We reviewed records of 131 patients who received SRS for breast cancer BM between 2001 and 2013. Survival was estimated by the Kaplan–Meier method. Effects of tumor biology, number and location of lesions, and number of SRS sessions on survival were evaluated by Cox proportional hazards regression. Of the 122 patients with subtypes available, 41 patients (31 %) were classified as estrogen receptor positive/HER2 negative (ER+HER2−); 30 patients (23 %), ER+HER2+; 23 patients (18 %), ER−HER2+; and 28 patients (21 %), ER−HER2− (or triple negative breast cancer, TNBC). Median age at first SRS was 50 years. Median overall survival for ER+HER2−, ER+HER2+, ER−HER2+, and TNBC was 16, 26, 23, and 7 months, respectively (p < 0.001 for difference between groups). Patients with TNBC had the shortest time to retreatment with WBRT or SRS or death with hazard ratio of 3.12 (p < 0.001) compared to ER+HER2−. In all subtypes other than TNBC, SRS can provide meaningful control of BM even in the setting of multiple lesions and may be worth repeating for new lesions that develop metachronously. For patients with TNBC, prognosis is guarded following SRS, and there is an urgent need to develop more effective treatment strategies.
Brain metastases; Stereotactic radiosurgery; Whole brain radiation
Metabolic labeling with tritiated palmitate is a direct method for monitoring post-translational modification of Ras proteins with this fatty acid. Advances in intensifying screens have allowed for the easy visualization of tritium without the need for extended exposure times. While more energetic radioisotopes are easier to visualize, the lack of commercial source and need for shielding make them more difficult to work with. Since radiolabeled palmitate is directly incorporated into Ras, its loss can be monitored by traditional pulse-chase experiments that cannot be accomplished with the method of acyl exchange chemistry. As such, tritiated palmitate remains a readily accessible and direct method for monitoring the palmitoylation status of Ras proteins under a multitude of conditions.
Ras; palmitoylation; pulse-chase; tritium; Transcreen
Ras GTPases are tethered to cellular membranes by a farnesyl lipid that
modifies a C-terminal cysteine. Among the ways Ras traffics between membranes is
via fluid phase diffusion, suggesting that a cytosolic chaperone might be needed
to shield the farnesyl lipid during transport. PDE6δ is now revealed to
be a farnesyl-binding Ras chaperone that facilitates its trafficking and
N-Ras is one member of a family of oncoproteins that are commonly mutated in cancer. Activating mutations in N-Ras occur in a subset of colorectal cancers, but little in known about how the mutant protein contributes to onset and progression of the disease. Using genetically engineered mice, we find that mutant N-Ras strongly promotes tumorigenesis in the context of inflammation. The pro-tumorigenic nature of mutant N-Ras is related to its anti-apoptotic function, which is mediated by activation of a non-canonical MAPK pathway that signals through Stat3. As a result, inhibition of MEK selectively induces apoptosis in autochthonous colonic tumors expressing mutant N-Ras. The translational significance of this finding is highlighted by our observation that NRAS mutation correlates with a less favorable clinical outcome for colorectal cancer patients. These data demonstrate for the first time the important role that N-Ras plays in colorectal cancer.\
Ras; colorectal cancer; MAPK; Stat3
Ras proteins are monomeric GTPases that act as binary molecular switches to regulate a wide range of cellular processes. The exchange of GTP for GDP on Ras is regulated by guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) and GTPase activating proteins (GAPs), which regulate the activation state of Ras without covalently modifying it. In contrast, post-translational modifications (PTMs) of Ras proteins direct them to various cellular membranes and, in some cases, modulate GTP–GDP exchange. Important Ras PTMs include the constitutive and irreversible remodelling of its C-terminal CAAX motif by farnesylation, proteolysis and methylation, reversible palmitoylation, and conditional modifications including phosphorylation, peptidyl-proly isomerisation, mono- and di-ubiquitination, nitrosylation, ADP ribosylation and glucosylation.
RAS is the most frequently mutated oncogene in human cancers. Despite decades of effort, anti-RAS therapies have remained elusive. Isoprenylcysteine carboxylmethyltransferase (ICMT) methylates RAS and other CaaX-containing proteins, but its potential as a target for cancer therapy has not been fully evaluated. We crossed a Pdx1-Cre;LSL-KrasG12D mouse, which is a model of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), with a mouse harboring a floxed allele of Icmt. Surprisingly, we found that ICMT deficiency dramatically accelerated the development and progression of neoplasia. ICMT-deficient pancreatic ductal epithelial cells had a slight growth advantage and were resistant to premature senescence by a mechanism that involved suppression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A (p16INK4A) expression. ICMT deficiency precisely phenocopied Notch1 deficiency in the Pdx1-Cre;LSL-KrasG12D model by exacerbating pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias, promoting facial papillomas, and derepressing Wnt signaling. Silencing ICMT in human osteosarcoma cells decreased Notch1 signaling in response to stimulation with cell-surface ligands. Additionally, targeted silencing of Ste14, the Drosophila homolog of Icmt, resulted in defects in wing development, consistent with Notch loss of function. Our data suggest that ICMT behaves like a tumor suppressor in PDA because it is required for Notch1 signaling.
