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1.  Death Induced by CD95 or CD95 Ligand Elimination 
Cell reports  2014;7(1):208-222.
SUMMARY
CD95 (Fas/APO-1), when bound by its cognate ligand CD95L, induces cells to die by apoptosis. We now show that elimination of CD95 or CD95L results in a form of cell death that is independent of caspase-8, RIPK1/MLKL, and p53, is not inhibited by Bcl-xL expression, and preferentially affects cancer cells. All tumors that formed in mouse models of low-grade serous ovarian cancer or chemically induced liver cancer with tissue specific deletion of CD95 still expressed CD95, suggesting that cancer cannot form in the absence of CD95. Death induced by CD95R/L elimination (DICE) is characterized by an increase in cell size and production of mitochondrial ROS, and DNA damage. It resembles a necrotic form of mitotic catastrophe. No single drug was found to completely block this form of cell death, and it could also not be blocked by the knockdown of a single gene, making it a promising new way to kill cancer cells.
doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2014.02.035
PMCID: PMC4083055  PMID: 24656822
2.  Combining integrated genomics and functional genomics to dissect the biology of a cancer-associated, aberrant transcription factor, the ASPSCR1–TFE3 fusion oncoprotein‡ 
The Journal of pathology  2013;229(5):743-754.
Oncogenic rearrangements of the TFE3 transcription factor gene are found in two distinct human cancers. These include ASPSCR1–TFE3 in all cases of alveolar soft part sarcoma (ASPS) and ASPSCR1–TFE3, PRCC-TFE3, SFPQ-TFE3 and others in a subset of paediatric and adult RCCs. Here we examined the functional properties of the ASPSCR1–TFE3 fusion oncoprotein, defined its target promoters on a genome-wide basis and performed a high-throughput RNA interference screen to identify which of its transcriptional targets contribute to cancer cell proliferation. We first confirmed that ASPSCR1–TFE3 has a predominantly nuclear localization and functions as a stronger transactivator than native TFE3. Genome-wide location analysis performed on the FU-UR-1 cell line, which expresses endogenous ASPSCR1–TFE3, identified 2193 genes bound by ASPSCR1–TFE3. Integration of these data with expression profiles of ASPS tumour samples and inducible cell lines expressing ASPSCR1–TFE3 defined a subset of 332 genes as putative up-regulated direct targets of ASPSCR1–TFE3, including MET (a previously known target gene) and 64 genes as down-regulated targets of ASPSCR1–TFE3. As validation of this approach to identify genuine ASPSCR1–TFE3 target genes, two up-regulated genes bound by ASPSCR1–TFE3, CYP17A1 and UPP1, were shown by multiple lines of evidence to be direct, endogenous targets of transactivation by ASPSCR1–TFE3. As the results indicated that ASPSCR1–TFE3 functions predominantly as a strong transcriptional activator, we hypothesized that a subset of its up-regulated direct targets mediate its oncogenic properties. We therefore chose 130 of these up-regulated direct target genes to study in high-throughput RNAi screens, using FU-UR-1 cells. In addition to MET, we provide evidence that 11 other ASPSCR1–TFE3 target genes contribute to the growth of ASPSCR1–TFE3-positive cells. Our data suggest new therapeutic possibilities for cancers driven by TFE3 fusions. More generally, this work establishes a combined integrated genomics/functional genomics strategy to dissect the biology of oncogenic, chimeric transcription factors.
doi:10.1002/path.4158
PMCID: PMC4083568  PMID: 23288701
ASPSCR1; TFE3; CYP17A1; uridine phosphorylase; NAMPT; alveolar soft part sarcoma; renal carcinoma; chromosomal translocation
3.  Discovery of a Dicer-Independent, Cell-Type Dependent Alternate Targeting Sequence Generator: Implications in Gene Silencing & Pooled RNAi Screens 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e100676.
