The urokinase receptor (uPAR) serves as a docking site to the serine protease urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) to promote extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation and tumor invasion and metastasis. Previously, we had reported a small molecule inhibitor of the uPAR•uPA interaction that emerged from structure-based virtual screening. Here, we measure the affinity of a large number of derivatives from commercial sources. Synthesis of additional compounds was carried out to probe the role of various groups on the parent compound. Extensive structure-based computational studies suggested a binding mode for these compounds that led to a structure-activity relationship study. Cellular studies in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines that include A549, H460 and H1299 showed that compounds blocked invasion, migration and adhesion. The effects on invasion of active compounds were consistent with their inhibition of uPA and MMP proteolytic activity. These compounds showed weak cytotoxicity consistent with the confined role of uPAR to metastasis.
Interaction of the urokinase receptor (uPAR) with its binding partners including the urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) at the cell surface triggers a series of proteolytic and signaling events that promote invasion and metastasis. Here, we report the discovery of a small molecule (IPR-456) and its derivatives that inhibit the tight uPAR·uPA protein-protein interaction. IPR-456 was discovered by virtual screening against multiple conformations of uPAR sampled from explicit-solvent molecular dynamics simulations. Biochemical characterization reveal that the compound binds to uPAR with sub-micromolar affinity (Kd = 310 nM) and inhibits the tight protein-protein interaction with an IC50 of 10 μM. Free energy calculations based on explicit-solvent molecular dynamics simulations suggested the importance of a carboxylate moiety on IPR-456, which was confirmed by the activity of several derivatives including IPR-803. Immunofluorescence imaging showed that IPR-456 inhibited uPA binding to uPAR of breast MDA-MB-231 tumor cells with an IC50 of 8 μM. The compounds blocked MDA-MB-231 cell invasion, but IPR-456 showed little effect on MDA-MB-231 migration, and no effect on adhesion, suggesting that uPAR mediates these processes through its other binding partners.
Virtual screening; small molecule; protein-protein interaction; inhibitor; urokinase receptor; invasion; migration; metastasis; MDA-MB-231; cancer; breast cancer; urokinase-type plasminogen activator; uPAR; uPA; docking; scoring; flexible docking
Virtual screening targeting the urokinase receptor (uPAR) led to (3R)-4-cyclohexyl-3-(hexahydrobenzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)-N-((hexahydrobenzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)methyl)butan-1-aminium 1 (IPR-1) and 4-(4-((3,5-dimethylcyclohexyl)carbamoyl)-2-(4-isopropylcyclohexyl)pyrazolidin-3-yl)piperidin-1-ium 3 (IPR-69). Synthesis of an analog of 1, namely 2 (IPR-9), and 3 led to breast MDA-MB-231 invasion, migration and adhesion assays with IC50 near 30 μM. Both compounds blocked angiogenesis with IC50 of 3 μM. Compounds 2 and 3 inhibited cell growth with IC50 of 6 and 18 μM and induced apoptosis. Biochemical assays revealed lead-like properties for 3, but not 2. Compound 3 administered orally reached peak concentration of nearly 40 μM with a half-life of about 2 hours. In NOD-SCID mice inoculated with breast TMD-231 cells in their mammary fat pads, compound 3 showed a 20% reduction in tumor volumes and less extensive metastasis was observed for the treated mice. The suitable pharmacokinetic properties of 3 and the encouraging preliminary results in metastasis make it an ideal starting point for next generation compounds.
