The use of opioid analgesics has a long history in clinical settings, although the comprehensive action of opioid receptors is still less understood. Nonetheless, recent studies have generated fresh insights into opioid receptor-mediated functions and their underlying mechanisms. Three major opioid receptors (μ-opioid receptor, MOR; δ-opioid receptor, DOR; and κ-opioid receptor, KOR) have been cloned in many species. Each opioid receptor is functionally sub-classified into several pharmacological subtypes, although, specific gene corresponding each of these receptor subtypes is still unidentified as only a single gene has been isolated for each opioid receptor.
In addition to pain modulation and addiction, opioid receptors are widely involved in various physiological and pathophysiological activities, including the regulation of membrane ionic homeostasis, cell proliferation, emotional response, epileptic seizures, immune function, feeding, obesity, respiratory and cardiovascular control as well as some neurodegenerative disorders. In some species, they play an essential role in hibernation. One of the most exciting findings of the past decade is the opioid-receptor, especially DOR, mediated neuroprotection and cardioprotection. The up-regulation of DOR expression and DOR activation increase the neuronal tolerance to hypoxic/ischemic stress. The DOR signal triggers (depending on stress duration and severity) different mechanisms at multiple levels to preserve neuronal survival, including the stabilization of homeostasis and increased pro-survival signaling (e.g., PKC-ERK-Bcl 2) and anti-oxidative capacity. In the heart, PKC and KATP channels are involved in the opioid receptor-mediated cardioprotection. The DOR-mediated neuroprotection and cardioprotection have the potential to significantly alter the clinical pharmacology in terms of prevention and treatment of life-threatening conditions like stroke and myocardial infarction.
The main purpose of this article is to review the recent work done on opioids and their receptor functions. It shall provide an informative reference for better understanding the opioid system and further elucidation of the opioid receptor function from a physiological and pharmacological point of view.
Opioids; opioid receptors; neurotransmitters; function; brain; heart; lung; ionic homeostasis; neuroprotection; hibernation; pain; hypoxia; ischemia
Protons are important signals for neuronal function. In the central nervous system (CNS), proton concentrations change locally when synaptic vesicles release their acidic contents into the synaptic cleft, and globally in ischemia, seizures, traumatic brain injury, and other neurological disorders due to lactic acid accumulation. The finding that protons gate a distinct family of ion channels, the acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), has shed new light on the mechanism of acid signaling and acidosis-associated neuronal injury. Accumulating evidence has suggested that ASICs play important roles in physiological processes such as synaptic plasticity, learning/memory, fear conditioning, and retinal integrity, and in pathological conditions such as brain ischemia, multiple sclerosis, epileptic seizures, and malignant glioma. Thus, targeting these channels may lead to novel therapeutic interventions for neurological disorders. The goal of this review is to provide an update on recent advances in our understanding of the functions of ASICs in the CNS.
Acid-sensing ion channel; acidosis; CNS; neuron; function; neurological disease
The hypothesis that tumors may originate from a rare population of cancer stem cells (CSCs) has gained tremendous popularity in recent years and is supported extensively by several pioneering works. Cancer therapies targeting CSCs have unlimited potential for relapse free survival of cancer patients. As a result, knowledge of biological pathways that govern CSCs is very important and this review is focused on the biology of CSCs and recent advances in therapeutic approaches targeting them.
Breast cancer; cancer stem cell; cancer therapy; drug resistance; signaling pathway; stem cell
Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at human chromosome 18q, which includes the gene Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (DCC), has been linked to colorectal and many other human cancers. DCC encodes the receptor for the axon guidance molecule Netrin (Net) and functions during neural development in a variety of organisms. However, since its discovery in the 1990s, the status of DCC as a tumor suppressor has been debated, primarily due to a lack of support for this hypothesis in animal models. A recent study from our laboratory capitalized on the genetic tractability of Drosophila melanogaster to demonstrate that this gene functions as an invasive tumor suppressor, thereby providing the first direct link between DCC loss and metastatic phenotypes in an animal model for cancer. Two subsequent studies from other laboratories have demonstrated that DCC suppresses tumor progression and metastasis in murine colorectal and mammary tumor models. Combined, these findings have prompted the rebirth of DCC as a tumor suppressor and highlighted the need for continued analysis of DCC function in animal models for human cancer.