There is an acceptance that plasmid-based delivery of interfering RNA always generates the intended targeting sequences in cells, making it as specific as its synthetic counterpart. However, recent studies have reported on cellular inefficiencies of the former, especially in light of emerging gene discordance at inter-screen level and across formats. Focusing primarily on the TRC plasmid-based shRNA hairpins, we reasoned that alleged specificities were perhaps compromised due to altered processing; resulting in a multitude of random interfering sequences. For this purpose, we opted to study the processing of hairpin TRCN#40273 targeting CTTN; which showed activity in a miRNA-21 gain-of-function shRNA screen, but inactive when used as an siRNA duplex. Using a previously described walk-through method, we identified 36 theoretical cleavage variants resulting in 78 potential siRNA duplexes targeting 53 genes. We synthesized and tested all of them. Surprisingly, six duplexes targeting ASH1L, DROSHA, GNG7, PRKCH, THEM4, and WDR92 scored as active. QRT-PCR analysis on hairpin transduced reporter cells confirmed knockdown of all six genes, besides CTTN; revealing a surprising 7 gene-signature perturbation by this one single hairpin. We expanded our qRT-PCR studies to 26 additional cell lines and observed unique knockdown profiles associated with each cell line tested; even for those lacking functional DICER1 gene suggesting no obvious dependence on dicer for shRNA hairpin processing; contrary to published models. Taken together, we report on a novel dicer independent, cell-type dependent mechanism for non-specific RNAi gene silencing we coin Alternate Targeting Sequence Generator (ATSG). In summary, ATSG adds another dimension to the already complex interpretation of RNAi screening data, and provides for the first time strong evidence in support of arrayed screening, and questions the scientific merits of performing pooled RNAi screens, where deconvolution of up to genome-scale pools is indispensable for target identification.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100676
PMCID: PMC4079264  PMID: 24987961
4.  Chemical & RNAi screening at MSKCC: a collaborative platform to discover & repurpose drugs to fight disease 
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) has implemented the creation of a full service state-of-the-art High-throughput Screening Core Facility (HTSCF) equipped with modern robotics and custom-built screening data management resources to rapidly store and query chemical and RNAi screening data outputs. The mission of the facility is to provide oncology clinicians and researchers alike with access to cost-effective HTS solutions for both chemical and RNAi screening, with an ultimate goal of novel target identification and drug discovery. HTSCF was established in 2003 to support the institution’s commitment to growth in molecular pharmacology and in the realm of therapeutic agents to fight chronic diseases such as cancer. This endeavor required broad range of expertise in technology development to establish robust and innovative assays, large collections of diverse chemical and RNAi duplexes to probe specific cellular events, sophisticated compound and data handling capabilities, and a profound knowledge in assay development, hit validation, and characterization. Our goal has been to strive for constant innovation, and we strongly believe in shifting the paradigm from traditional drug discovery towards translational research now, making allowance for unmet clinical needs in patients. Our efforts towards repurposing FDA-approved drugs fructified when digoxin, identified through primary HTS, was administered in the clinic for treatment of stage Vb retinoblastoma. In summary, the overall aim of our facility is to identify novel chemical probes, to study cellular processes relevant to investigator’s research interest in chemical biology and functional genomics, and to be instrumental in accelerating the process of drug discovery in academia.
PMCID: PMC4050342  PMID: 24661215
HTS; HCS; RNAi; siRNA; shRNA; miRNA; automation; robotics; small molecule; chemical; robotics; cell-based assay; target-based assay; screen data analysis; drug discovery
5.  Comparative analysis of RNAi screening technologies at genome-scale reveals an inherent processing inefficiency of the plasmid-based shRNA hairpin 
RNAi screening in combination with the genome-sequencing projects would constitute the Holy Grail of modern genetics; enabling discovery and validation towards a better understanding of fundamental biology leading to novel targets to combat disease. Hit discordance at inter-screen level together with the lack of reproducibility is emerging as the technology's main pitfalls. To examine some of the underlining factors leading to such discrepancies, we reasoned that perhaps there is an inherent difference in knockdown efficiency of the various RNAi technologies. For this purpose, we utilized the two most popular ones, chemically synthesized siRNA duplex and plasmid-based shRNA hairpin, in order to perform a head to head comparison. Using a previously developed gain-of-function assay probing modulators of the miRNA biogenesis pathway, we first executed on a siRNA screen against the Silencer Select V4.0 library (AMB) nominating 1,273, followed by an shRNA screen against the TRC1 library (TRC1) nominating 497 gene candidates. We observed a poor overlap of only 29 hits given that there are 15,068 overlapping genes between the two libraries; with DROSHA as the only common hit out of the seven known core miRNA biogenesis genes. Distinct genes interacting with the same biogenesis regulators were observed in both screens, with a dismal cross-network overlap of only 3 genes (DROSHA, TGFBR1, and DIS3). Taken together, our study demonstrates differential knockdown activities between the two technologies, possibly due to the inefficient intracellular processing and potential cell-type specificity determinants in generating intended targeting sequences for the plasmid-based shRNA hairpins; and suggests this observed inefficiency as potential culprit in addressing the lack of reproducibility.
