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1.  High-throughput screening for genes that prevent excess DNA replication in human cells and for molecules that inhibit them 
Methods (San Diego, Calif.)  2012;57(2):234-248.
High-throughput screening (HTS) provides a rapid and comprehensive approach to identifying compounds that target specific biological processes as well as genes that are essential to those processes. Here we describe a HTS assay for small molecules that induce either DNA re-replication or endoreduplication (i.e. excess DNA replication) selectively in cells derived from human cancers. Such molecules will be useful not only to investigate cell division and differentiation, but they may provide a novel approach to cancer chemotherapy. Since induction of DNA re-replication results in apoptosis, compounds that selectively induce DNA re-replication in cancer cells without doing so in normal cells could kill cancers in vivo without preventing normal cell proliferation. Furthermore, the same HTS assay can be adapted to screen siR-NA molecules to identify genes whose products restrict genome duplication to once per cell division. Some of these genes might regulate the formation of terminally differentiated polyploid cells during normal human development, whereas others will prevent DNA re-replication during each cell division. Based on previous studies, we anticipate that one or more of the latter genes will prove to be essential for proliferation of cancer cells but not for normal cells, since many cancer cells are deficient in mechanisms that maintain genome stability.
PMCID: PMC4149752  PMID: 22503772
High throughput screening; DNA re-replication; Endoreduplication; Endocycle; Fluorescence activated cell sorting; siRNA; RNAi; Cancer; Geminin; Emi1
2.  A Class of Tricyclic Compounds Blocking Malaria Parasite Oocyst Development and Transmission 
Malaria is a deadly infectious disease in many tropical and subtropical countries. Previous efforts to eradicate malaria have failed, largely due to the emergence of drug-resistant parasites, insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and, in particular, the lack of drugs or vaccines to block parasite transmission. ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters are known to play a role in drug transport, metabolism, and resistance in many organisms, including malaria parasites. To investigate whether a Plasmodium falciparum ABC transporter (Pf14_0244 or PfABCG2) modulates parasite susceptibility to chemical compounds or plays a role in drug resistance, we disrupted the gene encoding PfABCG2, screened the recombinant and the wild-type 3D7 parasites against a library containing 2,816 drugs approved for human or animal use, and identified an antihistamine (ketotifen) that became less active against the PfABCG2-disrupted parasite in culture. In addition to some activity against asexual stages and gametocytes, ketotifen was highly potent in blocking oocyst development of P. falciparum and the rodent parasite Plasmodium yoelii in mosquitoes. Tests of structurally related tricyclic compounds identified additional compounds with similar activities in inhibiting transmission. Additionally, ketotifen appeared to have some activity against relapse of Plasmodium cynomolgi infection in rhesus monkeys. Further clinical evaluation of ketotifen and related compounds, including synthetic new derivatives, in blocking malaria transmission may provide new weapons for the current effort of malaria eradication.
PMCID: PMC3535893  PMID: 23129054
3.  Identification of Potent and Selective Diphenylpropanamide RORγ Inhibitors 
Retinoic acid-related orphan receptor RORγt plays a pivotal role in the differentiation of TH17 cells. Antagonizing RORγt transcriptional activity is a potential means to treat TH17-related autoimmune diseases. Herein, we describe the identification of a series of diphenylpropanamides as novel and selective RORγ antagonists. Diphenylpropanamide 4n inhibited transcriptional activity of RORγt, but not RORα, in cells. In addition, it suppressed human TH17 cell differentiation at sub-micromolar concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3770298  PMID: 24040486
Retinoic acid-related orphan receptor; RORγ antagonist; diphenylpropanamide; TH17-related autoimmune diseases
4.  Identification of Potent and Selective Diphenylpropanamide RORγ Inhibitors 
Retinoic acid-related orphan receptor RORγt plays a pivotal role in the differentiation of TH17 cells. Antagonizing RORγt transcriptional activity is a potential means to treat TH17-related autoimmune diseases. Herein, we describe the identification of a series of diphenylpropanamides as novel and selective RORγ antagonists. Diphenylpropanamide 4n inhibited the transcriptional activity of RORγt, but not RORα, in cells. In addition, it suppressed human TH17 cell differentiation at submicromolar concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3770298  PMID: 24040486
retinoic acid-related orphan receptor; RORγ antagonist; diphenylpropanamide; TH17-related autoimmune diseases
5.  Chemical genomic profiling for antimalarial therapies, response signatures and molecular targets 
Science (New York, N.y.)  2011;333(6043):724-729.
