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1.  Enhanced Cytotoxicity from Deoxyguanosine-Enriched T-oligo in Prostate Cancer Cells 
Nucleic Acid Therapeutics  2013;23(5):311-321.
Prostate cancer represents approximately 10 percent of all cancer cases in men and accounts for more than a quarter of all cancer types. Advances in understanding the molecular mechanisms of prostate cancer progression, however, have not translated well to the clinic. Patients with metastatic and hormone-refractory disease have only palliative options for treatment, as chemotherapy seldom produces durable or complete responses, highlighting the need for novel therapeutic approaches. T-oligo, a single-stranded deoxyribonucleic acid with partial sequence homology to human telomeric DNA, has elicited cytostatic and/or cytotoxic effects in multiple cancer cell types. In contrast, normal primary cells of varying tissue types are resistant to cytotoxic actions of T-oligo, underscoring its potential utility as a novel targeted cancer therapeutic. Mechanistically, T-oligo is hypothesized to interfere with normal telomeric structure and form G-quadruplex structures, thereby inducing genomic stress in addition to aberrant upregulation of DNA damageresponse pathways. Here, we present data demonstrating the enhanced effectiveness of a deoxyguanosine-enriched sequence of T-oligo, termed (GGTT)4, which elicits robust cytotoxic effects in prostate cancer cells at lower concentrations than the most recent T-oligo sequence (5′-pGGT TAG GTG TAG GTT T 3′) described to date and used for comparison in this study, while exerting no cytotoxic actions on nontransformed human prostate epithelial cells. Additionally, we provide evidence supporting the T-oligo induced activation of cJun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling in prostate cancer cells consistent with G-quadruplex formation, thereby significantly advancing the understanding of the T-oligo mechanism of action.
PMCID: PMC3760086  PMID: 23971906
ACS chemical biology  2014;9(4):1003-1014.
NRAS is the second most frequently mutated gene in melanoma. Previous reports have demonstrated the sensitivity of cancer cell lines carrying KRAS mutations to apoptosis initiated by inhibition of protein kinase C delta (PKCδ). Here, we report that PKCδ inhibition is cytotoxic in melanomas with primary NRAS mutations. Novel small-molecule inhibitors of PKCδ were designed as chimeric hybrids of two naturally-occurring PKCδ inhibitors, staurosporine and rottlerin. The specific hypothesis interrogated and validated is that combining two domains of two naturally-occurring PKCδ inhibitors into a chimeric or hybrid structure retains biochemical and biological activity, and improves PKCδ isozyme selectivity. We have devised a potentially general synthetic protocol to make these chimeric species using Molander trifluorborate coupling chemistry. Inhibition of PKCδ, by siRNA or small molecule inhibitors, suppressed the growth of multiple melanoma cell lines carrying NRAS mutations, mediated via caspase-dependent apoptosis. Following PKCδ inhibition, the stress-responsive JNK pathway was activated, leading to the activation of H2AX. Consistent with recent reports on the apoptotic role of phospho-H2AX, knockdown of H2AX prior to PKCδ inhibition mitigated the induction of caspase-dependent apoptosis. Furthermore, PKCδ inhibition effectively induced cytotoxicity in BRAF-mutant melanoma cell lines that had evolved resistance to a BRAF inhibitor, suggesting the potential clinical application of targeting PKCδ in patients who have relapsed following treatment with BRAF inhibitors. Taken together, the present work demonstrates that inhibition of PKCδ by novel small molecule inhibitors causes caspase-dependent apoptosis mediated via the JNK-H2AX pathway in melanomas with NRAS mutations or BRAF inhibitor-resistance.
PMCID: PMC4160068  PMID: 24506253
3.  Telomere-Homologous G-Rich Oligonucleotides Sensitize Human Ovarian Cancer Cells to TRAIL-Induced Growth Inhibition and Apoptosis 
Nucleic Acid Therapeutics  2013;23(3):167-174.