The N-type voltage-gated calcium channel (Cav2.2) has gained immense prominence in the treatment of chronic pain. While decreased channel function is ultimately anti-nociceptive, directly targeting the channel can lead to multiple adverse side effects. Targeting modulators of channel activity may facilitate improved analgesic properties associated with channel block and a broader therapeutic window. A novel interaction between Cav2.2 and collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP-2) positively regulates channel function by increasing surface trafficking. We recently identified a CRMP-2 peptide (TAT-CBD3), which effectively blocks this interaction, reduces or completely reverses pain behavior in a number of inflammatory and neuropathic models. Importantly, TAT-CBD3 did not produce many of the typical side effects often observed with Cav2.2 inhibitors. Notably chronic pain mechanisms offer unique challenges as they often encompass a mix of both neuropathic and inflammatory elements, whereby inflammation likely causes damage to the neuron leading to neuropathic pain, and neuronal injury may produce inflammatory reactions. To this end, we sought to further disseminate the ability of TAT-CBD3 to alter behavioral outcomes in two additional rodent pain models. While we observed that TAT-CBD3 reversed mechanical hypersensitivity associated with a model of chronic inflammatory pain due to lysophosphatidylcholine-induced sciatic nerve focal demyelination (LPC), injury to the tibial nerve (TNI) failed to respond to drug treatment. Moreover, a single amino acid mutation within the CBD3 sequence demonstrated amplified Cav2.2 binding and dramatically increased efficacy in an animal model of migraine. Taken together, TAT-CBD3 potentially represents a novel class of therapeutics targeting channel regulation as opposed to the channel itself.
N-type voltage-gated calcium channel/Cav2.2; CRMP-2; peptide; chronic pain; migraine; pain therapeutics
The ubiquity of protein-protein interactions in biological signaling offers ample opportunities for therapeutic intervention. We previously identified a peptide, designated CBD3, that suppressed inflammatory and neuropathic behavioral hypersensitivity in rodents by inhibiting the ability of collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP-2) to bind to N-type voltage-activated calcium channels (CaV2.2) [Brittain et al. Nature Medicine 17:822–829 (2011)].
Results and discussion
Here, we utilized SPOTScan analysis to identify an optimized variation of the CBD3 peptide (CBD3A6K) that bound with greater affinity to Ca2+ channels. Molecular dynamics simulations demonstrated that the CBD3A6K peptide was more stable and less prone to the unfolding observed with the parent CBD3 peptide. This mutant peptide, conjugated to the cell penetrating motif of the HIV transduction domain protein TAT, exhibited greater anti-nociception in a rodent model of AIDS therapy-induced peripheral neuropathy when compared to the parent TAT-CBD3 peptide. Remarkably, intraperitoneal administration of TAT-CBD3A6K produced none of the minor side effects (i.e. tail kinking, body contortion) observed with the parent peptide. Interestingly, excitability of dissociated small diameter sensory neurons isolated from rats was also reduced by TAT-CBD3A6K peptide suggesting that suppression of excitability may be due to inhibition of T- and R-type Ca2+ channels. TAT-CBD3A6K had no effect on depolarization-evoked calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) release compared to vehicle control.
Collectively, these results establish TAT-CBD3A6K as a peptide therapeutic with greater efficacy in an AIDS therapy-induced model of peripheral neuropathy than its parent peptide, TAT-CBD3. Structural modifications of the CBD3 scaffold peptide may result in peptides with selectivity against a particular subset of voltage-gated calcium channels resulting in a multipharmacology of action on the target.
Peptide; Excitability; Nociception; AIDS therapy-induced chronic pain; Calcium channels; Molecular dynamics
Biological, genetic, and clinical data provide compelling proof for N-type voltage-gated calcium channels (CaV2.2) as therapeutic targets for chronic pain. While decreasing channel function is ultimately anti-nociceptive, directly targeting the channel can lead to multiple adverse effects. Targeting regulators of channel activity may facilitate improved analgesic properties associated with channel block and afford a broader therapeutic window. Towards this end, we recently identified a short peptide, designated CBD3, derived from collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP-2) that suppressed inflammatory and neuropathic hypersensitivity by inhibiting CRMP-2 binding to CaV2.2 [Brittain et al., Nature Medicine 17:822–829 (2011)]. Rodents administered CBD3 intraperitoneally, fused to the HIV TAT protein cell penetrating domain, exhibited antinociception lasting ~4 hours highlighting potential instability, limited oral bioavailability, and/or rapid elimination of peptide. This report focuses on improving upon the parental CBD3 peptide. Using SPOTScan analysis of synthetic versions of the parental CBD3 peptide, we identified peptides harboring single amino acid mutations that bound with greater affinity to CaV2.2. One such peptide, harboring a phenylalanine instead of glycine (G14F), was tested in rodent models of migraine and neuropathic pain. In vivo laser Doppler blood flowmetry measure of capsaicin-induced meningeal vascular responses related to headache pain was almost completely suppressed by dural application of the G14F peptide. The G14F mutant peptide, administered intraperitoneally, also exhibited greater antinociception in Stavudine (2'-3'-didehydro-2'-3'-dideoxythymidine (d4T)/Zerit®) model of AIDS therapy-induced peripheral neuropathy compared to the parent CBD3 peptide. These results demonstrate the patent translational value of small biologic drugs targeting CaV2.2 for management of clinical pain.