Malaria remains a devastating disease largely because of widespread drug resistance. New drugs and a better understanding of the mechanisms of drug action and resistance are essential for fulfilling the promise of eradicating malaria. Using high-throughput chemical screening and genome-wide association analysis, we identified 32 highly active compounds and genetic loci and genes associated with differential chemical phenotypes (DCPs), defined as ≥5-fold differences in half-maximum inhibitor concentration (IC50) between parasite lines. Chromosomal loci associated with 49 DCPs were confirmed by linkage analysis and tests of genetically modified parasites, including three genes that were linked to 96% of the DCPs. Drugs whose responses mapped to wild type or mutant pfcrt alleles were tested in combination in vitro and in vivo, yielding promising new leads for antimalarial treatments.
PMCID: PMC3396183  PMID: 21817045
Plasmodium falciparum; high-throughput screening; genetic mapping; chemical genomics; phenotype
6.  A Quantitative High Throughput Screen Identifies Novel Inhibitors of the Interaction of Thyroid Receptor β with a Peptide of Steroid Receptor Coactivator 2 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2011;16(6):618-627.
The thyroid hormone receptors (TR) are members of the nuclear hormone receptor (NHR) superfamily that regulate development, growth, and metabolism. Upon ligand binding, TR releases bound corepressors and recruits coactivators to modulate target gene expression. Steroid Receptor Coactivator 2 (SRC2) is an important coregulator that interacts with TRβ to activate gene transcription. To identify novel inhibitors of the TRβ and SRC2 interaction, we performed a quantitative high throughput screen (qHTS) of a TRβ-SRC2 fluorescence polarization assay against more than 290,000 small molecules. The qHTS assayed compounds at six concentrations up to 92 uM to generate titration-response curves and determine the potency and efficacy of all compounds. The qHTS dataset enabled the characterization of actives for structure-activity relationships as well as for potential artifacts such as fluorescence interference. Selected qHTS actives were tested in the screening assay using fluoroprobes labeled with Texas Red or fluorescein. The retest identified 19 series and 4 singletons as active in both assays with 40% or greater efficacy, free of compound interference and not toxic to mammalian cells. Selected compounds were tested as independent samples and a methylsulfonylnitrobenzoate series inhibited the TRβ-SRC2 interaction with 5 uM IC50. This series represents a new class of thyroid hormone receptor-coactivator modulators.
PMCID: PMC3162318  PMID: 21482722
thyroid receptor; small molecule; HTS; coactivator; protein-protein interaction
7.  An Image Based, High-Throughput, Screening Assay For Molecules That Induce Excess DNA Replication In Human Cancer Cells 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2011;9(3):294-310.
Previous studies have shown DNA re-replication can be induced in cells derived from human cancers under conditions in which cells derived from normal tissues are not. Since DNA re-replication induces cell death, this strategy could be applied to the discovery of potential anticancer therapeutics. Therefore, an imaging assay amenable to high-throughput screening was developed that measures DNA replication in excess of four genomic equivalents in the nuclei of intact cells and indexes cell proliferation. This assay was validated by screening a library of 1280 bioactive molecules on both normal and tumor-derived cells where it proved more sensitive than current methods for detecting excess DNA replication. This screen identified known inducers of excess DNA replication such as inhibitors of microtubule dynamics, as well as novel compounds that induced excess DNA replication in both normal and cancer cells. In addition, two compounds were identified that induced excess DNA replication selectively in cancer cells, and one that induced endocycles selectively in cancer cells. Thus, this assay provides a new approach to the discovery of compounds useful for investigating the regulation of genome duplication and for the treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC3060295  PMID: 21257818
8.  The Pilot Phase of the NIH Chemical Genomics Center 
The NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) was the inaugural center of the Molecular Libraries and Screening Center Network (MLSCN). Along with the nine other research centers of the MLSCN, the NCGC was established with a primary goal of bringing industrial technology and experience to empower the scientific community with small molecule compounds for use in their research. We intend this review to serve as 1) an introduction to the NCGC standard operating procedures, 2) an overview of several of the lessons learned during the pilot phase and 3) a review of several of the innovative discoveries reported during the pilot phase of the MLSCN.
PMCID: PMC2989597  PMID: 19807664
9.  The Identification of Aminothienopyridazine Inhibitors of Tau Assembly by Quantitative High-Throughput Screening† 
Biochemistry  2009;48(32):7732-7745.
Inclusions comprised of fibrils of the microtubule (MT)-associated protein tau are found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative tauopathies. The pathology that is observed in these diseases is believed to result from the formation of toxic tau oligomers or fibrils, and/or from the loss of normal tau function due to its sequestration into insoluble deposits. Hence, small molecules that prevent tau oligomerization and/or fibrillization might have therapeutic value. Indeed, examples of such compounds have been published but nearly all have properties that render them unsuitable as drug candidates. For these reasons, we conducted quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) of ~292,000 compounds to identify drug-like inhibitors of tau assembly. The fibrillization of a truncated tau fragment that contains four MT-binding domains was monitored in an assay that employed complementary thioflavine T fluorescence and fluorescence polarization methods. Previously described classes of inhibitors as well as new scaffolds were identified, including novel aminothienopyridazines (ATPZ’s). A number of ATPZ analogs were synthesized and structure-activity relationships were defined. Further characterization of representative ATPZ compounds showed they do not interfere with tau-mediated MT assembly, and they are significantly more effective at preventing the fibrillization of tau than the Aβ(1–42) peptide which forms AD senile plaques. Thus, the ATPZ molecules described here represent a novel class of tau assembly inhibitors that merit further development for testing in animal models of AD-like tau pathology.
