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1.  Macrophage Models of Gaucher Disease for Evaluating Disease Pathogenesis and Candidate Drugs 
Science translational medicine  2014;6(240):240ra73.
Gaucher disease is caused by an inherited deficiency of glucocerebrosidase that manifests with storage of glycolipids in lysosomes, particularly in macrophages. Available cell lines modeling Gaucher disease do not demonstrate lysosomal storage of glycolipids; therefore, we set out to develop two macrophage models of Gaucher disease that exhibit appropriate substrate accumulation. We used these cellular models both to investigate altered macrophage biology in Gaucher disease and to evaluate candidate drugs for its treatment. We generated and characterized monocyte-derived macrophages from 20 patients carrying different Gaucher disease mutations. In addition, we created induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)–derived macrophages from five fibroblast lines taken from patients with type 1 or type 2 Gaucher disease. Macrophages derived from patient monocytes or iPSCs showed reduced glucocerebrosidase activity and increased storage of glucocerebroside and glucosylsphingosine in lysosomes. These macrophages showed efficient phagocytosis of bacteria but reduced production of intracellular reactive oxygen species and impaired chemotaxis. The disease phenotype was reversed with a noninhibitory small-molecule chaperone drug that enhanced glucocerebrosidase activity in the macrophages, reduced glycolipid storage, and normalized chemotaxis and production of reactive oxygen species. Macrophages differentiated from patient monocytes or patient-derived iPSCs provide cellular models that can be used to investigate disease pathogenesis and facilitate drug development.
PMCID: PMC4161206  PMID: 24920659
3.  A TRP Channel in the Lysosome Regulates Large Particle Phagocytosis via Focal Exocytosis 
Developmental cell  2013;26(5):511-524.
Phagocytosis of large extracellular particles such as apoptotic bodies requires delivery of the intracellular endosomal and lysosomal membranes to form plasmalemmal pseudopods. Here we identified Mucolipin TRP channel 1 (TRPML1) as the key lysosomal Ca2+ channel regulating focal exocytosis and phagosome biogenesis. Both particle ingestion and lysosomal exocytosis are inhibited by synthetic TRPML1 blockers, and are defective in macrophages isolated from TRPML1 knockout mice. Furthermore, TRPML1 overexpression and TRPML1 agonists facilitate both lysosomal exocytosis and particle uptake. Using time-lapse confocal imaging and direct patch-clamping of phagosomal membranes, we found that particle binding induces lysosomal PI(3,5)P2 elevation to trigger TRPML1-mediated lysosomal Ca2+ release specifically at the site of uptake, rapidly delivering TRPML1-resident lysosomal membranes to nascent phagosomes via lysosomal exocytosis. Thus phagocytic ingestion of large particles activates a phosphoinositide- and Ca2+- dependent exocytosis pathway to provide membranes necessary for pseudopod extension, leading to clearance of senescent and apoptotic cells in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3794471  PMID: 23993788
Lysosomal exocytosis; Phagocytosis; Phagosome; Membrane trafficking; Ca2+ release
4.  A high-throughput sphingomyelinase assay using natural substrate 
Sphingomyelinases are a group of hydrolases that cleave sphingomyelin, a common component of plasma membranes, to form ceramide and phosphocholine. Ceramide is a second messenger that is present in virtually all cell types and regulates a variety of cellular functions such as proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and inflammation response. Inhibition of sphingomyelinase activity to reduce ceramide concentrations has recently emerged as a potential therapeutic approach for several diseases including atherosclerosis, pathogen infections, inflammation, diabetes, and obesity. To effectively screen compound collections for the identification of new sphingomyelinase inhibitors, we have developed a high-throughput assay utilizing the natural substrate sphingomyelin in 1,536-well plate format. The assay has a signal-to-basal ratio of 6.1-fold in pH 5.0 buffer and 4.3-fold in pH 6.5 buffer, indicating a robust assay for compound library screening. A screen of ~300,000 compounds using this assay led to the identification of eight compounds as sphingomyelinase inhibitors (IC50s=1.7 to 38.2 μM) that exhibited different activities between the natural substrate assay and profluorescence substrate assay. The results demonstrate the robustness and effectiveness of the natural substrate sphingomyelinase assay for screening sphingomyelinase inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4138601  PMID: 22710568