N-type calcium channel; CRMP-2; Uncoupling peptide; Meningeal blood flow; Migraine model; d4T/Zerit/Stavudine; NTR; AIDS therapy-induced neuropathic pain; Chronic pain
Over the past three years we have been involved in high-throughput screening in an effort to discover novel small molecular modulators of aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity. In particular, we have been interested in both the activation and inhibitionof the three commonly studied isoenzymes, ALDH1A1, ALDH2 and ALDH3A1, as their distinct, yet overlapping substrate specificities, present a particularly difficult challenge for inhibitor discovery and design. Activation of ALDH2 has been shown to benefit cardiovascular outcome following periods of ischemia and renewed interest in specific inhibition of ALDH2 has application for alcohol aversion therapy, and more recently, in cocaine addiction. In contrast, inhibition of either ALDH1A1 or ALDH3A1 has application in cancer treatments where the isoenzymes are commonly over-expressed and serve as markers for cancer stem cells. We are taking two distinct approaches for these screens: in vitro enzyme activity screens using chemical libraries and virtual computational screens using the structures of the target enzymes as filters for identifying potential inhibitors, followed by in vitro testing of their ability to inhibit their intended targets. We have identified selective inhibitors of each of these three isoenzymes with inhibition constants in the high nanomolar to low micromolar range from these screening procedures. Together, these inhibitors provide proof for concept that selective inhibition of these broad specificity general detoxication enzymes through small molecule discovery and design is possible.
aldehyde dehydrogenase; high-throughput screening; computational docking
We assess the performance of our previously reported structure-based support vector machine target-specific scoring function across 41 targets, 40 among them from the Directory of Useful Decoys (DUD). The area under the curve of receiver characteristic plots (ROC-AUC) revealed that scoring with SVMSP resulted in consistently better enrichment over all targets families and outperforming Glide and other scoring functions, most notably among kinases. In addition, SVM-SP performance showed little variation among protein classes, exhibited excellent performance in a test case using a homology model, and in some cases showed high enrichment even with few structures used to train a model. We put SVM-SP to the test by virtual screening 1,125 compounds against two kinases, EGFR and CaMKII. Among the top 25 EGFR compounds, three compounds (1–3) inhibited kinase activity in vitro with IC50 of 58, 2, and 10 μM. In cell culture, compounds 1–3 inhibited non-small cell lung carcinoma (H1299) cancer cell proliferation with similar IC50 values for compound 3. For CaMKII, one compound inhibited kinase activity in a dose-dependent manner among 20 tested with an IC50 of 48 μM. These results are encouraging given that our in-house library consists of compounds that emerged from virtual screening of other targets with pockets that are different from typical ATP binding sites found in kinases. In light of the importance of kinases in chemical biology, these findings could have implications in future efforts to identify chemical probes of kinases within the human kinome.
