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author:("sham, David")
1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  Developmental trajectories of schizotypal personality disorder-like behavioural manifestations: a two-year longitudinal prospective study of college students 
BMC Psychiatry  2013;13:323.
Background
Previous evidence has shown that schizotypal personality disorder (SPD) is part of the schizophrenia spectrum. Few studies have examined latent classes in the developmental trajectories of SPD features over time in individuals with SPD features.
Methods
We adopted a longitudinal prospective study design to follow up a cohort of 660 college students during a two-year period. Participants’ SPD-like symptoms and psychosocial function were measured by a comprehensive set of questionnaires that covered SPD features and cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial functions. Latent class growth analysis was used to examine the trajectory classes.
Results
Three trajectory classes were identified: a low, a medium, and a high SPD features group. Participants in the low group reported few SPD features and their symptoms declined over time. The medium group students had more SPD features than the low group and these symptoms stabilized during the follow up period. Participants in the high group reported the most SPD features and their symptoms increased over time. The three groups differed in paranoid thoughts, psychological distress, neurocognition function, and emotional expression over time. Results of multivariate regression analysis suggested that paranoid thoughts, emotional experience and prospective memory were predictors of social functioning in the high SPD feature group.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that individuals with SPD features may be delineated into different developmental subgroups and these subgroups differ significantly in psychosocial function. Delusions, emotion, and prospective memory may be important features to consider in early diagnosis and interventions for individuals predisposed to SPD and schizophrenia.
doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-323
PMCID: PMC3875349  PMID: 24289659
Schizotypal personality disorder; Developmental trajectories; Psychosocial function; Latent class growth analysis
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Social Functioning in Chinese College Students with and without Schizotypal Personality Traits: An Exploratory Study of the Chinese Version of the First Episode Social Functioning Scale 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e61115.
Objectives
The First Episode Social Functioning Scale (FESFS) was designed to measure social functioning of young individuals with schizophrenia. The aim of this study was to validate a Chinese version of the FESFS in a sample of young Chinese adults.
Method
The FESFS was translated to Chinese prior to being administered to 1576 college students. The factor structure, reliability, and validity of the scale were examined.
Results
Two items were deleted after item analysis and the internal consistency of the whole scale was .89. A six-factor structure was derived by exploratory factor analysis. The factors were interpersonal, family and friends, school, living skills, intimacy, and balance. Estimates of the structural equation model supported this structure, with Goodness of Fit Chi-Square χ2 = 1097.53 (p<0.0001), the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.058, and the comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.93. Scale validity was supported by significant correlations between social functioning factors scores and schizophrenia personality questionnaire (SPQ) scores. Individuals with schizotypal personality features presented poorer social functioning than those without schizotypal personality features.
Conclusions
The Chinese revised version of the FESFS was found to have good psychometric properties and could be used in the future to examine social functioning in Chinese college students.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061115
PMCID: PMC3653910  PMID: 23690922
11.  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
12.  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
13.  Neural correlates of uncertain decision making: ERP evidence from the Iowa Gambling Task 
In our daily life, it is very common to make decisions in uncertain situations. The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) has been widely used in laboratory studies because of its good simulation of uncertainty in real life activities. The present study aimed to examine the neural correlates of uncertain decision making with the IGT. Twenty-six university students completed this study. An adapted IGT was administered to them, and the EEG data were recorded. The adapted IGT we used allowed us to analyze the choice evaluation, response selection, and feedback evaluation stages of uncertain decision making within the same paradigm. In the choice evaluation stage, the advantageous decks evoked larger P3 amplitude in the left hemisphere, while the disadvantageous decks evoked larger P3 in the right hemisphere. In the response selection stage, the response of “pass” (the card was not turned over; the participants neither won nor lost money) evoked larger negativity preceding the response compared to that of “play” (the card was turned over; the participant either won or lost money). In the feedback evaluation stage, feedback-related negativity (FRN) was only sensitive to the valence (win/loss) but not the magnitude (large/small) of the outcome, and P3 was sensitive to both the valence and the magnitude of the outcome. These results were consistent with the notion that a positive somatic state was represented in the left hemisphere and a negative somatic state was represented in the right hemisphere. There were also anticipatory ERP effects that guided the participants' responses and provided evidence for the somatic marker hypothesis with more precise timing.
doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00776
PMCID: PMC3828619  PMID: 24298248
uncertain decision making; Iowa Gambling Task; emotion; ERP; somatic marker hypothesis
14.  Study protocol: a randomised controlled trial of the effects of a multi-modal exercise program on cognition and physical functioning in older women 
BMC Geriatrics  2012;12:60.
Background
Intervention studies testing the efficacy of cardiorespiratory exercise have shown some promise in terms of improving cognitive function in later life. Recent developments suggest that a multi-modal exercise intervention that includes motor as well as physical training and requires sustained attention and concentration, may better elicit the actual potency of exercise to enhance cognitive performance. This study will test the effect of a multi-modal exercise program, for older women, on cognitive and physical functioning.
Methods/design
This randomised controlled trial involves community dwelling women, without cognitive impairment, aged 65–75 years. Participants are randomised to exercise intervention or non-exercise control groups, for 16 weeks. The intervention consists of twice weekly, 60 minute, exercise classes incorporating aerobic, strength, balance, flexibility, co-ordination and agility training. Primary outcomes are measures of cognitive function and secondary outcomes include physical functioning and a neurocognitive biomarker (brain derived neurotrophic factor). Measures are taken at baseline and 16 weeks later and qualitative data related to the experience and acceptability of the program are collected from a sub-sample of the intervention group.
Discussion
If this randomised controlled trial demonstrates that multimodal exercise (that includes motor fitness training) can improve cognitive performance in later life, the benefits will be two-fold. First, an inexpensive, effective strategy will have been developed that could ameliorate the increased prevalence of age-related cognitive impairment predicted to accompany population ageing. Second, more robust evidence will have been provided about the mechanisms that link exercise to cognitive improvement allowing future research to be better focused and potentially more productive.
Trial registration
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Registration Number: ANZCTR12612000451808
doi:10.1186/1471-2318-12-60
PMCID: PMC3503610  PMID: 23009189
Exercise; Cognition; Aged; Multi-modal exercise; Brain derived neurotrophic factor
15.  Can exercise ameliorate treatment toxicity during the initial phase of testosterone deprivation in prostate cancer patients? Is this more effective than delayed rehabilitation? 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:432.
Background
There has been substantial increase in use of androgen deprivation therapy as adjuvant management of prostate cancer. However, this leads to a range of musculoskeletal toxicities including reduced bone mass and increased skeletal fractures compounded with rapid metabolic alterations, including increased body fat, reduced lean mass, insulin resistance and negative lipoprotein profile, increased incidence of cardiovascular and metabolic morbidity, greater distress and reduced quality of life. Numerous research studies have demonstrated certain exercise prescriptions to be effective at preventing or even reversing these treatment toxicities. However, all interventions to date have been of rehabilitative intent being implemented after a minimum of 3 months since initiation of androgen deprivation, by which time considerable physical and psychological health problems have manifested. The pressing question is whether it is more efficacious to commence exercise therapy at the same time as initiating androgen deprivation, so treatment induced adverse effects can be immediately attenuated or indeed prevented.
Methods/design
We are proposing a multi-site randomized controlled trial with partial crossover to examine the effects of timing of exercise implementation (immediate or delayed) on preserving long-term skeletal health, reversing short- and long-term metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors, and supporting mental health in men receiving androgen deprivation therapy. 124 men who are about to initiate androgen deprivation for prostate cancer will be randomized to immediate or delayed groups. Immediate will commence a 6-month exercise program within 7–10 days of their first dose. Delayed will receive usual care for 6 months and then commence the exercise program for 6 months (partial cross-over). Immediate will be free to adopt the lifestyle of their choosing following the initial 6-month intervention. Measurements for primary and secondary endpoints will take place at baseline, 6 months and 12 months.
