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1.  R-Spondin 1 promotes vibration-induced bone formation in mouse models of osteoporosis 
Journal of molecular medicine (Berlin, Germany)  2013;91(12):10.1007/s00109-013-1068-3.
Bone tissue adapts to its functional environment by optimizing its morphology for mechanical demand. Among the mechanosensitive cells that recognize and respond to forces in the skeleton are osteocytes, osteoblasts, and mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPCs). Therefore, the ability to use mechanical signals to improve bone health through exercise and devices that deliver mechanical signals is an attractive approach to age-related bone loss; however, the extracellular or circulating mediators of such signals are largely unknown. Using SDS-PAGE separation of proteins secreted by MPCs in response to low magnitude mechanical signals and in-gel trypsin digestion followed by HPLC and mass spectroscopy, we identified secreted proteins up-regulated by vibratory stimulation. We exploited a cell senescence-associated secretory phenotype screen, and reasoned that a subset of vibration-induced proteins with diminished secretion by senescent MPCs will have the capacity to promote bone formation in vivo. We identified one such vibration-induced bone-enhancing (vibe) gene as R-Spondin 1, a Wnt pathway modulator, and demonstrated that it has the capacity to promote bone formation in three mouse models of age-related bone loss. By virtue of their secretory status, some vibe proteins may be candidates for pre-clinical development as anabolic agents for the treatment of osteoporosis.
PMCID: PMC3834172  PMID: 23974989
Mechanical signals; vibration; R-spondin 1; telomerase; telomere; aging; osteoporosis; mesenchymal stem cells
2.  Concurrent MEK2 mutation and BRAF amplification confer resistance to BRAF and MEK inhibitors in melanoma 
Cell reports  2013;4(6):1090-1099.
Although BRAF and MEK inhibitors have proven clinical benefits in melanoma, most patients develop resistance. We report a de novo MEK2-Q60P mutation and BRAF gain in a melanoma from a patient who progressed on the MEK inhibitor trametinib and did not respond to the BRAF inhibitor dabrafenib. We also identified the same MEK2-Q60P mutation along with BRAF amplification in a xenograft tumor derived from a second melanoma patient resistant to the combination of dabrafenib and trametinib. Melanoma cells chronically exposed to trametinib acquired concurrent MEK2-Q60P mutation and BRAF-V600E amplification, which conferred resistance to MEK and BRAF inhibitors. The resistant cells had sustained MAPK activation and persistent phosphorylation of S6K. A triple combination of dabrafenib, trametinib, and the PI3K/mTOR inhibitor GSK2126458 led to sustained tumor growth inhibition. Hence, concurrent genetic events that sustain MAPK signaling can underlie resistance to both BRAF and MEK inhibitors, requiring novel therapeutic strategies to overcome it.
PMCID: PMC3956616  PMID: 24055054
3.  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.
PMCID: PMC4145632  PMID: 24854633
4.  Survivin family proteins as novel molecular determinants of doxorubicin resistance in organotypic human breast tumors 
The molecular determinants of breast cancer resistance to first-line anthracycline-containing chemotherapy are unknown.
We examined the response to doxorubicin of organotypic cultures of primary human breast tumors ex vivo with respect to cell proliferation, DNA damage and modulation of apoptosis. Samples were analyzed for genome-wide modulation of cell death pathways, differential activation of p53, and the role of survivin family molecules in drug resistance. Rational drug combination regimens were explored by high-throughput screening, and validated in model breast cancer cell types.
Doxorubicin treatment segregated organotypic human breast tumors into distinct Responder or Non Responder groups, characterized by differential proliferative index, stabilization of p53, and induction of apoptosis. Conversely, tumor histotype, hormone receptor or human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) status did not influence chemotherapy sensitivity. Global analysis of cell death pathways identified survivin and its alternatively spliced form, survivin-ΔEx3 as uniquely overexpressed in Non Responder breast tumors. Forced expression of survivin-ΔEx3 preserved cell viability and prevented doxorubicin-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cell types. High-throughput pharmacologic targeting of survivin family proteins with a small-molecule survivin suppressant currently in the clinic (YM155) selectively potentiated the effect of doxorubicin, but not other chemotherapeutics in breast cancer cell types, and induced tumor cell apoptosis.