Acid sphingomyelinase; ASM inhibitors; High-throughput screening; Natural enzyme substrate
5.  Novel Cell-Based Hepatitis C Virus Infection Assay for Quantitative High-Throughput Screening of Anti-Hepatitis C Virus Compounds 
Therapy for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has advanced with the recent approval of direct-acting antivirals in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin. New antivirals with novel targets are still needed to further improve the treatment of hepatitis C. Previously reported screening methods for HCV inhibitors either are limited to a virus-specific function or apply a screening method at a single dose, which usually leads to high false-positive or -negative rates. We developed a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) assay platform with a cell-based HCV infection system. This highly sensitive assay can be miniaturized to a 1,536-well format for screening of large chemical libraries. All candidates are screened over a 7-concentration dose range to give EC50s (compound concentrations at 50% efficacy) and dose-response curves. Using this assay format, we screened a library of pharmacologically active compounds (LOPAC). Based on the profile of dose-dependent curves of HCV inhibition and cytotoxicity, 22 compounds with adequate curves and EC50s of <10 μM were selected for validation. In two additional independent assays, 17 of them demonstrated specific inhibition of HCV infection. Ten potential candidates with efficacies of >70% and CC50s (compound concentrations at 50% cytotoxicity) of <30 μM from these validated hits were characterized for their target stages in the HCV replication cycle. In this screen, we identified both known and novel hits with diverse structural and functional features targeting various stages of the HCV replication cycle. The pilot screen demonstrates that this assay system is highly robust and effective in identifying novel HCV inhibitors and that it can be readily applied to large-scale screening of small-molecule libraries.
PMCID: PMC3910886  PMID: 24277038
6.  Targeting IRAK1 as a therapeutic approach for Myelodysplastic Syndrome 
Cancer cell  2013;24(1):90-104.
Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) arise from a defective hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell. Consequently, there is an urgent need to develop targeted therapies capable of eliminating the MDS-initiating clones. We identified that IRAK1, an immune modulating kinase, is overexpressed and hyperactivated in MDS. MDS clones treated with a small-molecule IRAK1 inhibitor (IRAK1/4-Inh) exhibited impaired expansion and increased apoptosis, which coincided with TRAF6/NF- κB inhibition. Suppression of IRAK1, either by RNAi or with IRAK1/4-Inh, is detrimental to MDS cells while sparing normal CD34+ cells. Based on an integrative gene expression analysis, we combined IRAK1 and BCL2 inhibitors and found that co-treatment more effectively eliminated MDS clones. In summary, these findings implicate IRAK1 as a drugable target in MDS.
PMCID: PMC3711103  PMID: 23845443
7.  Lomofungin and dilomofungin: inhibitors of MBNL1-CUG RNA binding with distinct cellular effects 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(10):6591-6602.
Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is a dominantly inherited neuromuscular disorder resulting from expression of RNA containing an expanded CUG repeat (CUGexp). The pathogenic RNA is retained in nuclear foci. Poly-(CUG) binding proteins in the Muscleblind-like (MBNL) family are sequestered in foci, causing misregulated alternative splicing of specific pre-mRNAs. Inhibitors of MBNL1-CUGexp binding have been shown to restore splicing regulation and correct phenotypes in DM1 models. We therefore conducted a high-throughput screen to identify novel inhibitors of MBNL1-(CUG)12 binding. The most active compound was lomofungin, a natural antimicrobial agent. We found that lomofungin undergoes spontaneous dimerization in DMSO, producing dilomofungin, whose inhibition of MBNL1–(CUG)12 binding was 17-fold more potent than lomofungin itself. However, while dilomofungin displayed the desired binding characteristics in vitro, when applied to cells it produced a large increase of CUGexp RNA in nuclear foci, owing to reduced turnover of the CUGexp transcript. By comparison, the monomer did not induce CUGexp accumulation in cells and was more effective at rescuing a CUGexp-induced splicing defect. These results support the feasibility of high-throughput screens to identify compounds targeting toxic RNA, but also demonstrate that ligands for repetitive sequences may have unexpected effects on RNA decay.