PMCID: PMC4007059  PMID: 24433414
6.  An Arrayed Genome-Scale Lentiviral-Enabled Short Hairpin RNA Screen Identifies Lethal and Rescuer Gene Candidates 
Abstract
RNA interference technology is becoming an integral tool for target discovery and validation.; With perhaps the exception of only few studies published using arrayed short hairpin RNA (shRNA) libraries, most of the reports have been either against pooled siRNA or shRNA, or arrayed siRNA libraries. For this purpose, we have developed a workflow and performed an arrayed genome-scale shRNA lethality screen against the TRC1 library in HeLa cells. The resulting targets would be a valuable resource of candidates toward a better understanding of cellular homeostasis. Using a high-stringency hit nomination method encompassing criteria of at least three active hairpins per gene and filtered for potential off-target effects (OTEs), referred to as the Bhinder–Djaballah analysis method, we identified 1,252 lethal and 6 rescuer gene candidates, knockdown of which resulted in severe cell death or enhanced growth, respectively. Cross referencing individual hairpins with the TRC1 validated clone database, 239 of the 1,252 candidates were deemed independently validated with at least three validated clones. Through our systematic OTE analysis, we have identified 31 microRNAs (miRNAs) in lethal and 2 in rescuer genes; all having a seed heptamer mimic in the corresponding shRNA hairpins and likely cause of the OTE observed in our screen, perhaps unraveling a previously unknown plausible essentiality of these miRNAs in cellular viability. Taken together, we report on a methodology for performing large-scale arrayed shRNA screens, a comprehensive analysis method to nominate high-confidence hits, and a performance assessment of the TRC1 library highlighting the intracellular inefficiencies of shRNA processing in general.
doi:10.1089/adt.2012.475
PMCID: PMC3619155  PMID: 23198867
7.  An Arrayed RNA Interference Genome-Wide Screen Identifies Candidate Genes Involved in the MicroRNA 21 Biogenesis Pathway 
Abstract
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are evolutionary conserved noncoding molecules that regulate gene expression. They influence a number of diverse biological functions, such as development and differentiation. However, their dysregulation has been shown to be associated with disease states, such as cancer. Genes and pathways regulating their biogenesis remain unknown and are highly sought after. For this purpose, we have validated a multiplexed high-content assay strategy to screen for such modulators. Here, we describe its implementation that makes use of a cell-based gain-of-function reporter assay monitoring enhanced green fluorescent protein expression under the control of miRNA 21 (miR-21); combined with measures of both cell metabolic activities through the use of Alamar Blue and cell death through imaged Hoechst-stained nuclei. The strategy was validated using a panel of known genes and enabled us to successfully progress to and complete an arrayed genome-wide short interfering RNA (siRNA) screen against the Ambion Silencer Select v4.0 library containing 64,755 siRNA duplexes covering 21,565 genes. We applied a high-stringency hit analysis method, referred to as the Bhinder–Djaballah analysis method, leading to the nomination of 1,273 genes as candidate inhibitors of the miR-21 biogenesis pathway; after several iterations eliminating those genes with only one active duplex and those enriched in seed sequence mediated off-target effects. Biological classifications revealed four major control junctions among them vesicular transport via clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Altogether, our screen has uncovered a number of novel candidate regulators that are potentially good druggable targets allowing for the discovery and development of small molecules for regulating miRNA function.
doi:10.1089/adt.2012.477
PMCID: PMC3619226  PMID: 23153064
8.  A High Content Assay to Assess Cellular Fitness 
A universal process in experimental biology is the use of engineered cells; more often, stably or transiently transfected cells are generated for the purpose. Therefore, it is important that cell health assessment is conducted to check for stress mediated by induction of heat shock proteins (Hsps). For this purpose, we have developed an integrated platform that would enable a direct assessment of transfection efficiency (TE) combined with cellular toxicity and stress response. We make use of automated microscopy and high content analysis to extract from the same well a multiplexed readout to assess and determine optimal chemical transfection conditions. As a proof of concept, we investigated seven commercial reagents, in a matrix of dose and time, to study transfection of an EGFP DNA plasmid into HeLa cells and their consequences on health and fitness; where we scored for cellular proliferation, EGFP positive cells, and induction of Hsp10 and Hsp70 as makers of stress responses. FuGENE HD emerged as the most optimal reagent with no apparent side effects suitable for performing microtiter based miniaturized transfection for both chemical and RNAi screening. In summary, we report on a high content assay method to assess cellular overall fitness upon chemical transfection.
PMCID: PMC3947212  PMID: 23957721
chemical transfection; HCA; HCS; Hsp10; Hsp70; cell stress; INCA2000; INCA6000
9.  Flaviviruses Are Sensitive to Inhibition of Thymidine Synthesis Pathways 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(17):9411-9419.