Apoptosis; axon guidance; cancer; DCC; Drosophila melanogaster; metastasis; netrin; tumor suppressor
Cyanobacteria are considered a promising source for new pharmaceutical lead compounds and a large number of chemically diverse and bioactive metabolites have been obtained from cyanobacteria over the last few decades. This review highlights the structural diversity of natural products from freshwater and terrestrial cyanobacteria. The review is divided into three areas: cytotoxic metabolites, protease inhibitors, and antimicrobial metabolites. The first section discusses the potent cytotoxins cryptophycin and tolytoxin. The second section covers protease inhibitors from freshwater and terrestrial cyanobacteria and is divided in five subsections according to structural class: aeruginosins, cyanopeptolins, microviridins, anabaenopeptins, and microginins. Structure activity relationships are discussed within each protease inhibitor class. The third section, antimicrobial metabolites from freshwater and terrestrial cyanobacteria, is divided by chemical class in three subsections: alkaloids, peptides and terpenoids. These examples emphasize the structural diversity and drug development potential of natural products from freshwater and terrestrial cyanobacteria.
cyanobacteria; cytotoxic; protease inhibitor; antibacterial; antifungal
The diacylglycerol-responsive C1 domains of protein kinase C and of the related classes of signaling proteins represent highly attractive targets for drug development. The signaling functions that are regulated by C1 domains are central to cellular control, thereby impacting many pathological conditions. Our understanding of the diacylglycerol signaling pathways provides great confidence in the utility of intervention in these pathways for treatment of cancer and other conditions. Multiple compounds directed at these signaling proteins, including compounds directed at the C1 domains, are currently in clinical trials, providing strong validation for these targets. Extensive understanding of the structure and function of C1 domains, coupled with detailed insights into the molecular details of ligand –C1 domain interactions, provides a solid basis for rational and semi-rational drug design. Finally, the complexity of the factors contributing to ligand – C1 domain interactions affords abundant opportunities for manipulation of selectivity; indeed, substantially selective compounds have already been identified.
protein kinase C; phorbol ester; RasGRP; bryostatin; C1 domain
Increasingly recognized as bioactive molecules, sphingolipids have been studied in a variety of disease models. The impact of sphingolipids on cancer research facilitated the entry of sphingolipid analogues and enzyme modulators into clinical trials. Owing to its ability to regulate two bioactive sphingolipids, ceramide and sphingosine-1-phosphate, acid ceramidase (AC) emerges as an attractive target for drug development within the sphingolipid metabolic pathway. Indeed, there is extensive evidence supporting a pivotal role for AC in lipid metabolism and cancer biology. In this article, we review the current knowledge of the biochemical properties of AC, its relevance to tumor promotion, and its molecular targeting approaches.
Ceramidase; sphingolipids; ceramide; sphingosine; cancer therapy
ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, P-glycoprotein (P-gp, ABCB1) and ABCG2, are membrane proteins that couple the energy derived from ATP hydrolysis to efflux many chemically diverse compounds across the plasma membrane, thereby playing a critical and important physiological role in protecting cells from xenobiotics. These transporters are also implicated in the development of multidrug resistance (MDR) in cancer cells that have been treated with chemotherapeutics. One approach to blocking the efflux capability of an ABC transporter in a cell or tissue is inhibiting the activity of the transporters with a modulator. Since ABC transporter modulators can be used in combination with chemotherapeutics to increase the effective intracellular concentration of anticancer drugs, the possible impact of modulators of ABC drug transporters is of great clinical interest. Another possible clinical use of modulators that has recently attracted attention is their ability to increase oral bioavailability or increase tissue penetration of drugs transported by the transporters. Several preclinical and clinical studies have been performed to evaluate the feasibility and the safety of this approach. The primary focus of this review is to discuss progress made in recent years in the identification and applicability of compounds that may serve as ABC transporter modulators and the possible role of these compounds in altering the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of therapeutic drugs used in the clinic.