PMCID: PMC4041448  PMID: 24799433
8.  A High-throughput Screening Assay using Krabbe Disease Patient Cells 
Analytical biochemistry  2012;434(1):15-25.
Globoid-cell leukodystrophy (GLD) or Krabbe disease is a lysosomal disease caused by β-galactocerebrosidase (GALC) deficiency resulting in a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Unfortunately, the only available treatment is hematopoietic bone marrow transplantation, which prevents its fulminant manifestation but without treating further neurological manifestations. Here we describe the development of a cellular high-throughput screening (HTS) assay using GLD patient fibroblasts to screen for small molecules that enhance the residual mutant GALC enzymatic activity. Small molecules have substantial therapeutic potential in GLD as they are more prone to cross the blood-brain barrier, reaching the neuronal affected cells. The transformation of primary skin fibroblasts with SV40 large T antigen showed to maintain the biochemical characteristics of the GLD cells and generates sufficient cells for the HTS. Using a specific fluorescent substrate, residual GALC activity from a SV40-transformed GLD patient fibroblast was measurable in high-dense microplates plates. The pilot quantitative HTS against a small compound collection showed robust statistics. The small molecules that showed active concentration-response curves were further studied in primary GLD fibroblasts. This cell-based HTS assay demonstrates the feasibility of employing live-GLD patient cells to identify therapeutic agents that can be potentially be used for the treatment of this progressive neurodegenerative disease.
PMCID: PMC3975245  PMID: 23138179
β-galactocerebrosidase; high-throughput screening; small molecules; Krabbe Disease
9.  A High Throughput Screening Assay System for the Identification of Small Molecule Inhibitors of gsp 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90766.
Mis-sense mutations in the α-subunit of the G-protein, Gsα, cause fibrous dysplasia of bone/McCune-Albright syndrome. The biochemical outcome of these mutations is constitutively active Gsα and increased levels of cAMP. The aim of this study was to develop an assay system that would allow the identification of small molecule inhibitors specific for the mutant Gsα protein, the so-called gsp oncogene. Commercially available Chinese hamster ovary cells were stably transfected with either wild-type (WT) or mutant Gsα proteins (R201C and R201H). Stable cell lines with equivalent transfected Gsα protein expression that had relatively lower (WT) or higher (R201C and R201H) cAMP levels were generated. These cell lines were used to develop a fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)–based cAMP assay in 1536-well microplate format for high throughput screening of small molecule libraries. A small molecule library of 343,768 compounds was screened to identify modulators of gsp activity. A total of 1,356 compounds with inhibitory activity were initially identified and reconfirmed when tested in concentration dose responses. Six hundred eighty-six molecules were selected for further analysis after removing cytotoxic compounds and those that were active in forskolin-induced WT cells. These molecules were grouped by potency, efficacy, and structural similarities to yield 22 clusters with more than 5 of structurally similar members and 144 singleton molecules. Seven chemotypes of the major clusters were identified for further testing and analyses.
PMCID: PMC3965391  PMID: 24667240
10.  Inhibitors of the Yersinia Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase Through High Throughput and Virtual Screening Approaches 
The bacterial protein tyrosine phosphatase YopH is an essential virulence determinant in Yersinia pestis and a potential antibacterial drug target. Here we report our studies of screening for small molecule inhibitors of YopH using both high throughput and in silico approaches. The identified inhibitors represent a diversity of chemotypes and novel pTyr mimetics, providing a starting point for further development and fragment-based design of multi-site binding inhibitors. We demonstrate that the applications of high throughput and virtual screening, when guided by structural binding mode analysis, is an effective approach for identifying potent and selective inhibitors of YopH and other protein phosphatases for rational drug design.
PMCID: PMC3563096  PMID: 23294700
Yersinia virulence; YopH; high throughput screening; virtual screening
11.  Chemical signatures and new drug targets for gametocytocidal drug development 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:3743.