G-rich T-oligos (GT-oligos; oligonucleotides with homology to telomeres) elicit a DNA damage response in cells and induce cytotoxic effects in certain tumor cell lines. We have previously shown that GT-oligo inhibits growth, arrests cell cycle, and induces apoptosis in ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancer cells. However, not all ovarian cancer cell lines are susceptible to GT-oligo exposure. GT-oligo was found to induce transcript expression of the tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) receptors DR-4 and DR-5, which are generally silenced in ovarian cancer cells, rendering them insensitive to TRAIL. Exposure of TRAIL- and GT-oligo-resistant cell lines to GT-oligo rendered them sensitive to the cytotoxic effects of TRAIL, producing more than additive inhibition of growth. An intracellular inhibitor of the extrinsic apoptotic pathway, FLICE-like Inhibitory Protein-Short (FLIPs), was down-regulated and Jun kinase (JNK) was activated by exposure to GT-oligo. JNK inhibition partially reversed the growth inhibition caused by the combination of GT-oligo and TRAIL indicating partial involvement of the Jun kinase pathway in the resulting cytotoxic effect. Both capase-8 and caspases 3/7 were activated by exposure to GT-oligo plus TRAIL, consistent with activation of the extrinsic apoptotic pathway. These results demonstrate a novel way of sensitizing resistant ovarian cancer cells to TRAIL-mediated cytotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3660071  PMID: 23634944
Molecular endocrinology (Baltimore, Md.)  2007;21(8):10.1210/me.2006-0467.
Androgen antagonists or androgen deprivation is a primary therapeutic modality for the treatment of prostate cancer. Invariably, however, the disease becomes progressive and unresponsive to androgen ablation therapy (hormone refractory). The molecular mechanisms by which the androgen antagonists inhibit prostate cancer proliferation are not fully defined. In this report, we demonstrate that SIRT1, a nicotinamide adenosine dinucleotide-dependent histone deacetylase linked to the regulation of longevity, is required for androgen antagonist-mediated transcriptional repression and growth suppression. Androgen antagonist-bound androgen receptor (AR) recruits SIRT1 and NCoR to AR-responsive promoters and deacetylates histone H3 locally at the PSA promoter. Furthermore, SIRT1 down-regulation by siRNA or by pharmacological means increased the sensitivity of androgen-responsive genes to androgen stimulation, enhanced the sensitivity of prostate cancer cell proliferative responses to androgens, and decreased the sensitivity of prostate cancer cells to androgen antagonists. In this study, we demonstrate the ligand-dependent recruitment of a class III HDAC into a co-repressor transcriptional complex, and a necessary functional role for a class III HDAC as a transcriptional co-repressor in AR antagonist-induced transcriptional repression. Collectively, these findings identify SIRT1 as a co-repressor of AR and elucidate a new molecular pathway relevant to prostate cancer growth and approaches to therapy.
PMCID: PMC3839341  PMID: 17505061
Androgen Antagonists; Androgen Receptor; SIRT1; Histone Deacetylase; Prostate cancer
5.  Mechanism of T-oligo-induced cell cycle arrest in Mia-Paca pancreatic cancer cells 
Journal of Cellular Physiology  2012;227(6):2586-2594.
DNA oligonucleotides with sequence homology to human telomeric DNA (T-oligo) induce cell cycle arrest, followed by apoptosis, senescence, or autophagy in a human cancer cell type-specific manner. T-oligo has potential as a new therapeutic strategy in oncology because of its ability to target certain types of tumor cells while sparing normal ones. In the present study, we demonstrate the T-oligo-induced S-phase cell cycle arrest in four pancreatic cancer cell lines. To further contribute to the mechanistic understanding of T-oligo, we also identify cyclin dependent kinase 2 (cdk2) as a functional mediator in the T-oligo-induced cell cycle arrest of pancreatic cancer cells. Ectopic expression of a constitutively-active cdk2 mutant abrogates T-oligo-induced cell cycle arrest in these tumor cells while knockdown of cdk2 expression alone recapitulates the T-oligo effect. Finally, we demonstrate the dispensability of T-oligo-induced ATM/ATR-mediated DNA damage response-signaling pathways, which have long been considered functional in the T-oligo signaling mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3251650  PMID: 21898405
T-oligo; Pancreatic Cancer; Cell Cycle Arrest; Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells
6.  Protein Kinase C-delta Inactivation Inhibits Cellular Proliferation and Decreases Survival in Human Neuroendocrine Tumors 
Endocrine-related cancer  2011;18(6):759-771.