The Ras association and PH domains of RIAM function as a proximity detector for activated Rap1 and PI(4,5)P2.
Adaptive immunity depends on lymphocyte adhesion that is mediated by the integrin lymphocyte functional antigen 1 (LFA-1). The small guanosine triphosphatase Rap1 regulates LFA-1 adhesiveness through one of its effectors, Rap1-interacting adapter molecule (RIAM). We show that RIAM was recruited to the lymphocyte plasma membrane (PM) through its Ras association (RA) and pleckstrin homology (PH) domains, both of which were required for lymphocyte adhesion. The N terminus of RIAM inhibited membrane translocation. In vitro, the RA domain bound both Rap1 and H-Ras with equal but relatively low affinity, whereas in vivo only Rap1 was required for PM association. The PH domain bound phosphoinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2) and was responsible for the spatial distribution of RIAM only at the PM of activated T cells. We determined the crystal structure of the RA and PH domains and found that, despite an intervening linker of 50 aa, the two domains were integrated into a single structural unit, which was critical for proper localization to the PM. Thus, the RA-PH domains of RIAM function as a proximity detector for activated Rap1 and PI(4,5)P2.
A cycle of palmitoylation/depalmitoylation of H-Ras mediates bidirectional trafficking between the Golgi apparatus and the plasma membrane but nothing is known about how this cycle is regulated. We show that the prolyl isomerase (PI) FKBP12 binds to H-Ras in a palmitoylation-dependent fashion and promotes depalmitoylation. A variety of inhibitors of the PI activity of FKBP12, including FK506, rapamycin and cycloheximide, increase steady-state palmitoylation. FK506 inhibits retrograde trafficking of H-Ras from the plasma membrane to the Golgi in a proline 179-dependent fashion, augments early GTP-loading of Ras in response to growth factors, and promotes H-Ras dependent neurite outgrowth from PC12 cells. These data demonstrate that FKBP12 regulates H-Ras trafficking by promoting depalmitoylation through cis-trans isomerization of a peptidyl-prolyl bond in proximity to the palmitoylated cysteines.
Proteins that end with a CAAX sequence are targeted to cellular membranes by a series of posttranslational modifications that include prenylation, proteolysis, and carboxyl methylation. Two prenyltransferases modify CAAX proteins: farnesyltransferase and geranylgeranyltransferase type I (GGTase-I). Rho family GTPases that control the actin cytoskeleton and are therefore critical to inflammatory cell function are substrates for GGTase-I. In this issue of the JCI, Khan et al. examined mice in which GGTase-I was conditionally deleted in macrophages. Rather than obtunded cells, the authors found activated Rho proteins in fully functional macrophages that hypersecreted inflammatory cytokines and induced an erosive, inflammatory arthritis. This surprising result calls into question the role of protein geranylgeranylation in inflammatory cell signaling.
In analyzing the sequence tags for mutant mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell lines in BayGenomics (a mouse gene-trapping resource), we identified a novel gene, Agpat6, with sequence similarities to previously characterized glycerolipid acyltransferases. Agpat6’s closest family member is another novel gene that we have provisionally designated Agpat8. Both Agpat6 and Agpat8 are conserved from plants, nematodes, and flies to mammals. AGPAT6, which is predicted to contain multiple membrane-spanning helices, is found exclusively within the endoplasmic reticulum in mammalian cells. To gain insights into the in vivo importance of Agpat6, we used the Agpat6 ES cell line from BayGenomics to create Agpat6-deficient (Agpat6−/−) mice. Agpat6−/− mice lacked full-length Agpat6 transcripts, as judged by northern blots. One of the most striking phenotypes of Agpat6−/− mice was a defect in lactation. Pups nursed by Agpat6−/− mothers die perinatally. Normally, Agpat6 is expressed at high levels in the mammary epithelium of breast tissue, but not in the surrounding adipose tissue. Histological studies revealed that the aveoli and ducts of Agpat6−/− lactating mammary glands were underdeveloped, and there was a dramatic decrease in size and number of lipid droplets within mammary epithelial cells and ducts. Also, the milk from Agpat6−/− mice was markedly depleted in diacylglycerols and triacylglycerols. Thus, we identified a novel glycerolipid acyltransferase of the endoplasmic reticulum, AGPAT6, which is crucial for the production of milk fat by the mammary gland.