Dengue virus has emerged as a global health threat to over one-third of humankind. As a positive-strand RNA virus, dengue virus relies on the host cell metabolism for its translation, replication, and egress. Therefore, a better understanding of the host cell metabolic pathways required for dengue virus infection offers the opportunity to develop new approaches for therapeutic intervention. In a recently described screen of known drugs and bioactive molecules, we observed that methotrexate and floxuridine inhibited dengue virus infections at low micromolar concentrations. Here, we demonstrate that all serotypes of dengue virus, as well as West Nile virus, are highly sensitive to both methotrexate and floxuridine, whereas other RNA viruses (Sindbis virus and vesicular stomatitis virus) are not. Interestingly, flavivirus replication was restored by folinic acid, a thymidine precursor, in the presence of methotrexate and by thymidine in the presence of floxuridine, suggesting an unexpected role for thymidine in flavivirus replication. Since thymidine is not incorporated into RNA genomes, it is likely that increased thymidine production is indirectly involved in flavivirus replication. A possible mechanism is suggested by the finding that p53 inhibition restored dengue virus replication in the presence of floxuridine, consistent with thymidine-less stress triggering p53-mediated antiflavivirus effects in infected cells. Our data reveal thymidine synthesis pathways as new and unexpected therapeutic targets for antiflaviviral drug development.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00101-13
PMCID: PMC3754125  PMID: 23824813
10.  Modulators of the microRNA biogenesis pathway via arrayed lentiviral enabled RNAi screening for drug and biomarker discovery 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small endogenous and conserved non-coding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression. Although the first miRNA was discovered well over sixteen years ago, little is known about their biogenesis and it is only recently that we have begun to understand their scope and diversity. For this purpose, we performed an RNAi screen aimed at identifying genes involved in their biogenesis pathway with a potential use as biomarkers. Using a previously developed miRNA 21 (miR-21) EGFP-based biosensor cell based assay monitoring green fluorescence enhancements, we performed an arrayed short hairpin RNA (shRNA) screen against a lentiviral particle ready TRC1 library covering 16,039 genes in 384-well plate format, and interrogating the genome one gene at a time building a panoramic view of endogenous miRNA activity. Using the BDA method for RNAi data analysis, we nominate 497 gene candidates the knockdown of which increased the EGFP fluorescence and yielding an initial hit rate of 3.09%; of which only 22, with reported validated clones, are deemed high-confidence gene candidates. An unexpected and surprising result was that only DROSHA was identified as a hit out of the seven core essential miRNA biogenesis genes; suggesting that perhaps intracellular shRNA processing into the correct duplex may be cell dependent and with differential outcome. Biological classification revealed several major control junctions among them genes involved in transport and vesicular trafficking. In summary, we report on 22 high confidence gene candidate regulators of miRNA biogenesis with potential use in drug and biomarker discovery.
PMCID: PMC3884689  PMID: 23977983
miRNA; biogenesis; shRNA; H score; BDA method; RNAi; HCS; biomarker; HCA; miRNA 21; DROSHA; biomarker; diagnostics
11.  Systematic analysis of RNAi reports identifies dismal commonality at gene-level & reveals an unprecedented enrichment in pooled shRNA screens 
RNA interference (RNAi) has opened promising avenues to better understand gene function. Though many RNAi screens report on the identification of genes, very few, if any, have been further studied and validated. Data discrepancy is emerging as one of RNAi main pitfalls. We reasoned that a systematic analysis of lethality-based screens, since they score for cell death, would examine the extent of hit discordance at inter-screen level. To this end, we developed a methodology for literature mining and overlap analysis of several screens using both siRNA and shRNA flavors, and obtained 64 gene lists censoring an initial list of 7,430 nominated genes. We further performed a comparative analysis first at a global level followed by hit re-assessment under much more stringent conditions. To our surprise, none of the hits overlapped across the board even for PLK1, which emerged as a strong candidate in siRNA screens; but only marginally in the shRNA ones. Furthermore, EIF5B emerges as the most common hit only in the shRNA screens. A highly unusual and unprecedented result was the observation that 5,269 out of 6,664 nominated genes (~80%) in the shRNA screens were exclusive to the pooled format, raising concerns as to the merits of pooled screens which qualify hits based on relative depletions, possibly due to multiple integrations per cell, data deconvolution or inaccuracies in intracellular processing causing off-target effects. Without golden standards in place, we would encourage the community to pay more attention to RNAi screening data analysis practices, bearing in mind that it is combinatorial in nature and one active siRNA duplex or shRNA hairpin per gene does not suffice credible hit nomination. Finally, we also would like to caution interpretation of pooled shRNA screening outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3885821  PMID: 23848309
RNAi; shRNA; siRNA; Gene; screening; bioinformatics; analysis; overlap; lethality; essential; PLK1
12.  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
13.  A Class of Allosteric, Caspase Inhibitors Identified by High-Throughput Screening 
Molecular cell  2012;47(4):585-595.