Survivin family proteins are novel effectors of doxorubicin resistance in chemotherapy-naive breast cancer. The incorporation of survivin antagonist(s) in anthracycline-containing regimens may have improved clinical activity in these patients.
PMCID: PMC4076638  PMID: 24886669
5.  Cdc13 OB2 Dimerization Required for Productive Stn1 Binding and Efficient Telomere Maintenance 
Cdc13 is an essential yeast protein required for telomere length regulation and genome stability. It does so via its telomere capping properties and by regulating telomerase access to the telomeres. The crystal structure of the S. cerevisiae Cdc13 domain located between the recruitment and DNA binding domains reveals an oligonucleotide-oligosaccharide binding fold (OB2) with unusually long loops extending from the core of the protein. These loops are involved in extensive interactions between two Cdc13 OB2 folds leading to stable homo-dimerization. Interestingly, the functionally impaired cdc13-1 mutation inhibits OB2 dimerization. Biochemical assays indicate OB2 is not involved in telomeric DNA or Stn1 binding. However, disruption of the OB2 dimer in full-length Cdc13 affects Cdc13-Stn1 association leading to telomere length deregulation, increased temperature sensitivity and Stn1 binding defects. We therefore propose that dimerization of the OB2 domain of Cdc13 is required for proper Cdc13, Stn1, Ten1 (CST) assembly and productive telomere capping.
PMCID: PMC3545062  PMID: 23177925
6.  Structure of the Human Telomeric Stn1-Ten1 Capping Complex 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66756.
The identification of the human homologue of the yeast CST in 2009 posed a new challenge in our understanding of the mechanism of telomere capping in higher eukaryotes. The high-resolution structure of the human Stn1-Ten1 (hStn1-Ten1) complex presented here reveals that hStn1 consists of an OB domain and tandem C-terminal wHTH motifs, while hTen1 consists of a single OB fold. Contacts between the OB domains facilitate formation of a complex that is strikingly similar to the replication protein A (RPA) and yeast Stn1-Ten1 (Ten1) complexes. The hStn1-Ten1 complex exhibits non-specific single-stranded DNA activity that is primarily dependent on hStn1. Cells expressing hStn1 mutants defective for dimerization with hTen1 display elongated telomeres and telomere defects associated with telomere uncapping, suggesting that the telomeric function of hCST is hTen1 dependent. Taken together the data presented here show that the structure of the hStn1-Ten1 subcomplex is conserved across species. Cell based assays indicate that hTen1 is critical for the telomeric function of hCST, both in telomere protection and downregulation of telomerase function.
PMCID: PMC3691326  PMID: 23826127
7.  Identification and Characterization of Small Molecule Antagonists of pRb Inactivation by Viral Oncoproteins 
Chemistry & biology  2012;19(4):518-528.
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.
PMCID: PMC3334872  PMID: 22520758
8.  Identification of an Ubinuclein 1 region required for stability and function of the human HIRA/UBN1/CABIN1/ASF1a histone H3.3 chaperone complex 
Biochemistry  2012;51(12):2366-2377.