Control of parasite transmission is critical for the eradication of malaria. However, most antimalarial drugs are not active against P. falciparum gametocytes, responsible for the spread of malaria. Consequently, patients can remain infectious for weeks after the clearance of asexual parasites and clinical symptoms. Here we report the identification of 27 potent gametocytocidal compounds (IC50 < 1 μM) from screening 5,215 known drugs and compounds. All these compounds were active against three strains of gametocytes with different drug sensitivities and geographical origins, 3D7, HB3 and Dd2. Cheminformatic analysis revealed chemical signatures for P. falciparum sexual and asexual stages indicative of druggability and suggesting potential targets. Torin 2, a top lead compound (IC50 = 8 nM against gametocytes in vitro), completely blocked oocyst formation in a mouse model of transmission. These results provide critical new leads and potential targets to expand the repertoire of malaria transmission-blocking reagents.
PMCID: PMC3894558  PMID: 24434750
12.  Identification of a selective small molecule inhibitor series targeting the Eyes Absent 2 (Eya2) phosphatase activity 
Eya proteins are essential co-activators of the Six family of homeobox transcription factors and also contain a unique protein tyrosine phosphatase activity, belonging to the haloacid dehalogenase family of phosphatases. The phosphatase activity of Eya is important for a subset of Six1-mediated transcription, making this a unique type of transcriptional control. It is also responsible for directing cells to the repair instead of apoptosis pathway upon DNA damage. Furthermore, the phosphatase activity of Eya is critical for transformation, migration, invasion, and metastasis of breast cancer cells. Thus, inhibitors of the Eya phosphatase activity may be anti-tumorigenic and anti-metastatic, as well as sensitize cancer cells to DNA damage inducing therapies. In this paper, we identified a previously unknown chemical series using high throughput screening that inhibits the Eya2 phosphatase activity with IC50s ranging from 1.8 to 79 μM. Compound activity was confirmed using an alternative malachite green assay and H2AX, a known Eya substrate. Importantly, these Eya2 phosphatase inhibitors show specificity and do not significantly inhibit several other cellular phosphatases. Our studies identify the first selective Eya2 phosphatase inhibitors that can potentially be developed into chemical probes for functional studies of Eya phosphatase or into anti-cancer drugs in the future.
PMCID: PMC3893891  PMID: 22820394
Phosphatase; Eyes Absent 2; Eya2; Eya2 inhibitor; Six1
13.  Induction and Reversal of Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 Pre-mRNA Splicing Defects by Small Molecules 
Nature communications  2013;4:2044.
The ability to control pre-mRNA splicing with small molecules could facilitate the development of therapeutics or cell-based circuits that control gene function. Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by the dysregulation of alternative pre-mRNA splicing due to sequestration of muscleblind-like 1 protein (MBNL1) by expanded, non-coding r(CUG) repeats (r(CUG)exp). Here we report two small molecules that induce or ameliorate alternative splicing dysregulation. The thiophene-containing small molecule (1) inhibits the interaction of MBNL1 with its natural pre-mRNA substrates. Compound (2), a substituted naphthyridine, binds r(CUG)exp and displaces MBNL1. Structural models show that 1 binds MBNL1 in the Zn-finger domain and that 2 interacts with UU loops in r(CUG)exp. This study provides a structural framework for small molecules that target MBNL1 by mimicking r(CUG)exp and shows that targeting MBNL1 causes dysregulation of alternative splicing, suggesting that MBNL1 is thus not a suitable therapeutic target for the treatment of DM1.
PMCID: PMC3710115  PMID: 23806903
14.  A Novel Brain Penetrant NPS Receptor Antagonist, NCGC00185684, Blocks Alcohol-Induced ERK-Phosphorylation in the Central Amygdala and Decreases Operant Alcohol Self-Administration in Rats 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(24):10132-10142.
The Neuropeptide S receptor, a Gs/Gq-coupled GPCR expressed in brain regions involved in mediating drug reward, has recently emerged as a candidate therapeutic target in addictive disorders. Here, we describe the in vitro and in vivo pharmacology of a novel, selective and brain penetrant NPSR antagonist with nanomolar affinity for the NPSR, NCGC00185684. In vitro, NCGC00185684 shows biased antagonist properties, and preferentially blocks ERK-phosphorylation over intracellular cAMP or calcium responses to NPS. In vivo, systemic NCGC00185684 blocks alcohol-induced ERK-phosphorylation in the rat central amygdala, a region involved in regulation of alcohol intake. NCGC00185684 also decreases operant alcohol self-administration, and lowers motivation for alcohol reward as measured using progressive ratio responding. These effects are behaviorally specific, in that they are observed at doses that do not influence locomotor activity or reinstatement responding following extinction. Together, these data provide an initial validation of the NPSR as a therapeutic target in alcoholism.