Discussion
This project is unique as it explores a fundamental question of when exercise implementation will be of most benefit and addresses both physical and psychological consequences of androgen deprivation initiation. The final outcome may be adjunct treatment which will reduce if not prevent the toxicities of androgen deprivation, ultimately resulting in reduced morbidity and mortality for men with prostate cancer.
Trial registration
ACTRN12612000097842
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-432
PMCID: PMC3519595  PMID: 23013489
Prostate cancer; Androgen deprivation therapy; Exercise; Resistance training; Aerobic training; Side-effects
16.  Identification of benzofuran-4,5-diones as novel and selective non-hydroxamic acid, non-peptidomimetic based inhibitors of human peptide deformylase 
Selective inhibitors of human peptide deformylase (HsPDF) are predicted to constitute a new class of antitumor agents. We report the identification of benzofuran-4,5-diones as the first known selective HsPDF inhibitors and we describe their selectivity profile in a panel of metalloproteases. We characterize their struture activity relationships for antitumor activity in a panel of cancer cell lines, and we assess their in vivo efficacy in a mouse xenograft model. Our results demonstrate that selective HsPDF inhibitors based on the benzofuran-4,5-dione scaffold constitute a novel class of antitumor agents that are potent in vitro and in vivo.
doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2011.05.129
PMCID: PMC3139024  PMID: 21719286
Human peptide deformylase; Benzofuran-4,5-diones; Structure activity relationships; Fluorescence polarization; Antiproliferative agents
17.  Validation of a High-Content Screening Assay Using Whole-Well Imaging of Transformed Phenotypes 
Abstract
Automated microscopy was introduced two decades ago and has become an integral part of the discovery process as a high-content screening platform with noticeable challenges in executing cell-based assays. It would be of interest to use it to screen for reversers of a transformed cell phenotype. In this report, we present data obtained from an optimized assay that identifies compounds that reverse a transformed phenotype induced in NIH-3T3 cells by expressing a novel oncogene, KP, resulting from fusion between platelet derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRα) and kinase insert domain receptor (KDR), that was identified in human glioblastoma. Initial image acquisitions using multiple tiles per well were found to be insufficient as to accurately image and quantify the clusters; whole-well imaging, performed on the IN Cell Analyzer 2000, while still two-dimensional imaging, was found to accurately image and quantify clusters, due largely to the inherent variability of their size and well location. The resulting assay exhibited a Z′ value of 0.79 and a signal-to-noise ratio of 15, and it was validated against known effectors and shown to identify only PDGFRα inhibitors, and then tested in a pilot screen against a library of 58 known inhibitors identifying mostly PDGFRα inhibitors as reversers of the KP induced transformed phenotype. In conclusion, our optimized and validated assay using whole-well imaging is robust and sensitive in identifying compounds that reverse the transformed phenotype induced by KP with a broader applicability to other cell-based assays that are challenging in HTS against chemical and RNAi libraries.
doi:10.1089/adt.2010.0342
PMCID: PMC3123874  PMID: 21182456
18.  High-Content Assay to Identify Inhibitors of Dengue Virus Infection 
Abstract
Dengue virus (DENV) infections are vectored by mosquitoes and constitute one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in many parts of the world, affecting millions of people annually. Current treatments for DENV infections are nonspecific and largely ineffective. In this study, we describe the adaptation of a high-content cell-based assay for screening against DENV-infected cells to identify inhibitors and modulators of DENV infection. Using this high-content approach, we monitored the inhibition of test compounds on DENV protein production by means of immunofluorescence staining of DENV glycoprotein envelope, simultaneously evaluating cytotoxicity in HEK293 cells. The adapted 384-well microtiter-based assay was validated using a small panel of compounds previously reported as having inhibitory activity against DENV infections of cell cultures, including compounds with antiviral activity (ribavirin), inhibitors of cellular signaling pathways (U0126), and polysaccharides that are presumed to interfere with virus attachment (carrageenan). A screen was performed against a collection of 5,632 well-characterized bioactives, including U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved drugs. Assay control statistics show an average Z' of 0.63, indicative of a robust assay in this cell-based format. Using a threshold of >80% DENV inhibition with <20% cellular cytotoxicity, 79 compounds were initially scored as positive hits. A follow-up screen confirmed 73 compounds with IC50 potencies ranging from 60 nM to 9 μM and yielding a hit rate of 1.3%. Over half of the confirmed hits are known to target transporters, receptors, and protein kinases, providing potential opportunity for drug repurposing to treat DENV infections. In summary, this assay offers the opportunity to screen libraries of chemical compounds, in an effort to identify and develop novel drug candidates against DENV infections.