The mammalian HIRA/UBN1/CABIN1/ASF1a (HUCA) histone chaperone complex deposits the histone H3 variant H3.3 into chromatin, and is linked to gene activation, repression and chromatin assembly in diverse cell contexts. We recently reported that a short N-terminal fragment of UBN1 containing amino acids 1–175 is necessary and sufficient for interaction with the WD repeats of HIRA, and attributed this interaction to a region from residues 120–175 that is highly conserved in a yeast ortholog Hpc2 and so termed the HRD for Hpc2-Related Domain. In this report, through a more comprehensive and refined biochemical and mutational analysis, we identify a smaller and more moderately conserved region within residues 41–77 of UBN1, that we term the NHRD, that is essential for interaction with the HIRA WD repeats; we further demonstrate that the HRD is dispensable for this interaction. We employ analytical ultracentrifugation studies to demonstrate that the NHRD of UBN1 and the WD repeats of HIRA form a tight 1:1 complex with a dissociation constant in the nanomolar range. Mutagenesis experiments identify several key residues in the NHRD that are required for interaction with the HIRA WD repeat domain, stability of the HUCA complex in vitro and in vivo and changes in chromatin organization in primary human cells. Together, these studies implicate the NHRD domain of UBN1 as being an essential region for HIRA interaction and chromatin organization by the HUCA complex.
PMCID: PMC3320765  PMID: 22401310
HIRA; UBN1; Histone Deposition; Chromatin Regulation
9.  The KRAB Zinc Finger Protein RSL1 Regulates Sex- and Tissue-Specific Promoter Methylation and Dynamic Hormone-Responsive Chromatin Configuration 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(18):3732-3742.
Over 400 Krüppel-associated box zinc finger proteins (KRAB-ZFPs) are encoded in mammalian genomes. While KRAB-ZFPs strongly repress transcription in vitro, little is known about their biological function or gene targets in vivo. Regulator of sex limitation 1 (Rsl1), one of the first KRAB-Zfp genes assigned a physiological role, accentuates sex-biased liver gene expression, most dramatically for mouse sex-limited protein (Slp), which provides an in vivo reporter of KRAB-ZFP function. Slp is induced in males in the liver and kidney by growth hormone (GH) and androgen, respectively. In the liver but not kidney, the Rsl1 genotype correlates with methylation of a CpG dinucleotide in the Slp promoter that is demethylated at puberty. RSL1 binds 2 kb upstream of the Slp promoter, both in vitro and in vivo, within an enhancer containing response elements for STAT5b. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays demonstrate that RSL1 recruits KAP1/TRIM28, the corepressor for KRAB action in vitro, to this enhancer. Slp induction requires rapid cycling of STAT5b in chromatin. Remarkably, RSL1 simultaneously binds adjacent to STAT5b with a reciprocal binding pattern that limits hormonal response. These experiments demonstrate a surprisingly dynamic interplay between a hormonal activator, STAT5b, and a KRAB-ZFP repressor and provide unique insights into KRAB-ZFP epigenetic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3430191  PMID: 22801370
10.  Human CABIN1 Is a Functional Member of the Human HIRA/UBN1/ASF1a Histone H3.3 Chaperone Complex▿ 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(19):4107-4118.
The mammalian HIRA/UBN1/ASF1a complex is a histone chaperone complex that is conserved from yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to humans. This complex preferentially deposits the histone variant H3.3 into chromatin in a DNA replication-independent manner and is implicated in diverse chromatin regulatory events from gene activation to heterochromatinization. In yeast, the orthologous complex consists of three Hir proteins (Hir1p, Hir2p, and Hir3p), Hpc2p, and Asf1p. Yeast Hir3p has weak homology to CABIN1, a fourth member of the human complex, suggesting that Hir3p and CABIN1 may be orthologs. Here we show that HIRA and CABIN1 interact at ectopic and endogenous levels of expression in cells, and we isolate the quaternary HIRA/UBN1/CABIN1/ASF1a (HUCA) complex, assembled from recombinant proteins. Mutational analyses support the view that HIRA acts as a scaffold to bring together UBN1, ASF1a, and CABIN1 into a quaternary complex. We show that, like HIRA, UBN1, and ASF1a, CABIN1 is involved in heterochromatinization of the genome of senescent human cells. Moreover, in proliferating cells, HIRA and CABIN1 regulate overlapping sets of genes, and these genes are enriched in the histone variant H3.3. In sum, these data demonstrate that CABIN1 is a functional member of the human HUCA complex and so is the likely ortholog of yeast Hir3p.
