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1.  Identification and characterization of small molecule human papillomavirus E6 inhibitors 
ACS chemical biology  2014;9(7):1603-1612.
Cervical cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women worldwide and the leading cause of women’s death in developing countries. Nearly all cervical cancers are associated with infection of the human papillomavirus (HPV). This sexually transmitted pathogen disrupts the cell cycle via two oncoproteins: E6 and E7. Cells respond to E7-mediated degradation of pRB by upregulating the p53 tumor suppressor pathway. However, E6 thwarts this response by binding to the cellular E6-Associating Protein (E6AP) and targeting p53 for degradation. These two virus-facilitated processes pave the way for cellular transformation. Prophylactic HPV vaccines are available, but individuals already infected with HPV lack drug-based therapeutic options. To fill this void, we sought to identify small molecule inhibitors of the E6/E6AP interaction. We designed an ELISA-based high throughput assay to rapidly screen compound libraries and hits were confirmed in several orthogonal biochemical and cell-based assays. Over 88,000 compounds were screened; 30 had in vitro potencies in the mid-nanomolar to mid-micromolar range and were classified as validated hits. Seven of these hits inhibited p53 degradation in cell lines with HPV-integrated genomes. Two compounds of similar scaffold successfully blocked p53 degradation and inhibited cell proliferation in cells stably transfected with E6. Together, these studies suggest that small molecules can successfully block E6-dependent p53 degradation and restore p53 activity. The compounds identified here constitute attractive starting points for further medicinal chemistry efforts and development into beneficial therapeutics.
doi:10.1021/cb500229d
PMCID: PMC4145632  PMID: 24854633
2.  Meglumine Exerts Protective Effects against Features of Metabolic Syndrome and Type II Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90031.
Metabolic syndrome, diabetes and diabetes complications pose a growing medical challenge worldwide, accentuating the need of safe and effective strategies for their clinical management. Here we present preclinical evidence that the sorbitol derivative meglumine (N-methyl-D-glucamine) can safely protect against several features of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, as well as elicit enhancement in muscle stamina. Meglumine is a compound routinely used as an approved excipient to improve drug absorption that has not been ascribed any direct biological effects in vivo. Normal mice (SV129) administered 18 mM meglumine orally for six weeks did not display any gastrointestinal or other observable adverse effects, but had a marked effect on enhancing muscle stamina and at longer times in limiting weight gain. In the established KK.Cg-Ay/J model of non-insulin dependent diabetes, oral administration of meglumine significantly improved glycemic control and significantly lowered levels of plasma and liver triglycerides. Compared to untreated control animals, meglumine reduced apparent diabetic nephropathy. Sorbitol can improve blood glucose uptake by liver and muscle in a manner associated with upregulation of the AMPK-related enzyme SNARK, but with undesirable gastrointestinal side effects not seen with meglumine. In murine myoblasts, we found that meglumine increased steady-state SNARK levels in a dose-dependent manner more potently than sorbitol. Taken together, these findings provide support for the clinical evaluation of meglumine as a low-cost, safe supplement offering the potential to improve muscle function, limit metabolic syndrome and reduce diabetic complications.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090031
PMCID: PMC3937407  PMID: 24587200
3.  Identification and Characterization of Small Molecule Antagonists of pRb Inactivation by Viral Oncoproteins 
Chemistry & biology  2012;19(4):518-528.
SUMMARY
The retinoblastoma protein pRb is essential for regulating many cellular activities through its binding and inhibition of E2F transcription activators, and pRb inactivation leads to many cancers. pRb activity can be perturbed by viral oncoproteins including human papillomavirus (HPV) that share an LxCxE motif. Since there are no treatments for existing HPV infection leading to nearly all cervical cancers and other cancers to a lesser extent, we screened for compounds that inhibit the ability of HPV-E7 to disrupt pRb/E2F complexes. This lead to the identification of thiadiazolidinedione compounds that bind to pRb with mid-high nanomolar dissociation constants, are competitive with the binding of viral oncoproteins containing an LxCxE motif and are selectively cytotoxic in HPV positive cells alone and in mice. These inhibitors provide a promising scaffold for the development of therapies to treat HPV-mediated pathologies.
doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2012.03.007
PMCID: PMC3334872  PMID: 22520758
4.  Development of a High-Throughput Screen for Inhibitors of Epstein-Barr Virus EBNA1 
Journal of Biomolecular Screening  2010;15(9):1107-1115.
Latent infection with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is a carcinogenic cofactor in several lymphoid and epithelial cell malignancies. At present, there are no small molecule inhibitors that specifically target EBV latent infection or latency-associated oncoproteins. EBNA1 is an EBV-encoded sequence-specific DNA-binding protein that is consistently expressed in EBV-associated tumors and required for stable maintenance of the viral genome in proliferating cells. EBNA1 is also thought to provide cell survival function in latently infected cells. In this work we describe the development of a biochemical high-throughput screening (HTS) method using a homogenous fluorescence polarization (FP) assay monitoring EBNA1 binding to its cognate DNA binding site. An FP-based counterscreen was developed using another EBV-encoded DNA binding protein, Zta, and its cognate DNA binding site. We demonstrate that EBNA1 binding to a fluorescent labeled DNA probe provides a robust assay with a Z-factor consistently greater than 0.6. A pilot screen of a small molecule library of ~14,000 compounds identified 3 structurally related molecules that selectively inhibit EBNA1, but not Zta. All three compounds had activity in a cell-based assay specific for the disruption of EBNA1 transcription repression function. One of the compounds was effective in reducing EBV genome copy number in Raji Burkitt lymphoma cells. These experiments provide a proof-of-concept that small molecule inhibitors of EBNA1 can be identified by biochemical high-throughput screening of compound libraries. Further screening in conjunction with medicinal chemistry optimization may provide a selective inhibitor of EBNA1 and EBV latent infection.
doi:10.1177/1087057110379154
PMCID: PMC3310380  PMID: 20930215

Results 1-4 (4)