ABC transporters; ABCG2; blood-brain barrier; chemotherapy; modulators; multidrug resistance; oral bioavailability; P-glycoprotein
Ischemic postconditioning is a concept originally defined to contrast with that of ischemic preconditioning. While both preconditioning and postconditioning confer a neuroprotective effect on brain ischemia, preconditioning is a sublethal insult performed in advance of brain ischemia, and postconditioning, which conventionally refers to a series of brief occlusions and reperfusions of the blood vessels, is conducted after ischemia/reperfusion. In this article, we first briefly review the history of preconditioning, including the experimentation that initially uncovered its neuroprotective effects and later revealed its underlying mechanisms-of-action. We then discuss how preconditioning research evolved into that of postconditioning – a concept that now represents a broad range of stimuli or triggers, including delayed postconditioning, pharmacological postconditioning, remote postconditioning – and its underlying protective mechanisms involving the Akt, MAPK, PKC and KATP channel cell-signaling pathways. Because the concept of postconditioning is so closely associated with that of preconditioning, and both share some common protective mechanisms, we also discuss whether a combination of preconditioning and postconditioning offers greater protection than preconditioning or postconditioning alone.
postconditioning; preconditioning; stroke; cerebral ischemia; focal ischemia; neuroprotection
The ABCC6 gene encodes an organic anion transporter protein, ABCC6/MRP6. Mutations in the gene cause a rare, recessive genetic disease, pseudoxanthoma elasticum, while the loss of one ABCC6 allele is a genetic risk factor in coronary artery disease. We review here the information available on gene structure, evolution as well as the present knowledge on its transcriptional regulation. We give a detailed description of the characteristics of the protein, and analyze the relationship between the distributions of missense disease–causing mutations in the predicted three-dimensional structure of the transporter, which suggests functional importance of the domain-domain interactions. Though neither the physiological function of the protein nor its role in the pathobiology of the diseases are known, a current hypothesis that ABCC6 may be involved in the efflux of one form of Vitamin K from the liver is discussed. Finally, we analyze potential strategies how the gene can be targeted on the transcriptional level to increase protein expression in order to compensate for reduced activity. In addition, pharmacologic correction of trafficking-defect mutants or suppression of stop codon mutations as potential future therapeutic interventions are also reviewed.
genetic disease; connective tissue; cardiovascular; transcriptional regulation; calcification; vitamin K; membrane proteins; homology model
Radiotherapy of thoracic and chest wall tumors, if all or part of the heart was included in the radiation field, can lead to radiation-induced heart disease (RIHD), a late and potentially severe side effect. RIHD presents clinically several years after irradiation and manifestations include accelerated atherosclerosis, pericardial and myocardial fibrosis, conduction abnormalities, and injury to cardiac valves. The pathogenesis of RIHD is largely unknown, and a treatment is not available. Hence, ongoing pre-clinical studies aim to elucidate molecular and cellular mechanisms of RIHD. Here, an overview of recent pre-clinical studies is given, and based on the results of these studies, potential targets for intervention in RIHD are discussed.
Radiation; heart; animal models; transforming growth factor-beta; renin-angiotensin system; mast cells; endothelin system; sensory nerves
Novel pharmacological strategies are urgently needed to prevent or reduce radiation-induced tissue injury. Microvascular injury is a prominent feature of both early and delayed radiation injury. Radiation-induced endothelial dysfunction is believed to play a key role in the pathogenesis of post-irradiation tissue injury. Hence, strategies that could prevent or improve endothelial malfunction are expected to ameliorate the severity of radiation injury. This review focuses on the therapeutic potential of the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) cofactor 5,6,7,8-tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) as an agent to reduce radiation toxicity. BH4 is an essential cofactor for all NOS enzymes and a critical determinant of NOS function. Inadequate availability of BH4 leads to uncoupling of the NOS enzyme. In an uncoupled state, NOS produces the highly oxidative radicals superoxide and peroxynitrite at the cost of NO. Under conditions of oxidative stress, such as after radiation exposure, BH4 availability might be reduced due to the rapid oxidation of BH4 to 7,8-dihydrobiopterin (7,8-BH2). As a result, free radical–induced BH4 insufficiency may increase the oxidative burden and hamper NO-dependent endothelial function. Given the growing evidence that BH4 depletion and subsequent endothelial NOS uncoupling play a major role in the pathogenesis of endothelial dysfunction in various diseases, there is substantial reason to believe that improving post-irradiation BH4 availability, by either supplementation with it or modulation of its metabolism, might be a novel strategy to reduce radiation-induced endothelial dysfunction and subsequent tissue injury.
