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1.  An isoform-selective, small-molecule inhibitor targets the autoregulatory mechanism of p21-activated kinase 
Chemistry & biology  2008;15(4):322-331.
Autoregulatory domains found within kinases may provide more unique targets for chemical inhibitors than the conserved ATP-binding pocket targeted by most inhibitors. The kinase Pak1 contains an autoinhibitory domain that suppresses the catalytic activity of its kinase domain. Pak1 activators relieve this autoinhibition and initiate conformational rearrangements and autophosphorylation events leading to kinase activation. We developed a screen for allosteric inhibitors targeting Pak1 activation and identified the inhibitor IPA-3. Remarkably, pre-activated Pak1 is resistant to IPA-3. IPA-3 also inhibits activation of related Pak isoforms regulated by autoinhibition, but not more distantly related Paks, nor >200 other kinases tested. Pak1 inhibition by IPA-3 in live cells supports a critical role for Pak in PDGF-stimulated Erk activation. These studies illustrate a novel strategy for kinase inhibition and introduce a highly selective, cell-permeable chemical inhibitor of Pak.
PMCID: PMC4353635  PMID: 18420139
2.  Targeting Glutamatergic Signaling and the PI3 Kinase Pathway to Halt Melanoma Progression12 
Translational Oncology  2015;8(1):1-9.
Our group has previously reported that the majority of human melanomas (> 60%) express the metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 (GRM1) and that the glutamate release inhibitor riluzole, a drug currently used to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, can induce apoptosis in GRM1-expressing melanoma cells. Our group previously reported that in vitro riluzole treatment reduces cell growth in three-dimensional (3D) soft agar colony assays by 80% in cells with wildtype phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway activation. However, melanoma cell lines harboring constitutive activating mutations of the PI3K pathway (PTEN and NRAS mutations) showed only a 35% to 40% decrease in colony formation in soft agar in the presence of riluzole. In this study, we have continued our preclinical studies of riluzole and its effect on melanoma cells alone and in combination with inhibitors of the PI3 kinase pathway: the AKT inhibitor, API-2, and the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor, rapamycin. We modeled these combinatorial therapies on various melanoma cell lines in 3D and 2D systems and in vivo. Riluzole combined with mTOR inhibition is more effective at halting melanoma anchorage-independent growth and xenograft tumor progression than either agent alone. PI3K signaling changes associated with this combinatorial treatment shows that 3D (nanoculture) modeling of cell signaling more closely resembles in vivo signaling than monolayer models. Riluzole combined with mTOR inhibition is effective at halting tumor cell progression independent of BRAF mutational status. This makes this combinatorial therapy a potentially viable alternative for metastatic melanoma patients who are BRAF WT and are therefore ineligible for vemurafenib therapy.
PMCID: PMC4350641  PMID: 25749171
3.  Chemical Genetic Screening for Compounds that Preferentially Inhibit Growth of Methylthioadenosine Phosphorylase (MTAP) Deficient Saccharomyces Cerevisiae 
Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP), a key enzyme in the methionine salvage pathway, is inactivated in a variety of human cancers. Since all human tissues express MTAP, it would be of potential interest to identify compounds that selectively inhibit the growth of MTAP deficient cells. To determine if MTAP inactivation could be targeted, we have performed a differential chemical genetic screen in isogenic MTAP+ and MTAP− S. cerevisiae. A low molecular weight compound library containing 30,080 unique compounds was screened for those that selectively inhibit growth of MTAP− yeast using a differential growth assay. One compound, containing a 1,3,4-thiadiazine ring, repeatedly showed a differential dose response, with MTAP− cells exhibiting a four-fold shift in IC50 compared to MTAP+ cells. Several structurally related derivatives of this compound also showed enhanced growth inhibition in MTAP− yeast. These compounds were also examined for growth inhibition of isogenic MTAP+ and MTAP− HT1080 fibrosarcoma cells, and four of the five compounds exhibited evidence of modest, but significant, increased potency in MTAP− cells. In summary, these studies show the feasibility of differential growth screening technology and have identified a novel class of compounds that can preferentially inhibit growth of MTAP− cells.
PMCID: PMC3019245  PMID: 21131597
Methionine Salvage Pathway; Drug screening; Yeast; Genetic-chemical interaction
4.  Isoform-selective chemical inhibition of mDia-mediated actin assembly 
Biochemistry  2009;48(40):9327-9329.
Formins are potent actin assembly factors. Diaphanous formins, including mDia1, mDia2, and mDia3 in mammals, are implicated in mitosis and cytokinesis but no chemical interactors have been reported. We developed an in vitro screen for inhibitors of actin assembly by mDia1, and identified an inhibitor of mDia1 and mDia2 that does not inhibit mDia3 at the concentrations tested. These results establish the druggability of mDia formins and introduce a first generation inhibitor.
PMCID: PMC2758331  PMID: 19764708

Results 1-4 (4)