Caspase inhibition is a promising approach for treating multiple diseases. Using a reconstituted assay and high-throughput screening, we identified a group of non-peptide caspase inhibitors. These inhibitors share common chemical scaffolds, suggesting same mechanism of action. They can inhibit apoptosis in various cell types induced by multiple stimuli; they can also inhibit caspase-1-mediated interleukin generation in macrophages, indicating potential anti-inflammatory application. While these compounds inhibit all the tested caspases, kinetic analysis indicates they do not compete for the catalytic sites of the enzymes. The co-crystal structure of one of these compounds with caspase-7 reveals that it binds to the dimerization interface of the caspase, another common structural element shared by all active caspases. Consistently, biochemical analysis demonstrates that the compound abates caspase-8 dimerization. Based on these kinetic, biochemical, and structural analyses, we suggest that these compounds are allosteric caspase inhibitors that function through binding to the dimerization interface of caspases.
doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2012.06.007
PMCID: PMC3428514  PMID: 22795132
14.  Identification of Compounds that Rescue IKBKAP Expression in Familial Dysautonomia-iPS Cells 
Nature biotechnology  2012;30(12):1244-1248.
Patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) represent a novel system for modeling human genetic disease and could develop into a key drug discovery platform. We recently reported disease-specific phenotypes in iPSCs from familial dysautonomia (FD) patients. FD is a rare but fatal genetic disorder affecting neural crest lineages. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of performing a primary screen in FD-iPSC derived neural crest precursors. Out of 6,912 compounds tested we characterized 8 hits that rescue expression of IKBKAP, the gene responsible for FD. One of those hits, SKF-86466, is shown to induce IKBKAP transcription via modulation of intracellular cAMP levels and PKA dependent CREB phosphorylation. SKF-86466 also rescues IKAP protein expression and the disease-specific loss of autonomic neuron marker expression. Our data implicate alpha-2 adrenergic receptor activity in regulating IKBKAP expression and demonstrate that small molecule discovery in an iPSC-based disease model can identify candidate drugs for potential therapeutic intervention.
doi:10.1038/nbt.2435
PMCID: PMC3711177  PMID: 23159879
15.  A high density assay format for the detection of novel cytotoxicagents in large chemical libraries 
The Alamar Blue (AB) assay, which incorporates a redox indicator that causes a fluorescence signal enhancement in response to metabolic activity, is commonly used to assess the viability of mammalian cells. In response to the need for homogeneous, inexpensive, high throughput assays for anti-cancer drug screening, a 1536-well microtiter plate based assay which utilizes the AB fluorescent dye as a measure of cellular growth was developed and validated in 10 µL assay volume. The performance and robustness of the miniaturized assay was assessed using a human Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) cell line in a pilot screen against a library of 2,000 known bioactive chemicals; with an overall Z’ value of 0.89 for assay robustness, several known cytotoxic agents were identified including and not limited to anthracyclines, cardiac glycosides, gamboges, and quinones. To further test the sensitivity of the assay, IC50 determinations were performed in both 384-well and 1536-well formats and the obtained results show a very good correlation between the two density formats. These findings demonstrate that this newly developed assay is simple to set up, robust, highly sensitive and inexpensive. The non-radiometric strategy employed in this study should also offer the potential for the rapid screening, without a wash or a lysis step, of well established and primary tumor cell lines against large chemical libraries using the 1536-well microtiter plates.
doi:10.1080/14756360701810082
PMCID: PMC3710589  PMID: 18608772
Assay; miniaturization; Alamar Blue; cytotoxicity; anthracyclines; screening; HTS; fluorescence; resazurin; cell viability; NCEB1; cancer
16.  A simple method for analyzing actives in random RNAi screens: introducing the “H Score” for hit nomination & gene prioritization 
Due to the numerous challenges in hit identification from random RNAi screening, we have examined current practices with a discovery of a variety of methodologies employed and published in many reports; majority of them, unfortunately, do not address the minimum associated criteria for hit nomination, as this could potentially have been the cause or may well be the explanation as to the lack of confirmation and follow up studies, currently facing the RNAi field. Overall, we find that these criteria or parameters are not well defined, in most cases arbitrary in nature, and hence rendering it extremely difficult to judge the quality of and confidence in nominated hits across published studies. For this purpose, we have developed a simple method to score actives independent of assay readout; and provide, for the first time, a homogenous platform enabling cross-comparison of active gene lists resulting from different RNAi screening technologies. Here, we report on our recently developed method dedicated to RNAi data output analysis referred to as the BDA method applicable to both arrayed and pooled RNAi technologies; wherein the concerns pertaining to inconsistent hit nomination and off-target silencing in conjugation with minimal activity criteria to identify a high value target are addressed. In this report, a combined hit rate per gene, called “H score”, is introduced and defined. The H score provides a very useful tool for stringent active gene nomination, gene list comparison across multiple studies, prioritization of hits, and evaluation of the quality of the nominated gene hits.