Radiation injuries; radioprotection; endothelial dysfunction; nitric oxide synthase; tetrahydrobiopterin; HMG-CoA reductase; γ-tocotrienol
Multiple karyotypic abnormalities and chromosomal instability are characteristic features of many cancers that are relatively resistant to chemotherapeutic agents currently used in the clinic. These same features represent potentially targetable “states” that are essentially tumor specific. The assessment of the chromosomal state of a cancer cell population may provide a guide for the selection or development of drugs active against aggressive and intractable cancers.
Aneuploidy; chromosomal instability; cancer; anticancer drugs; NCI-60; karyotypic abnormalities; CIN; chromosomal instability phenotype
Terpenoids represent a large and diverse class of naturally occurring compounds found in a variety of fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants. Structurally some of the terpenoids are similar to human hormones. A diet rich in terpenoids is inversely related with the risk of chronic diseases including cancers. Breast and prostate cancers are hormone-related diseases and the second leading cause of female and male cancer mortality. Diterpenoid paclitaxel, and its semi-synthetic analogue docetaxel, have entered clinical use against established breast and prostate cancers. Here we reviewed potential molecular targets and biological properties of natural terpenoids, including monoterpenoids, diterpenoids, triterpenoids and tetraterpenoids, and their applications in treatment of human breast and prostate cancers. These terpenoids are able to inhibit tumor cell proliferation and induce tumor cell death by inhibiting multiple cancer-specific targets including the proteasome, NF-κB, and antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2. The efficacy of these terpenoids against breast or prostate cancer cells, as demonstrated in pre-clinical studies supports clinical application of these naturally occurring terpenoids in treatment of hormone-related human cancers.
Terpenoids; breast cancer; prostate cancer; proteasome inhibitors; apoptosis
Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), an orange-yellow component of turmeric or curry powder, is a polyphenol natural product isolated from the rhizome of the plant Curcuma longa. For centuries, curcumin has been used in some medicinal preparation or used as a food-coloring agent. In recent years, extensive in vitro and in vivo studies suggested curcumin has anticancer, antiviral, antiarthritic, anti-amyloid, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. The underlying mechanisms of these effects are diverse and appear to involve the regulation of various molecular targets, including transcription factors (such as nuclear factor-κB), growth factors (such as vascular endothelial cell growth factor), inflammatory cytokines (such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin 1 and interleukin 6), protein kinases (such as mammalian target of rapamycin, mitogen-activated protein kinases, and Akt) and other enzymes (such as cyclooxygenase 2 and 5 lipoxygenase). Thus, due to its efficacy and regulation of multiple targets, as well as its safety for human use, curcumin has received considerable interest as a potential therapeutic agent for the prevention and/or treatment of various malignant diseases, arthritis, allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, and other inflammatory illnesses. This review summarizes various in vitro and in vivo pharmacological aspects of curcumin as well as the underlying action mechanisms. The recently identified molecular targets and signaling pathways modulated by curcumin are also discussed here.