doi:10.1089/adt.2010.0321
PMCID: PMC2962577  PMID: 20973722
19.  A High-Throughput Screen for Alpha Particle Radiation Protectants 
Abstract
Alpha-particle-emitting elements are of increasing importance as environmental and occupational carcinogens, toxic components of radiation dispersal devices and accidents, and potent therapeutics in oncology. Alpha particle radiation differs from radiations of lower linear energy transfer in that it predominantly damages DNA via direct action. Because of this, radical scavengers effective for other radiations have had only limited effect in mitigating alpha particle toxicity. We describe here a simple assay and a pilot screen of 3,119 compounds in a high-throughput screen (HTS), using the alpha-particle-emitting isotope, 225Ac, for the discovery of compounds that might protect mammalian cells from alpha particles through novel mechanisms. The assay, which monitored the viability of a myeloid leukemic cell line upon alpha particle exposure, was robust and reproducible, yielding a Z' factor of 0.66 and a signal-to-noise ratio of nearly 10 to 1. Surprisingly, 1 compound emerged from this screen, epoxy-4,5-α-dihydroxysantonin (EDHS), that showed considerable protective activity. While the value of EDHS remains to be determined, its discovery is a proof of concept and validation of the utility of this HTS methodology. Further application of the described assay could yield compounds useful in minimizing the toxicity and carcinogenesis associated with alpha particle exposure.
doi:10.1089/adt.2010.0291
PMCID: PMC2978061  PMID: 20658946
20.  Identification and preliminary characterization of novel small molecules that inhibit growth of human lung adenocarcinoma cells 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2009;14(10):1176-1184.
Drug treatment for human lung cancers remains unsatisfactory, despite the identification of many potential therapeutic targets (such as mutant KRAS protein) and the approval of agents that inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity of mutant epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). To seek new therapeutic strategies against lung tumors, we have screened 189, 290 small molecules for their ability to retard growth of human lung adenocarcinoma cell lines, which harbor mutations in EGFR or KRAS. Four candidates that are structurally different from common tyrosine kinase inhibitors were selected for further study. We describe one small molecule (designated lung cancer screen-1, LCS-1) in detail here. Identification of the targets of LCS-1 and other growth inhibitors found in this screen may help to develop new agents for treatment of lung adenocarcinomas, including those driven by mutant EGFR and KRAS.
doi:10.1177/1087057109350919
PMCID: PMC3146390  PMID: 19887599
high throughput drug screen; lung cancer; EGFR; KRAS
21.  Aberrant methylation of Polo-like kinase CpG islands in Plk4 heterozygous mice 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:71.
Background
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), one of the most common cancers world-wide occurs twice as often in men compared to women. Predisposing conditions such as alcoholism, chronic viral hepatitis, aflatoxin B1 ingestion, and cirrhosis all contribute to the development of HCC.
Methods
We used a combination of methylation specific PCR and bisulfite sequencing, qReal-Time PCR (qPCR), and Western blot analysis to examine epigenetic changes for the Polo-like kinases (Plks) during the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in Plk4 heterozygous mice and murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs).