PMCID: PMC3678258  PMID: 22934950
BDA method; H score; HTS; HCS; RNAi; screening; randomness; Off-target effect; seed sequence; heptamer; miRNA; 3′UTR; siRNA; shRNA; esiRNA
17.  A High-Throughput Scintillation Proximity-Based Assay for Human DNA Ligase IV 
Abstract
Ionizing radiation (IR) and certain chemotherapeutic drugs are designed to generate cytotoxic DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in cancer cells. Inhibition of the major DSB repair pathway, nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ), will enhance the cytotoxicity of these agents. Screening for inhibitors of the DNA ligase IV (Lig4), which mediates the final ligation step in NHEJ, offers a novel target-based drug discovery opportunity. For this purpose, we have developed an enzymatic assay to identify chemicals that block the transfer of [α-33P]-AMP from the complex Lig4-[α-33P]-AMP onto the 5′ end of a double-stranded DNA substrate and adapted it to a scintillation proximity assay (SPA). A screen was performed against a collection of 5,280 compounds. Assay statistics show an average Z′ value of 0.73, indicative of a robust assay in this SPA format. Using a threshold of >20% inhibition, 10 compounds were initially scored as positive hits. A follow-up screen confirmed four compounds with IC50 values ranging from 1 to 30 μM. Rabeprazole and U73122 were found to specifically block the adenylate transfer step and DNA rejoining; in whole live cell assays, these compounds were found to inhibit the repair of DSBs generated by IR. The ability to screen and identify Lig4 inhibitors suggests that they may have utility as chemo- and radio-sensitizers in combination therapy and provides a rationale for using this screening strategy to identify additional inhibitors.
doi:10.1089/adt.2011.0404
PMCID: PMC3374410  PMID: 22192310
18.  A High Throughput Scintillation Proximity Imaging Assay for Protein Methyltransferases 
Protein methyltransferases (PMTs) orchestrate epigenetic modifications through post-translational methylation of various protein substrates including histones. Since dysregulation of this process is widely implicated in many cancers, it is of pertinent interest to screen inhibitors of PMTs, as they offer novel target-based opportunities to discover small molecules with potential chemotherapeutic use. We have thus developed an enzymatic screening strategy, which can be adapted to scintillation proximity imaging assay (SPIA) format, to identify these inhibitors. We took advantage of S-adenosyl-L-[3H-methyl]-methionine availability and monitored the enzymatically catalyzed [3H]-methyl addition on lysine residues of biotinylated peptide substrates. The radiolabeled peptides were subsequently captured by streptavidin coated SPA imaging PS beads. We applied this strategy to four PMTs: SET7/9, SET8, SETD2, and EuHMTase1, and optimized assay conditions to achieve Z′ values ranging from 0.48 to 0.91. The robust performance of this SPIA for the four PMTs was validated in a pilot screen of approximately 7,000 compounds. We identified 80 cumulative hits across the four targets. NF279, a suramin analogue found to specifically inhibit SET7/9 and SETD2 with IC50 values of 1.9 and 1.1 μM, respectively. Another identified compound, Merbromin, a topical antiseptic, was classified as a pan-active inhibitor of the four PMTs. These findings demonstrate that our proposed SPIA strategy is generic for multiple PMTs and can be successfully implemented to identify novel and specific inhibitors of PMTs. The specific PMT inhibitors may constitute a new class of anti-proliferative agents for potential therapeutic use.