Curcumin; molecular targets; transcription factors; growth factors; inflammatory cytokines; protein kinases; enzymes
The mammalian dim-light photoreceptor rhodopsin is a prototypic G protein coupled receptor (GPCR), interacting with the G protein, transducin, rhodopsin kinase, and arrestin. All of these proteins interact with rhodopsin at its cytoplasmic surface. Structural and modeling studies have provided in-depth descriptions of the respective interfaces. Overlap and thus competition for binding surfaces is a major regulatory mechanism for signal processing. Recently, it was found that the same surface is also targeted by small molecules. These ligands can directly interfere with the binding and activation of the proteins of the signal transduction cascade, but they can also allosterically modulate the retinal ligand binding pocket. Because the pocket that is targeted contains residues that are highly conserved across Class A GPCRs, these findings imply that it may be possible to target multiple GPCRs with the same ligand(s). This is desirable for example in complex diseases such as cancer where multiple GPCRs participate in the disease networks.
G protein coupled receptors; allostery; conformational changes; docking; protein-protein interactions
This narrative review outlines the work done in other fields with regards biomarker validation and qualification and the lessons that we may learn from this experience. Defining a universally agreed upon path for biomarker validation and qualification is urgently needed to circumvent many of the hurdles faced in OA therapeutic development irrespective of whether we are discussing biochemical markers, imaging markers or other measures. This review proposes a path that may be suitable for osteoarthritis and poses some logical next steps that will take us in this direction.
Osteoarthritis; biomarkers; imaging; biochemical marker; validation; qualification; intervention; surrogate
Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) metabolizes heme to generate carbon monoxide (CO), biliverdin, and iron. Biliverdin is subsequently metabolized to bilirubin by biliverdin reductase. HO-1 has recently emerged as a promising therapeutic target in the treatment of vascular disease. Pharmacological induction or gene transfer of HO-1 ameliorates vascular dysfunction in animal models of atherosclerosis, post-angioplasty restenosis, vein graft stenosis, thrombosis, myocardial infarction, and hypertension, while inhibition of HO-1 activity or gene deletion exacerbates these disorders. The vasoprotection afforded by HO-1 is largely attributable to its end products: CO and the bile pigments, biliverdin and bilirubin. These end products exert potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-apoptotic, and anti-thrombotic actions. In addition, CO and bile pigments act to preserve vascular homeostasis at sites of arterial injury by influencing the proliferation, migration, and adhesion of vascular smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, endothelial progenitor cells, or leukocytes. Several strategies are currently being developed to target HO-1 in vascular disease. Pharmacological induction of HO-1 by heme derivatives, dietary antioxidants, or currently available drugs, is a promising near-term approach, while HO-1 gene delivery is a long-term therapeutic goal. Direct administration of CO via inhalation or through the use of CO-releasing molecules and/or CO-sensitizing agents provides an attractive alternative approach in targeting HO-1. Furthermore, delivery of bile pigments, either alone or in combination with CO, presents another avenue for protecting against vascular disease. Since HO-1 and its products are potentially toxic, a major challenge will be to devise clinically effective therapeutic modalities that target HO-1 without causing any adverse effects.
heme oxygenase-1; carbon monoxide; biliverdin; bilirubin; atherosclerosis; thrombosis; myocardial infarction; hypertension
Due to the radiosensitivity of the lung, toxic endpoints, in the form of radiation pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis, are relatively frequent outcomes following radiation treatment of thoracic neoplasms. Because of the potential lethal nature of these normal tissue reactions, they not only lead to quality-of-life issues in survivors, but also are deemed dose-limiting and thereby compromise treatment. The mitigation and treatment of lung normal tissue late effects has therefore been the goal of many investigations; however, the complexity of both the organ itself and its response to injury has resulted in little success. Nonetheless, current technology allows us to propose likely targets that are either currently being researched or should be considered in future studies.
Radiation; lung; pneumonitis; pulmonary fibrosis
Radiation leaves a fairly characteristic footprint in biological materials, but this is rapidly all but obliterated by the canonical biological responses to the radiation damage. The innate immune recognition systems that sense “danger” through direct radiation damage and through associated collateral damage set in motion a chain of events that, in a tissue compromised by radiation, often unwittingly result in oscillating waves of molecular and cellular responses as tissues attempt to heal. Understanding “nature’s whispers” that inform on these processes will lead to novel forms of intervention targeted more precisely towards modifying them in an appropriate and timely fashion so as to improve the healing process and prevent or mitigate the development of acute and late effects of normal tissue radiation damage, whether it be accidental, as a result of a terrorist incident, or of therapeutic treatment of cancer. Here we attempt to discuss some of the non-free radical scavenging mechanisms that modify radiation responses and comment on where we see them within a conceptual framework of an evolving radiation-induced lesion.