LPAAT; acyltransferase; transacylase; milk fat
Ras proteins associate with cellular membranes as a consequence of a series of posttranslational modifications of a C-terminal CAAX sequence that include prenylation and are thought to be required for biological activity. In Drosophila melanogaster, Ras1 is required for eye development. We found that Drosophila Ras1 is inefficiently prenylated as a consequence of a lysine in the A1 position of its CAAX sequence such that a significant pool remains soluble in the cytosol. We used mosaic analysis with a repressible cell marker (MARCM) to assess if various Ras1 transgenes could restore photoreceptor fate to eye disc cells that are null for Ras1. Surprisingly, we found that whereas Ras1 with an enhanced efficiency of membrane targeting could not rescue the Ras1 null phenotype, Ras1 that was not at all membrane targeted by virtue of a mutation of the CAAX cysteine was able to fully rescue eye development. In addition, constitutively active Ras112V,C186S not targeted to membranes produced a hypermorphic phenotype and stimulated mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling in S2 cells. We conclude that the membrane association of Drosophila Ras1 is not required for eye development.
Signal transduction along the Ras/MAPK pathway has been generally thought to take place at the plasma membrane. It is now evident that the plasma membrane is not the only platform capable of Ras/MAPK signal induction. Fusion of Ras with green fluorescent protein and the development of genetically encoded fluorescent probes for Ras activation have revealed signaling events on a variety of intracellular membranes including endosomes, the Golgi apparatus and the endoplasmic reticulum. Thus, the Ras/MAPK pathway is spatially compartmentalized within cells and this may afford greater complexity of signal output.
The Rnd proteins (Rnd1, Rnd2 and Rnd3/RhoE) form a distinct branch of the Rho family of small GTPases. Altered Rnd3 expression causes changes in cytoskeletal organization and cell cycle progression. Rnd3 functions to decrease RhoA activity, but how Rnd3 itself is regulated to cause these changes is still under investigation. Unlike other Rho family proteins, Rnd3 is regulated not by GTP/GDP cycling, but at the level of expression and by posttranslational modifications such as prenylation and phosphorylation. We show here that, upon PKC agonist stimulation, Rnd3 undergoes an electrophoretic mobility shift and its subcellular localization becomes enriched at internal membranes. These changes are blocked by inhibition of conventional PKC isoforms and do not occur in PKCα-null cells or to a nonphosphorylatable mutant of Rnd3. We further show that PKCα directly phosphorylates Rnd3 in an in vitro kinase assay. Additionally, we provide evidence that the phosphorylation status of Rnd3 has a direct effect on its ability to block signaling from the Rho-ROCK pathway. These results identify an additional mechanism of regulation and provide clarification of how Rnd3 modulates Rho signaling to alter cytoskeletal organization.
GTPase; phosphorylation; kinase; plasma membrane; stress fibers
The Ras GTPases act as binary switches for signal transduction pathways that are important for growth regulation and tumorigenesis. Despite the biochemical simplicity of this switch, Ras proteins control multiple pathways, and the functions of the four mammalian Ras proteins are not overlapping. This raises an important question—how does a Ras protein selectively regulate a particular activity? One recently emerging model suggests that a single Ras protein can control different functions by acting in distinct cellular compartments. A critical test of this model is to identify pathways that are selectively controlled by Ras when it is localized to a particular compartment. A recent study has examined Ras signaling in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, which expresses only one Ras protein that controls two separate evolutionarily conserved pathways. This study demonstrates that whereas Ras localized to the plasma membrane selectively regulates a MAP kinase pathway to mediate mating pheromone signaling, Ras localized to the endomembrane activates a Cdc42 pathway to mediate cell polarity and protein trafficking. This study has provided unambiguous evidence for compartmentalized signaling of Ras.
signal transduction; oncogene; cancer; Rho; GTPase; lipid rafts; S. pombe; Prenylation
Rap1 is a small GTPase that modulates adhesion of T cells by regulating inside-out signaling through LFA-1. The bulk of Rap1 is expressed in a GDP-bound state on intracellular vesicles. Exocytosis of these vesicles delivers Rap1 to the plasma membrane, where it becomes activated. We report here that phospholipase D1 (PLD1) is expressed on the same vesicular compartment in T cells as Rap1 and is translocated to the plasma membrane along with Rap1. Moreover, PLD activity is required for both translocation and activation of Rap1. Increased T-cell adhesion in response to stimulation of the antigen receptor depended on PLD1. C3G, a Rap1 guanine nucleotide exchange factor located in the cytosol of resting cells, translocated to the plasma membranes of stimulated T cells. Our data support a model whereby PLD1 regulates Rap1 activity by controlling exocytosis of a stored, vesicular pool of Rap1 that can be activated by C3G upon delivery to the plasma membrane.
Isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase (Icmt) is a highly conserved enzyme that methyl esterifies the α carboxyl group of prenylated proteins including Ras and related GTPases. Methyl esterification neutralizes the negative charge of the prenylcysteine and thereby increases membrane affinity. Icmt is an integral membrane protein restricted to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The Saccharomyces cerevisiae ortholog, Ste14p, traverses the ER membrane six times. We used a novel fluorescent reporter to map the topology of human Icmt in living cells. Our results indicate that Icmt traverses the ER membrane eight times, with both N and C termini disposed toward the cytosol and with a helix-turn-helix structure comprising transmembrane (TM) segments 7 and 8. Several conserved amino acids that map to cytoplasmic portions of the enzyme are critical for full enzymatic activity. Mammalian Icmt has an N-terminal extension consisting of two TM segments not found in Ste14p and therefore likely to be regulatory. Icmt is a target for anticancer drug discovery, and these data may facilitate efforts to develop small-molecule inhibitors.
The Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK (MAPK) pathway directs multiple cell fate decisions within a single cell. How different system outputs are generated is unknown. Here we explore whether activating the MAPK module from different membrane environments can rewire system output. We identify two classes of nanoscale environment within the plasma membrane. The first, which corresponds to nanoclusters occupied by GTP-loaded H-, N- or K-Ras, supports Raf activation and amplifies low Raf kinase input to generate a digital ERKpp output. The second class, which corresponds to nanoclusters occupied by GDP-loaded Ras, cannot activate Raf and therefore does not activate the MAPK module, illustrating how lateral segregation on plasma membrane influences signal output. The MAPK module is activated at the Golgi, but in striking contrast to the plasma membrane, ERKpp output is analog. Different modes of Raf activation precisely correlate with these different ERKpp system outputs. Intriguingly, the Golgi contains two distinct membrane environments that generate ERKpp, but only one is competent to drive PC12 cell differentiation. The MAPK module is not activated from the ER. Taken together these data clearly demonstrate that the different nanoscale environments available to Ras generate distinct circuit configurations for the MAPK module, bestowing cells with a simple mechanism to generate multiple system outputs from a single cascade.
Rac1 regulates a wide variety of cellular processes. The polybasic region of the Rac1 C terminus functions both as a plasma membrane–targeting motif and a nuclear localization sequence (NLS). We show that a triproline N-terminal to the polybasic region contributes to the NLS, which is cryptic in the sense that it is strongly inhibited by geranylgeranylation of the adjacent cysteine. Subcellular fractionation demonstrated endogenous Rac1 in the nucleus and Triton X-114 partition revealed that this pool is prenylated. Cell cycle–blocking agents, synchronization of cells stably expressing low levels of GFP-Rac1, and time-lapse microscopy of asynchronous cells revealed Rac1 accumulation in the nucleus in late G2 and exclusion in early G1. Although constitutively active Rac1 restricted to the cytoplasm inhibited cell division, activated Rac1 expressed constitutively in the nucleus increased the mitotic rate. These results show that Rac1 cycles in and out of the nucleus during the cell cycle and thereby plays a role in promoting cell division.
The three closely related human Ras genes, Hras, Nras, and Kras, are all widely expressed, engage a common set of downstream effectors, and can each exhibit oncogenic activity. However, the vast majority of activating Ras mutations in human tumors involve Kras. Moreover, Kras mutations are most frequently seen in tumors of endodermally derived tissues (lung, pancreas, and colon), suggesting that activated Kras may affect an endodermal progenitor to initiate oncogenesis. Using a culture model of retinoic acid (RA)-induced stem cell differentiation to endoderm, we determined that while activated HrasV12 promotes differentiation and growth arrest in these endodermal progenitors, KrasV12 promotes their proliferation. Furthermore, KrasV12-expressing endodermal progenitors fail to differentiate upon RA treatment and continue to proliferate and maintain stem cell characteristics. NrasV12 neither promotes nor prevents differentiation. A structure-function analysis demonstrated that these distinct effects of the Ras isoforms involve their variable C-terminal domains, implicating compartmentalized signaling, and revealed a requirement for several established Ras effectors. These findings indicate that activated Ras isoforms exert profoundly different effects on endodermal progenitors and that mutant Kras may initiate tumorigenesis by expanding a susceptible stem/progenitor cell population. These results potentially explain the high frequency of Kras mutations in tumors of endodermal origin.