PMCID: PMC3553658  PMID: 22256970
protein methyl transferases; drug discovery; inhibit or; SET7/9; SET8; SETD2; EuHMTase1; SPA technology; red shifted imaging beads
19.  Structure-activity relationships of 6-(2,6-dichlorophenyl)-8-methyl-2-(phenylamino)pyrido[2,3-d]pyrimidin-7-ones: toward selective Abl inhibitors 
We report the design, synthesis and structure-activity relationship (SAR) of a series of novel pyrido[2,3-d]pyrimidin-7-one compounds as potent Abl kinase inhibitors. We evaluate their specificity profile against a panel of human recombinant kinases, as well as their biological profile toward a panel of well characterized cancer cell lines. Our study reveals that substitutions in the -3 and -4 positions of the phenylamino moiety lead to improved potency and improved selectivity both in target-based and cell based assays. Altogether, our results provide an insight into the SAR of pyrido[2,3-d]pyrimidin-7-ones for the development of drug candidates with improved potency and selectivity for the targeted treatment of CML.
doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2009.10.085
PMCID: PMC3629380  PMID: 19889540
Pyridopyrimidines; CML; Abl kinase; inhibitor
20.  Development and Validation of a High-density Fluorescence Polarization-based Assay for the Trypanosoma RNA Triphosphatase TbCet1 
RNA triphosphatases are attractive and mostly unexplored therapeutic targets for the development of broad spectrum antiprotozoal, antiviral and antifungal agents. The use of malachite green as a readout for phosphatases is well characterized and widely employed. However, the reaction depends on high quantities of inorganic phosphate to be generated, which makes this assay not easily amenable to screening in 1536-well format. The overly long reading times required also prohibit its use to screen large chemical libraries. To overcome these limitations, we sought to develop a fluorescence polarization (FP) -based assay for triphosphatases, compatible with miniaturization and fast readouts. For this purpose, we took advantage of the nucleoside triphosphatase activity of this class of enzyme to successfully adapt the Transcreener™ ADP assay based on the detection of generated ADP by immunocompetition fluorescence polarization to the RNA triphosphatase TbCet1 in 1536-well format. We also tested the performance of this newly developed assay in a pilot screen of 3,000 compounds and we confirmed the activity of the obtained hits. We present and discuss our findings and their importance for the discovery of novel drugs by high-throughput screening.
PMCID: PMC3626118  PMID: 19275531
triphosphatase; drug discovery; high-throughput screening; fluorescence polarization
21.  Designs and Concept-Reliance of a Fully Automated High Content Screening Platform 
Journal of laboratory automation  2012;17(5):359-369.
High content screening (HCS) is becoming an accepted platform in academic and industry screening labs and does require slightly different logistics for execution. To automate our stand alone HCS microscopes, namely an alpha IN Cell Analyzer 3000 (INCA3000) originally a Praelux unit hooked to a Hudson Plate Crane with a maximum capacity of 50 plates per run; and the IN Cell Analyzer 2000 (INCA2000) where up to 320 plates could be fed per run using the Thermo Fisher Scientific Orbitor, we opted for a 4 meter linear track system harboring both microscopes, plate washer, bulk dispensers, and a high capacity incubator allowing us to perform both live and fixed cell based assays while accessing both microscopes on deck. Considerations in design were given to the integration of the alpha INCA3000, a new gripper concept to access the onboard nest, and peripheral locations on deck to ensure a self reliant system capable of achieving higher throughput. The resulting system, referred to as Hestia, has been fully operational since the New Year, has an onboard capacity of 504 plates, and harbors the only fully automated alpha INCA3000 unit in the World.
doi:10.1177/2211068212453311
PMCID: PMC3626108  PMID: 22797489
HCS; HTS; automation; IN Cell Analyzer 3000; IN Cell Analyzer 2000
22.  Revisiting Old Drugs as Novel Agents for Retinoblastoma: In vitro and In vivo Antitumor Activity of Cardenolides 
PURPOSE
Intraarterial delivery of chemotherapeutic agents offers a new and exciting opportunity for the treatment of advanced intraocular retinoblastoma. It allows local delivery of relatively high doses of chemo agents while bypassing general blood circulation. For this reason we sought to revisit some of the FDA approved drugs for the treatment of retinoblastoma.
METHODS
High throughput screening (HTS) of 2,640 approved drugs and bioactive compounds resulted in the identification of cytotoxic agents with potent activity toward both the Y79 and RB355 human retinoblastoma cell lines. Subsequent profiling of the drug candidates was performed in a panel of ocular cancer cell lines. Induction of apoptosis in Y79 cells was assessed by immunofluorescence detection of activated Caspase-3. Therapeutic effect was evaluated in a xenograft model of retinoblastoma.
RESULTS
We have identified several FDA approved drugs with potent cytotoxic activity toward retinoblastoma cell lines in vitro. Among them were several cardiac glycosides, a class of cardenolides historically associated with the prevention and treatment of congestive heart failure. Caspase-3 activation studies provided an insight into the mechanism of action of cardenolides in retinoblastoma cells. When tested in a xenograft model of retinoblastoma, the cardenolide ouabain induced complete tumor regression in the treated mice.