PMCID: PMC3682378  PMID: 23761908
15.  High-content screening identifies small molecules that remove nuclear foci, affect MBNL distribution and CELF1 protein levels via a PKC-independent pathway in myotonic dystrophy cell lines 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(6):1551-1562.
Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is a multi-system neuromuscular disorder for which there is no treatment. We have developed a medium throughput phenotypic assay, based on the identification of nuclear foci in DM patient cell lines using in situ hybridization and high-content imaging to screen for potentially useful therapeutic compounds. A series of further assays based on molecular features of DM have also been employed. Two compounds that reduce and/or remove nuclear foci have been identified, Ro 31-8220 and chromomycin A3. Ro 31-8220 is a PKC inhibitor, previously shown to affect the hyperphosphorylation of CELF1 and ameliorate the cardiac phenotype in a DM1 mouse model. We show that the same compound eliminates nuclear foci, reduces MBNL1 protein in the nucleus, affects ATP2A1 alternative splicing and reduces steady-state levels of CELF1 protein. We demonstrate that this effect is independent of PKC activity and conclude that this compound may be acting on alternative kinase targets within DM pathophysiology. Understanding the activity profile for this compound is key for the development of targeted therapeutics in the treatment of DM.
PMCID: PMC3929092  PMID: 24179176
16.  Correction: Rapid Identification of Antifungal Compounds against Exserohilum rostratum Using High Throughput Drug Repurposing Screens 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):10.1371/annotation/1d0f9e65-e7a3-41ba-960e-c4274334f436.
PMCID: PMC3821788
17.  Discovery of a novel non-iminosugar acid alpha glucosidase chaperone series 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2012;55(17):7546-7559.
Pompe disease is an autosomal recessive lysosomal storage disorder (LSD) caused by deficiency of the lysosomal enzyme acid alpha glucosidase (GAA). Many disease-causing mutated GAA retain enzymatic activity, but are not translocated from endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to lysosomes. Enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) is the only treatment for Pompe disease, but remains expensive, inconvenient and does not reverse all disease manifestations. It was postulated that small molecules which aid in protein folding and translocation to lysosomes could provide an alternate to ERT. Previously, several iminosugars have been proposed as small-molecule chaperones for specific LSDs. Here we identified a novel series of non-iminosugar chaperones for GAA. These moderate GAA inhibitors are shown to bind and thermo-stabilize GAA, and increase GAA translocation to lysosomes in both wild-type and Pompe fibroblasts. AMDE and physical properties studies indicate that this series is a promising lead for further pharmacokinetic evaluation and testing in Pompe disease models.
PMCID: PMC3448374  PMID: 22834902
18.  Correction: Rapid Identification of Antifungal Compounds against Exserohilum rostratum Using High Throughput Drug Repurposing Screens 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):10.1371/annotation/df5a5a46-cf30-4842-bf11-b6cee36c1f9b.
PMCID: PMC3796626  PMID: 24137509
19.  Rapid Identification of Antifungal Compounds against Exserohilum rostratum Using High Throughput Drug Repurposing Screens 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70506.
A recent large outbreak of fungal infections by Exserohilum rostratum from contaminated compounding solutions has highlighted the need to rapidly screen available pharmaceuticals that could be useful in therapy. The present study utilized two newly-developed high throughput assays to screen approved drugs and pharmaceutically active compounds for identification of potential antifungal agents. Several known drugs were found that have potent effects against E. rostratum including the triazole antifungal posaconazole. Posaconazole is likely to be effective against infections involving septic joints and may provide an alternative for refractory central nervous system infections. The anti-E. rostratum activities of several other drugs including bithionol (an anti-parasitic drug), tacrolimus (an immunosuppressive agent) and floxuridine (an antimetabolite) were also identified from the drug repurposing screens. In addition, activities of other potential antifungal agents against E. rostratum were excluded, which may avoid unnecessary therapeutic trials and reveals the limited therapeutic alternatives for this outbreak. In summary, this study has demonstrated that drug repurposing screens can be quickly conducted within a useful time-frame. This would allow clinical implementation of identified alternative therapeutics and should be considered as part of the initial public health response to new outbreaks or rapidly-emerging microbial pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3749181  PMID: 23990907
20.  Pyruvate kinase M2 activators promote tetramer formation and suppress tumorigenesis 
Nature chemical biology  2012;8(10):839-847.