Posttranslational modification is critical for the function of the gene products of ras oncogenes, which are frequently mutated in cancer. Ras proteins are modified by farnesyltransferase (FTase), but many related small GTPases that also end in a CAAX motif (where C is cysteine, A is often an aliphatic amino acid, and X is any amino acid) are modified by a closely related enzyme known as geranylgeranyltransferase type I (GGTase-I). Accordingly, inhibitors for both of these enzymes have been developed, and those active against FTase are in clinical trials. In this issue of the JCI, Sjogren et al. report the development of a mouse strain homozygous for a conditional allele of the gene that encodes GGTase-I (see the related article beginning on page 1294). They found that ablation of the GGTase-I–encoding gene in cells destined to produce lung tumors driven by oncogenic K-Ras resulted in delayed onset and decreased severity of disease, validating in a genetic model the theory that GGTase-I is a good target for anti-cancer drug development.
Palmitoylation is postulated to regulate Ras signaling by modulating its intracellular trafficking and membrane microenvironment. The mechanisms by which palmitoylation contributes to these events are poorly understood. Here, we show that dynamic turnover of palmitate regulates the intracellular trafficking of HRas and NRas to and from the Golgi complex by shifting the protein between vesicular and nonvesicular modes of transport. A combination of time-lapse microscopy and photobleaching techniques reveal that in the absence of palmitoylation, GFP-tagged HRas and NRas undergo rapid exchange between the cytosol and ER/Golgi membranes, and that wild-type GFP-HRas and GFP-NRas are recycled to the Golgi complex by a nonvesicular mechanism. Our findings support a model where palmitoylation kinetically traps Ras on membranes, enabling the protein to undergo vesicular transport. We propose that a cycle of depalmitoylation and repalmitoylation regulates the time course and sites of Ras signaling by allowing the protein to be released from the cell surface and rapidly redistributed to intracellular membranes.
The CAAX motif at the C terminus of most monomeric GTPases is required for membrane targeting because it signals for a series of three posttranslational modifications that include isoprenylation, endoproteolytic release of the C-terminal– AAX amino acids, and carboxyl methylation of the newly exposed isoprenylcysteine. The individual contributions of these modifications to protein trafficking and function are unknown. To address this issue, we performed a series of experiments with mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) lacking Rce1 (responsible for removal of the –AAX sequence) or Icmt (responsible for carboxyl methylation of the isoprenylcysteine). In MEFs lacking Rce1 or Icmt, farnesylated Ras proteins were mislocalized. In contrast, the intracellular localizations of geranylgeranylated Rho GTPases were not perturbed. Consistent with the latter finding, RhoGDI binding and actin remodeling were normal in Rce1- and Icmt-deficient cells. Swapping geranylgeranylation for farnesylation on Ras proteins or vice versa on Rho proteins reversed the differential sensitivities to Rce1 and Icmt deficiency. These results suggest that postprenylation CAAX processing is required for proper localization of farnesylated Ras but not geranygeranylated Rho proteins.
Peptide deformylase activity was thought to be limited to ribosomal protein synthesis in prokaryotes, where new peptides are initiated with an N-formylated methionine. We describe here a new human peptide deformylase (Homo sapiens PDF, or HsPDF) that is localized to the mitochondria. HsPDF is capable of removing formyl groups from N-terminal methionines of newly synthesized mitochondrial proteins, an activity previously not thought to be necessary in mammalian cells. We show that actinonin, a peptidomimetic antibiotic that inhibits HsPDF, also inhibits the proliferation of 16 human cancer cell lines. We designed and synthesized 33 chemical analogs of actinonin; all of the molecules with potent activity against HsPDF also inhibited tumor cell growth, and vice versa, confirming target specificity. Small interfering RNA inhibition of HsPDF protein expression was also antiproliferative. Actinonin treatment of cells led to a tumor-specific mitochondrial membrane depolarization and ATP depletion in a time- and dose-dependent manner; removal of actinonin led to a recovery of the membrane potential consistent with indirect effects on the electron transport chain. In animal models, oral or parenteral actinonin was well tolerated and inhibited human prostate cancer and lung cancer growth. We conclude that HsPDF is a new human mitochondrial enzyme that may provide a novel selective target for anticancer therapy by use of actinonin-based antibiotics.