CONCLUSIONS
We have identified cardenolides as a new class of antitumor agents for the treatment of retinoblastoma. We propose that members of this class of cardiotonic drugs could be repositioned for retinoblastoma if administered locally via direct intraarterial infusion.
doi:10.1167/iovs.08-3158
PMCID: PMC3617409  PMID: 19151399
23.  A High-Content Biosensor Based Screen Identifies Cell Permeable Activators and Inhibitors of EGFR Function: Implications in Drug Discovery 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2012;17(7):885-899.
Early success of kinase inhibitors has validated their use as drugs. However, discovery efforts have also suffered from high attrition rates; due to lack of cellular activity. We reasoned that screening for such candidates in live cells would identify novel cell permeable modulators for development. For this purpose, we have used our recently optimized EGFR biosensor (EGFRB) assay to screen for modulators of EGFR activity. Here, we report on its validation under HTS conditions displaying a S/N ratio of 21 and a Z’ value of 0.56; attributes of a robust cell based assay. We performed a pilot screen against a library of 6,912 compounds demonstrating good reproducibility and identifying 82 inhibitors and 66 activators with initial hit rates of 1.2% and 0.95 %, respectively. Follow up dose response studies revealed that 12 out of the 13 known EGFR inhibitors in the library confirmed as hits. ZM-306416, a VEGFR antagonist, was identified as a potent inhibitor of EGFR function. Flurandrenolide, beclomethasone and ebastine were confirmed as activators of EGFR function. Taken together, our results validate this novel approach and demonstrate its utility in the discovery of novel kinase modulators with potential use in the clinic.
doi:10.1177/1087057112446174
PMCID: PMC3615554  PMID: 22573732
EGFR; domain-based biosensor; high content analysis; live cell imaging
24.  Live Cell Imaging of Caspase Activation for High Content Screening 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2009;14(8):956-969.
Caspases are central to the execution of programmed cell death and their activation constitutes the biochemical hallmark of apoptosis. In this article, we report the successful adaptation of a high content assay method utilizing the DEVD-NucView488™ fluorogenic substrate, and for the first time, we show caspase activation in live cells induced either by drugs or siRNA. The fluorogenic substrate was found to be non-toxic over an exposure period of several days; during which we demonstrate automated imaging and quantification of caspase activation of the same cell population as a function of time. Overexpression of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-XL, alone or in combination with the inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK, attenuated caspase activation in HeLa cells exposed to Doxorubicin, Etoposide or cell death siRNA. Our method was further validated against two well characterized NSCLC cell lines reported to be sensitive (H3255) or refractory (H2030) to Erlotinib; where we show a differential time dependent activation was observed for H3255 and no significant changes in H2030, consistent with their respective chemosensitivity profile. In summary, our results demonstrate the feasibility of using this newly adapted and validated high content assay to screen chemical or RNAi libraries for the identification of previously uncovered enhancers and suppressors of the apoptotic machinery in live cells.
doi:10.1177/1087057109343207
PMCID: PMC3613133  PMID: 19726787
High content assay; RNAi HT screening; Chemical HT screening; caspase; apoptosis; cancer; live cells
25.  A Synergetic Screening Approach with Companion Effector for Combination Therapy: Application to Retinoblastoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59156.
For many cancers, the lack of potency and the toxicity of current drugs limits the dose achievable in patients and the efficacy of treatment. Among them, retinoblastoma is a rare cancer of the eye for which better chemotherapeutic options are needed. Combination therapy is a compelling approach to enhance the efficacy of current treatment, however clinical trials to test rationally designed combinations of approved drugs are slow and expensive, and limited by our lack of in-depth knowledge of drug specificity. Since many patients already turn to nutraceuticals in hopes of improving their condition, we hypothesized that certain approved drugs could potentially synergize with widely consumed supplements. Following this hypothesis, we devised an alternative screening strategy aimed at taking advantage of a bait compound such as a nutraceutical with potential therapeutic benefits but low potency, by screening chemical libraries for approved drugs that synergize with this companion effector. As a proof of concept, we sought to identify approved drugs with synergetic therapeutic effects toward retinoblastoma cells in combination with the antioxidant resveratrol, popular as a supplement. We systematically tested FDA-approved drugs and known bioactives seeking to identify such pairs, which led to uncovering only a few additive combinations; but to our surprise, we identified a class of anticancer drugs widely used in the clinic whose therapeutic effect is antagonized with resveratrol. Our observations could explain in part why some patients do not respond well to treatment. Our results validate this alternative approach, and we expect that our companion effector strategy could significantly impact both drug discovery and the nutraceutical industry.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059156
PMCID: PMC3602587  PMID: 23527118

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