Chronic pain hypersensitivity depends on N-type voltage-gated calcium channels (CaV2.2). However, the use of CaV2.2 blockers in pain therapeutics is limited by side effects that result from inhibited physiological functions of these channels. Here we report suppression of both inflammatory and neuropathic hypersensitivity by inhibiting the binding of the axonal collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP-2) to CaV2.2, thus reducing channel function. A 15-amino acid peptide of CRMP-2 fused to the transduction domain of HIV TAT protein (TAT-CBD3) decreases neurotransmitter release from nociceptive dorsal root ganglion neurons, reduces meningeal blood flow, reduces nocifensive behavior induced by subcutaneous formalin injection or following corneal capsaicin application, and reverses neuropathic hypersensitivity produced by the antiretroviral drug 2’,3’-dideoxycytidine. TAT-CBD3 was mildly anxiolytic but innocuous on sensorimotor and cognitive functions and despair. By preventing CRMP-2-mediated enhancement of CaV2.2 function, TAT-CBD3 alleviates inflammatory and neuropathic hypersensitivity, an approach that may prove useful in managing clinical pain.
Molinate is a thiocarbamate herbicide used as a pre-emergent in rice patty fields. It has two predominant sulfoxidation metabolites, molinate sulfoxide and molinate sulfone. Previous work demonstrated an in vivo decrease in liver aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity in rats treated with molinate and motor function deficits in dogs dosed chronically with this compound. ALDH is an enzyme important in the catabolism of many neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. Inhibition of this enzyme may lead to the accumulation of endogenous neurotoxic metabolites such as 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetaldehyde (DOPAL), a dopamine metabolite, which may account for the observed neurotoxicity. In this study, the relative reactivity of molinate and both of its sulfoxidation metabolites towards ALDH were investigated, as well as the mechanism of inhibition. ALDH activity was monitored in two different model systems, human recombinant ALDH (hALDH2) and mouse striatal synaptosomes. Molinate sulfone was found to be the most potent ALDH inhibitor, compared to molinate and molinate sulfoxide. The reactivity of these three compounds was also assessed, using N-acetyl Cys, model peptides, and hALDH2. It was determined that molinate sulfone is capable of covalently modifying Cys residues, including catalytic Cys302 of ALDH, accounting for the observed enzyme inhibition.
In an effort to develop a rational approach to identify anti-cancer agents with selective polypharmacology, we mine millions of docked protein-ligand complexes involving more than a thousand cancer targets from multiple signaling pathways to identify new structural templates for proven pharmacophores. Our method combines Support Vector Machine-based scoring to enrich the initial library of 1,592 molecules, with a fingerprint-based search for molecules that have the same binding profile as the EGFR kinase inhibitor erlotinib. Twelve new compounds were identified. In vitro activity assays revealed that three inhibited EGFR with IC50 values ranging from 250 nM to 200 µM. Additional in vitro studies with hERG, CYP450, DNA and cell culture-based assays further compared their properties to erlotinib. One compound combined suitable pharmacokinetic properties while closely mimicking the binding profile of erlotinib. The compound also inhibited H1299 and H460 tumor cell proliferation. The other two compounds shared some of the binding profile of erlotinib, and one gave the most potent inhibition of tumor cell growth. Interestingly, among the compounds that had not shown inhibition of EGFR, four blocked H1299 and H460 proliferation, one potently with IC50 values near 1 µM. This compound was from the menogaril family, which reached Phase II clinical trial for the treatment of lymphomas. This suggests that our computational approach comparing binding profile may have favored molecules with anti-cancer properties like erlotinib.
Hsp90 is a highly conserved molecular chaperone that is involved in modulating a multitude of cellular processes. In this study, we identify a function for the chaperone in RNA processing and maintenance. This functionality of Hsp90 involves two recently identified interactors of the chaperone: Tah1 and Pih1/Nop17. Tah1 is a small protein containing tetratricopeptide repeats, whereas Pih1 is found to be an unstable protein. Tah1 and Pih1 bind to the essential helicases Rvb1 and Rvb2 to form the R2TP complex, which we demonstrate is required for the correct accumulation of box C/D small nucleolar ribonucleoproteins. Together with the Tah1 cofactor, Hsp90 functions to stabilize Pih1. As a consequence, the chaperone is shown to affect box C/D accumulation and maintenance, especially under stress conditions. Hsp90 and R2TP proteins are also involved in the proper accumulation of box H/ACA small nucleolar RNAs.