PMCID: PMC3187368  PMID: 21807893
11.  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.
PMCID: PMC3310380  PMID: 20930215
12.  Rudimentary G-quadruplex–based telomere capping in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Telomere capping conceals chromosome ends from exonucleases and checkpoints, but the full range of capping mechanisms is not well defined. Telomeres have the potential to form G-quadruplex (G4) DNA, although evidence for telomere G4 DNA function in vivo is limited. In budding yeast, capping requires the Cdc13 protein and is lost at nonpermissive temperatures in cdc13-1 mutants. Here, we use several independent G4 DNA–stabilizing treatments to suppress cdc13-1 capping defects. These include overexpression of three different G4 DNA binding proteins, loss of the G4 DNA unwinding helicase Sgs1, or treatment with small molecule G4 DNA ligands. In vitro, we show that protein-bound G4 DNA at a 3′ overhang inhibits 5′→3′ resection of a paired strand by exonuclease I. These findings demonstrate that, at least in the absence of full natural capping, G4 DNA can play a positive role at telomeres in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3119813  PMID: 21399640
13.  Discovery of Selective Inhibitors Against EBNA1 via High Throughput In Silico Virtual Screening 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10126.
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) latent infection is associated with several human malignancies and is a causal agent of lymphoproliferative diseases during immunosuppression. While inhibitors of herpesvirus DNA polymerases, like gancyclovir, reduce EBV lytic cycle infection, these treatments have limited efficacy for treating latent infection. EBNA1 is an EBV-encoded DNA-binding protein required for viral genome maintenance during latent infection.
Here, we report the identification of a new class of small molecules that inhibit EBNA1 DNA binding activity. These compounds were identified by virtual screening of 90,000 low molecular mass compounds using computational docking programs with the solved crystal structure of EBNA1. Four structurally related compounds were found to inhibit EBNA1-DNA binding in biochemical assays with purified EBNA1 protein. Compounds had a range of 20–100 µM inhibition of EBNA1 in fluorescence polarization assays and were further validated for inhibition using electrophoresis mobility shift assays. These compounds exhibited no significant inhibition of an unrelated DNA binding protein. Three of these compounds inhibited EBNA1 transcription activation function in cell-based assays and reduced EBV genome copy number when incubated with a Burkitt lymphoma cell line.
These experiments provide a proof-of-principle that virtual screening can be used to identify specific inhibitors of EBNA1 that may have potential for treatment of EBV latent infection.
PMCID: PMC2853575  PMID: 20405039
14.  Histone H3 K4 Demethylation during Activation and Attenuation of GAL1 Transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae▿ ‡ 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(22):7856-7864.
In mammalian cells, histone lysine demethylation is carried out by two classes of enzymes, the LSD1/BHC110 class and the jumonji class. The enzymes of the jumonji class in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae have recently also been shown to have lysine demethylation activity. Here we report that the protein encoded by YJR119c (termed KDM5), coding for one of five predicted jumonji domain proteins in yeast, specifically demethylates trimethylated histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3), H3K4me2, and H3K4me1 in vitro. We found that loss of KDM5 increased mono-, di-, and trimethylation of lysine 4 during activation of the GAL1 gene. Interestingly, cells deleted of KDM5 also displayed a delayed reduction of K4me3 upon reestablishment of GAL1 repression. These results indicate that K4 demethylation has two roles at GAL1, first to establish appropriate levels of K4 methylation during gene activation and second to remove K4 trimethylation during the attenuation phase of transcription. Thus, analysis of lysine demethylation in yeast provides new insight into the physiological roles of jumonji demethylase enzymes.
PMCID: PMC2169161  PMID: 17875926
15.  The KAP1 Corepressor Functions To Coordinate the Assembly of De Novo HP1-Demarcated Microenvironments of Heterochromatin Required for KRAB Zinc Finger Protein-Mediated Transcriptional Repression▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(22):8623-8638.