Cancer cells engage in a metabolic program to enhance biosynthesis and support cell proliferation. The regulatory properties of pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) influence altered glucose metabolism in cancer. PKM2 interaction with phosphotyrosine-containing proteins inhibits enzyme activity and increases availability of glycolytic metabolites to support cell proliferation. This suggests that high pyruvate kinase activity may suppress tumor growth. We show that expression of PKM1, the pyruvate kinase isoform with high constitutive activity, or exposure to published small molecule PKM2 activators inhibit growth of xenograft tumors. Structural studies reveal that small molecule activators bind PKM2 at the subunit interaction interface, a site distinct from that of the endogenous activator fructose-1,6-bisphosphate (FBP). However, unlike FBP, binding of activators to PKM2 promotes a constitutively active enzyme state that is resistant to inhibition by tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins. These data support the notion that small molecule activation of PKM2 can interfere with anabolic metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3711671  PMID: 22922757
21.  Discovery, SAR, and Biological evaluation of Non-Inhibitory Small Molecule Chaperones of Glucocerebrosidase 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2012;55(12):5734-5748.
A major challenge in the field of Gaucher disease has been the development of new therapeutic strategies including molecular chaperones. All previously described chaperones of glucocerebrosidase are enzyme inhibitors, which complicates their clinical development, because their chaperone activity must be balanced against the functional inhibition of the enzyme. Using a novel high throughput screening methodology, we identified a chemical series that does not inhibit the enzyme, but can still facilitate its translocation to the lysosome as measured by immunostaining of glucocerebrosidase in patient fibroblasts. These compounds provide the basis for the development of a novel approach towards small molecule treatment for patients with Gaucher disease.
PMCID: PMC3400126  PMID: 22646221
Gaucher disease; glucocerebrosidase; chaperone; pyrazolopyrimidine; activator
22.  Two high throughput screening assays for Aberrant RNA-protein interactions in Myotonic Dystrophy Type-1 
Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry  2012;402(5):1889-1898.
Myotonic dystrophy type-1 (DM1), the most prevalent form of adult muscular dystrophy, is caused by expansion of a CTG repeat in the 3′ untranslated region of the DM protein kinase (DMPK) gene. The pathogenic effects of the CTG expansion arise from the deleterious effects of the mutant transcript. RNA with expanded CUG tracts alters the activities of several RNA binding proteins, including muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1). MBNL1 becomes sequestered in nuclear foci in complex with the expanded CUG repeat RNA. The resulting loss of MBNL1 activity causes mis-regulated alternative splicing of multiple genes, leading to symptoms of DM1. The binding interaction between MBNL1 and mutant RNA could be a key step in the pathogenesis of DM1 and serves as a potential target for therapeutic intervention. We have developed two high throughput screen (HTS) suitable assays using both homogenous time-resolved fluorescence energy transfer (HTRF) and AlphaScreen technologies to detect the binding of a C-terminally His-tagged MBNL1 and a biotinylated (CUG)12 RNA. These assays are homogenous and successfully miniaturized to 1536-well plate format. Both assays were validated and show robust signal-to-basal ratios and Z’ factors.
PMCID: PMC3280409  PMID: 22218462
Myotonic dystrophy type 1; DM1; Muscleblind-like 1; MBNL1
23.  Inhibition of Ceramide Metabolism Sensitizes Human Leukemia Cells to Inhibition of BCL2-Like Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54525.