TBI; cytokines; RDS; inflammation; NF-κB
Rho GTPase signaling is altered in human breast tumors, and elevated expression and activation of Rho GTPases correlates with tumor progression, metastasis, and poor prognosis. Here we review the evidence that Rho signaling functions as a key regulator of cell cycle, mitosis, apoptosis, and invasion during breast cancer growth and progression and discuss whether these pleiotropic actions enhance or limit the targetability of this network. We propose that depending on the stage and subtype of breast cancer, targeting Rho signaling may have chemopreventative, anti-tumor, and anti-metastatic efficacy. An understanding of how Rho signaling is perturbed in specific stages and subtypes of breast cancer and how it functions in the context of the complex in vivo environment during the stochastic process of tumor formation and progression are necessary in order to effectively target this signaling network for breast cancer treatment.
breast cancer; metastasis; Rho; GTPase; GEF; GAP; GDI; inhibitor; statins
Inflammation, although first characterized by Cornelius Celsus, a physician in first Century Rome, it was Rudolf Virchow, a German physician in nineteenth century who suggested a link between inflammation and cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, neurological diseases and other chronic diseases. Extensive research within last three decades has confirmed these observations and identified the molecular basis for most chronic diseases and for the associated inflammation. The transcription factor, Nuclear Factor-kappaB (NF-κB) that controls over 500 different gene products, has emerged as major mediator of inflammation. Thus agents that can inhibit NF-κB and diminish chronic inflammation have potential to prevent or delay the onset of the chronic diseases and further even treat them. In an attempt to identify novel anti-inflammatory agents which are safe and effective, in contrast to high throughput screen, we have turned to “reverse pharmacology” or “bed to benchside” approach. We found that Ayurveda, a science of long life, almost 6000 years old, can serve as a “goldmine” for novel anti-inflammatory agents used for centuries to treat chronic diseases. The current review is an attempt to provide description of various Ayurvedic plants currently used for treatment, their active chemical components, and the inflammatory pathways that they inhibit.
As modulators of gene expression, microRNAs (miRNAs) are essential for normal development. Not surprisingly, aberrant expression of miRNAs is associated with many diseases, including cancer. Studies of various breast cancer subtypes have demonstrated that, like gene expression profiles and pathological differences, miRNA profiles can distinguish various tumor subtypes. Over the last few years, roles for miRNAs during many stages of breast cancer progression have been established. This includes potential breast cancer associated polymorphisms in miRNA target sites or miRNAs themselves, miRNAs that can act as tumor suppressors or oncogenes, and miRNAs that can modulate metastatic spread. Recent studies have also suggested key roles for miRNAs in regulating cancer stem cells. Thus, miRNAs have now become important therapeutic targets. This can be achieved by replacing miRNA expression where it has been lost or decreased, or conversely by inhibiting miRNA expression where it has been amplified or overexpressed in cancers. Ultimately, miRNAs should provide both important prognostic biomarkers as well as new targetable molecules for the treatment of breast cancer.
Breast cancer; miRNA; novel therapeutics; stem cells
The retinoblastoma gene, Rb, was originally identified as the tumor suppressor gene mutated in a rare childhood cancer called retinoblastoma (reviewed in . Subsequent studies showed that Rb functions in a pathway that is often functionally inactivated in a large majority of human cancers. Interestingly, recent studies showed that in certain types of cancers, Rb function is actually required for cancer development. The intimate link between the Rb pathway and cancer development suggests that the status of Rb activity can potentially be used to develop targeted therapy. However, a prerequisite will be to understand the role of Rb and its interaction with other signaling pathways in cancer development. In this review, we will discuss the roles of Rb in proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation by reviewing the recent findings in both mammalian systems and different model organisms. In addition, we will discuss strategies that can be employed that specifically target cancer cells based on the status of the Rb pathway.