PMCID: PMC2773749  PMID: 19580328
10.  A Quantitative High-Throughput Screen for Modulators of IL-6 Signaling: A Model for Interrogating Biological Networks using Chemical Libraries 
Molecular bioSystems  2009;5(9):1039-1050.
Small molecule modulators are critical for dissecting and understanding signaling pathways at the molecular level. Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a cytokine that signals via the JAK/STAT pathway and is implicated in cancer and inflammation. To identify modulators of this pathway, we screened a chemical collection against an IL-6 responsive cell line stably expressing a beta-lactamase reporter gene fused to a sis-inducible element (SIE-bla cells). This assay was optimized for a 1536-well microplate format and screened against 11,693 small molecules using quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS), a method that assays a chemical library at multiple concentrations to generate titration-response profiles for each compound. The qHTS recovered 564 actives with well-fit curves that clustered into 32 distinct chemical series of 13 activators and 19 inhibitors. A retrospective analysis of the qHTS data indicated that single concentration data at 1.5 and 7.7 uM scored 35 and 71% of qHTS actives, respectively, as inactive and were therefore false negatives. Following counter screens to identify fluorescent and nonselective series, we found four activator and one inhibitor series that modulated SIE-bla cells but did not show similar activity in reporter gene assays induced by EGF and hypoxia. Small molecules within these series will make useful tool compounds to investigate IL-6 signaling mediated by JAK/STAT activation.
PMCID: PMC2747079  PMID: 19668870
IL-6; small molecule; HTS; STAT; assay
12.  A Quantitative High-Throughput Screen Identifies Potential Epigenetic Modulators of Gene Expression 
Analytical biochemistry  2007;375(2):237-248.
Epigenetic regulation of gene expression is essential in embryonic development and contributes to cancer pathology. We used a cell-based imaging assay that measures derepression of a silenced GFP reporter to identify novel classes of compounds involved in epigenetic regulation. This Locus Derepression (LDR) assay was screened against a 69,137-member chemical library using quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS), a titration-response method that assays compounds at multiple concentrations. From structure-activity relationships of the 411 actives recovered from the qHTS, six distinct chemical series were chosen for further study. Forty-eight qHTS actives and analogs were counter screened using the parental line of the LDR cells, which lack the GFP reporter. Three series, 8-hydroxy quinoline, quinoline-8-thiol and 1,3,5-thiadiazinane-2-thione, were not fluorescent and re-confirmed activity in the LDR cells. The three active series did not inhibit histone deacetylase activity in nuclear extracts or reactivate the expression of the densely methylated p16 gene in cancer cells. However, one series induced expression of the methylated CDH13 gene and inhibited the viability of several lung cancer lines at submicromolar concentrations. These results suggest that the identified small molecules act on epigenetic or transcriptional components and validate our approach of using a cell-based imaging assay in conjunction with qHTS.
PMCID: PMC2330280  PMID: 18211814
epigenetic; small molecule; GFP; HTS; HDAC; cell assay; cancer
13.  Differentiating Alzheimer Disease-Associated Aggregates with Small Molecules 
Neurobiology of disease  2007;28(3):251-260.
Alzheimer disease is diagnosed postmortem by the density and spatial distribution of β-amyloid plaques and tau-bearing neurofibrillary tangles. The major protein component of each lesion adopts cross-β-sheet conformation capable of binding small molecules with submicromolar affinity. In many cases, however, Alzheimer pathology overlaps with Lewy body disease, characterized by the accumulation of a third cross-β-sheet forming protein, α-synuclein. To determine the feasibility of distinguishing tau aggregates from β-amyloid and α-synuclein aggregates with small molecule probes, a library containing 71,975 small molecules was screened for antagonists of tau-aggregate mediated changes in Thioflavin S fluorescence, followed by secondary screens to distinguish the relative affinity for each substrate protein. Results showed that >10-fold binding selectivity among substrates could be achieved, with molecules selective for tau aggregates containing at least three aromatic or rigid moieties connected by two rotatable bonds.
PMCID: PMC2194600  PMID: 17761424
Alzheimer disease; tau; neurofibrillary tangle; contrast agents; diagnosis

Results 1-13 (13)