The identification of novel combinations of effective cancer drugs is required for the successful treatment of cancer patients for a number of reasons. First, many “cancer specific” therapeutics display detrimental patient side-effects and second, there are almost no examples of single agent therapeutics that lead to cures. One strategy to decrease both the effective dose of individual drugs and the potential for therapeutic resistance is to combine drugs that regulate independent pathways that converge on cell death. BCL2-like family members are key proteins that regulate apoptosis. We conducted a screen to identify drugs that could be combined with an inhibitor of anti-apoptotic BCL2-like proteins, ABT-263, to kill human leukemia cells lines. We found that the combination of D,L-threo-1-phenyl-2-decanoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol (PDMP) hydrochloride, an inhibitor of glucosylceramide synthase, potently synergized with ABT-263 in the killing of multiple human leukemia cell lines. Treatment of cells with PDMP and ABT-263 led to dramatic elevation of two pro-apoptotic sphingolipids, namely ceramide and sphingosine. Furthermore, treatment of cells with the sphingosine kinase inhibitor, SKi-II, also dramatically synergized with ABT-263 to kill leukemia cells and similarly increased ceramides and sphingosine. Data suggest that synergism with ABT-263 requires accumulation of ceramides and sphingosine, as AMP-deoxynojirimycin, (an inhibitor of the glycosphingolipid pathway) did not elevate ceramides or sphingosine and importantly did not sensitize cells to ABT-263 treatment. Taken together, our data suggest that combining inhibitors of anti-apoptotic BCL2-like proteins with drugs that alter the balance of bioactive sphingolipids will be a powerful combination for the treatment of human cancers.
PMCID: PMC3546986  PMID: 23342165
24.  A Homogenous Luminescence Assay Reveals Novel Inhibitors for Giardia Lamblia Carbamate Kinase 
Current Chemical Genomics  2012;6:93-102.
The human pathogen Giardia lamblia is an anaerobic protozoan parasite that causes giardiasis, one of the most common diarrheal diseases worldwide. Although several drugs are available for the treatment of giardisis, resistance to these drugs has been reported and is likely to increase. The Giardia carbamate kinase (glCK) plays an essential role in Giardia metabolism and has no homologs in humans, making it an attractive candidate for anti-Giardia drug development. We have developed a luminescent enzyme coupled assay to measure the activity of glCK by quantitating the amount of ATP produced by the enzyme. This assay is homogeneous and has been miniaturized into a 1536-well plate format. A pilot screen against 4,096 known compounds using this assay yielded a signal-to-basal ratio of 11.5 fold and Z’ factor of 0.8 with a hit rate of 0.9 % of inhibitors of glCK. Therefore, this Giardia lamblia carbamate kinase assay is useful for high throughput screening of large compound collection for identification of the inhibitors for drug development.
PMCID: PMC3565245  PMID: 23400734
Carbamate kinase; Giardia; high throughput screening; assay development.
25.  High-Throughput Multiplexed Quantitation of Protein Aggregation and Cytotoxicity in a Huntington’s Disease Model 
A hallmark of Huntington’s disease is the presence of a large polyglutamine expansion in the first exon of the Huntingtin protein and the propensity of protein aggregation by the mutant proteins. Aberrant protein aggregation also occurs in other polyglutamine expansion disorders, as well as in other neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and prion diseases. However, the pathophysiological role of these aggregates in the cell death that characterizes the diseases remains unclear. Identification of small molecule probes that modulate protein aggregation and cytotoxicity caused by aggregated proteins may greatly facilitate the studies on pathogenesis of these diseases and potentially lead to development of new therapies. Based on a detergent insoluble property of the Huntingtin protein aggregates, we have developed a homogenous assay to rapidly quantitate the levels of protein aggregates in a cellular model of Huntington’s disease. The protein aggregation assay has also been multiplexed with a protease release assay for the measurement of cytotoxicity resulting from aggregated proteins in the same cells. Through a testing screen of a compound library, we have demonstrated that this multiplexed cytotoxicity and protein aggregation assay has ability to identify active compounds that prevent cell death and/or modulate protein aggregation in cells of the Huntington’s disease model. Therefore, this multiplexed screening approach is also useful for development of high-throughput screening assays for other neurodegenerative diseases involving protein aggregation.
PMCID: PMC3551243  PMID: 23346268
Huntington’s disease; protein aggregation; high-throughput screen; polyglutamine expansion; multiplex assay.

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