Results
Here we report that the promoter methylation of Plk4 CpG islands increases with age, was more prevalent in males and that Plk4 epigenetic modification and subsequent downregulation of expression was associated with the development of HCC in Plk4 mutant mice. Interestingly, the opposite occurs with another Plk family member, Plk1 which was typically hypermethylated in normal liver tissue but became hypomethylated and upregulated in liver tumours. Furthermore, upon alcohol exposure murine embryonic fibroblasts exhibited increased Plk4 hypermethylation and downregulation along with increased centrosome numbers and multinucleation.
Conclusions
These results suggest that aberrant Plk methylation is correlated with the development of HCC in mice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-71
PMCID: PMC3047422  PMID: 21324136
22.  A Miniaturized 1536-Well Format γ-Secretase Assay 
γ-Secretase is an aspartyl protease that cleaves multiple substrates including the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and the Notch proteins. Abnormal proteolysis of APP is involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and overactive Notch signaling plays an oncogenic role in a variety of cancers. γ-Secretase has emerged as a promising target for drug development in the treatment of AD and cancer. Assays with increased capacity for high-throughput screening would allow for quicker screening of chemical libraries and facilitate inhibitor development. We have developed a homogeneous time-resolved fluorescence (HTRF)-based assay that makes use of a novel biotinylated recombinant APP substrate and solubilized membrane preparation as the source of the γ-secretase enzyme. The assay was miniaturized to a 1536-well format and validated in a pilot screen against a library of ∼3,000 compounds. The overall assay performance was robust due to a calculated Z′ factor of 0.74 and its demonstrated ability to identify known γ-secretase inhibitors such as pepstatin A. This validated assay can readily be used for primary screening against large chemical libraries searching for novel inhibitors of γ-secretase activity that may represent potential therapeutics for AD and a variety of neoplasms.
doi:10.1089/adt.2009.0202
PMCID: PMC3096545  PMID: 19715456
23.  Synthesis of Antiproliferative Cephalotaxus Esters and Their Evaluation against Several Human Hematopoietic and Solid Tumor Cell Lines: Uncovering Differential Susceptibilities to Multidrug Resistance 
Deoxyharringtonine (2), homoharringtonine (3), homodeoxyharringtonine (4), and anhydroharringtonine (5) are reported to be among the most potent members of the antileukemia alkaloids isolated from the Cephalotaxus genus. Convergent syntheses of these four natural products are described, each involving novel synthetic methods and strategies. These syntheses enabled evaluation of several advanced natural and non-natural compounds against an array of human hematopoietic and solid tumor cells. Potent cytotoxicity was observed in several cell lines previously not challenged with these alkaloids. Variations in the structure of the ester chain within this family of alkaloids confer differing activity profiles against vincristine-resistant HL-60/RV+, signalling new avenues for molecular design of these natural products to combat multi-drug resistance.
doi:10.1002/chem.200701998
PMCID: PMC2631657  PMID: 18366032
alkaloids; antitumor agents; multidrug resistance; total synthesis
24.  High-Throughput Identification of Inhibitors of Human Mitochondrial Peptide Deformylase 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2007;12(4):521-535.
The human mitochondrial peptide deformylase (HsPDF) provides a potential new target for broadly acting antiproliferative agents. To identify novel nonpeptidomimetic and nonhydroxamic acid–based inhibitors of HsPDF, the authors have developed a high-throughput screening (HTS) strategy using a fluorescence polarization (FP)–based binding assay as the primary assay for screening chemical libraries, followed by an enzymatic-based assay to confirm hits, prior to characterization of their antiproliferative activity against established tumor cell lines. The authors present the results and performance of the established strategy tested in a pilot screen of 2880 compounds and the identification of the 1st inhibitors. Two common scaffolds were identified within the hits. Furthermore, cytotoxicity studies revealed that most of the confirmed hits have antiproliferative activity. These findings demonstrate that the designed strategy can identify novel functional inhibitors and provide a powerful alternative to the use of functional assays in HTS and support the hypothesis that HsPDF inhibitors may constitute a new class of antiproliferative agent.
doi:10.1177/1087057107300463
PMCID: PMC2234356  PMID: 17435169
human peptide deformylase; high-throughput screening; fluorescence polarization; antiproliferative agents

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