KAP1/TIF1β is proposed to be a universal corepressor protein for the KRAB zinc finger protein (KRAB-zfp) superfamily of transcriptional repressors. To characterize the role of KAP1 and KAP1-interacting proteins in transcriptional repression, we investigated the regulation of stably integrated reporter transgenes by hormone-responsive KRAB and KAP1 repressor proteins. Here, we demonstrate that depletion of endogenous KAP1 levels by small interfering RNA (siRNA) significantly inhibited KRAB-mediated transcriptional repression of a chromatin template. Similarly, reduction in cellular levels of HP1α/β/γ and SETDB1 by siRNA attenuated KRAB-KAP1 repression. We also found that direct tethering of KAP1 to DNA was sufficient to repress transcription of an integrated transgene. This activity is absolutely dependent upon the interaction of KAP1 with HP1 and on an intact PHD finger and bromodomain of KAP1, suggesting that these domains function cooperatively in transcriptional corepression. The achievement of the repressed state by wild-type KAP1 involves decreased recruitment of RNA polymerase II, reduced levels of histone H3 K9 acetylation and H3K4 methylation, an increase in histone occupancy, enrichment of trimethyl histone H3K9, H3K36, and histone H4K20, and HP1 deposition at proximal regulatory sequences of the transgene. A KAP1 protein containing a mutation of the HP1 binding domain failed to induce any change in the histone modifications associated with DNA sequences of the transgene, implying that HP1-directed nuclear compartmentalization is required for transcriptional repression by the KRAB/KAP1 repression complex. The combination of these data suggests that KAP1 functions to coordinate activities that dynamically regulate changes in histone modifications and deposition of HP1 to establish a de novo microenvironment of heterochromatin, which is required for repression of gene transcription by KRAB-zfps.
PMCID: PMC1636786  PMID: 16954381
16.  KAP-1 Corepressor Protein Interacts and Colocalizes with Heterochromatic and Euchromatic HP1 Proteins: a Potential Role for Krüppel-Associated Box–Zinc Finger Proteins in Heterochromatin-Mediated Gene Silencing 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1999;19(6):4366-4378.
Krüppel-associated box (KRAB) domains are present in approximately one-third of all human zinc finger proteins (ZFPs) and are potent transcriptional repression modules. We have previously cloned a corepressor for the KRAB domain, KAP-1, which is required for KRAB-mediated repression in vivo. To characterize the repression mechanism utilized by KAP-1, we have analyzed the ability of KAP-1 to interact with murine (M31 and M32) and human (HP1α and HP1γ) homologues of the HP1 protein family, a class of nonhistone heterochromatin-associated proteins with a well-established epigenetic gene silencing function in Drosophila. In vitro studies confirmed that KAP-1 is capable of directly interacting with M31 and hHP1α, which are normally found in centromeric heterochromatin, as well as M32 and hHP1γ, both of which are found in euchromatin. Mapping of the region in KAP-1 required for HP1 interaction showed that amino acid substitutions which abolish HP1 binding in vitro reduce KAP-1 mediated repression in vivo. We observed colocalization of KAP-1 with M31 and M32 in interphase nuclei, lending support to the biochemical evidence that M31 and M32 directly interact with KAP-1. The colocalization of KAP-1 with M31 is sometimes found in subnuclear territories of potential pericentromeric heterochromatin, whereas colocalization of KAP-1 and M32 occurs in punctate euchromatic domains throughout the nucleus. This work suggests a mechanism for the recruitment of HP1-like gene products by the KRAB-ZFP–KAP-1 complex to specific loci within the genome through formation of heterochromatin-like complexes that silence gene activity. We speculate that gene-specific repression may be a consequence of the formation of such complexes, ultimately leading to silenced genes in newly formed heterochromatic chromosomal environments.
PMCID: PMC104396  PMID: 10330177

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