The concept of targeting cancer therapeutics towards specific mutations or abnormalities in tumor cells which are not found in normal tissues has the potential advantages of high selectivity for the tumor and correspondingly low secondary toxicities. Many human malignancies display activating mutations in the Ras family of signal-transducing genes or over-activity of p21Ras-signaling pathways. Carcinoid and other neuroendocrine tumors similarly have been demonstrated to have activation of Ras signaling directly by mutations in Ras, indirectly by loss of Ras-regulatory proteins, or via constitutive activation of upstream or downstream effector pathways of Ras, such as growth factor receptors or PI3-Kinase and Raf/MAP kinases. We previously reported that aberrant activation of Ras signaling sensitizes cells to apoptosis when the activity of the PKCδ isozyme is suppressed, and that PKCδ suppression is not toxic to cells with normal levels of p21Ras signaling. We demonstrate here that inhibition of PKCδ by a number of independent means, including genetic mechanisms (shRNA) or small molecule inhibitors, is able to efficiently and selectively repress the growth of human neuroendocrine cell lines derived from bronchopulmonary, foregut or hindgut tumors. PKCδ inhibition in these tumors also efficiently induced apoptosis. Exposure to small-molecule inhibitors of PKCδ over a period of 24 hr is sufficient to significantly suppress cell growth and clonogenic capacity of these tumor cell lines.
Neuroendocrine tumors are typically refractory to conventional therapeutic approaches. This Ras-targeted therapeutic approach, mediated through PKCδ suppression, which selectively takes advantage of the very oncogenic mutations which contribute to the malignancy of the tumor, may hold potential as a novel therapeutic modality.
PMCID: PMC3527126  PMID: 21990324
carcinoid; Ras; apoptosis; cancer
7.  PKCδ is Required for Survival of Cells Expressing Activated p21Ras* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(18):13199-13210.
Inhibition of PKC activity in transformed cells and tumor cells containing activated p21Ras results in apoptosis. To investigate the pro-apoptotic pathway induced by the p21Ras oncoprotein, we first identified the specific PKC isozyme necessary to prevent apoptosis in the presence of activated p21Ras. Dominant-negative mutants of PKC, siRNA vectors, and PKC isozyme-specific chemical inhibitors directed against the PKCδ isozyme demonstrated that PKCδ plays a critical role in p21Ras-mediated apoptosis. An activating p21Ras mutation, or activation of the PI3K Ras effector pathway, increased the levels of PKCδ protein and activity in cells, whereas inhibition of p21Ras activity decreased the expression of PKCδ protein. Activation of the Akt survival pathway by oncogenic Ras required PKCδ activity. Akt activity was dramatically decreased after PKCδ suppression in cells containing activated p21Ras. Conversely, constitutively-activated Akt rescued cells from apoptosis induced by PKCδ inhibition. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that p21Rasthrough its downstream effector PI3K, induces PKCδ expression and that this increase in PKCδ activity, acting through Akt, is required for cell survival. The p21Ras effector molecule responsible for the initiation of the apoptotic signal after suppression of PKCδ activity was also determined to be PI3K. PI3K (p110-CAAX), was sufficient for induction of apoptosis after PKCδ inhibition. Thus, the same p21Ras effector, PI3K, is responsible for delivering both a pro-apoptotic signal, and a survival signal, the latter being mediated by PKCδ and Akt. Selective suppression of PKCδ activity and consequent induction of apoptosis is a potential strategy for targeting of tumor cells containing an activated p21Ras.
PMCID: PMC3527128  PMID: 17350960
8.  Butyrate Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors 
BioResearch Open Access  2012;1(4):192-198.
In addition to being a part of the metabolic fatty acid fuel cycle, butyrate is also capable of inducing growth arrest in a variety of normal cell types and senescence-like phenotypes in gynecological cancer cells, inhibiting DNA synthesis and cell growth in colonic tumor cell lines, suppressing hTERT mRNA expression and telomerase activity in human prostate cancer cells, and inducing stem cell differentiation and apoptosis by DNA fragmentation. It regulates gene expression by inhibiting histone deacetylases (HDACs), enhances memory recovery and formation in mice, stimulates neurogenesis in the ischemic brain, promotes osteoblast formation, selectively blocks cell replication in transformed cells (compared to healthy cells), and can prevent and treat diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance in mouse models of obesity, as well as stimulate fetal hemoglobin expression in individuals with hematologic diseases such as the thalassemias and sickle-cell disease, in addition to a multitude of other biochemical effects in vivo. However, efforts to exploit the potential of butyrate in the clinical treatment of cancer and other medical disorders are thwarted by its poor pharmacological properties (short half-life and first-pass hepatic clearance) and the multigram doses needed to achieve therapeutic concentrations in vivo. Herein, we review some of the methods used to overcome these difficulties with an emphasis on HDAC inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3559235  PMID: 23514803
acylcarnitine; butyrate; butyrylcarnitine; carnitine; histone deacetylase
9.  Advances in Virus-Directed Therapeutics against Epstein-Barr Virus-Associated Malignancies 
Advances in Virology  2012;2012:509296.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the causal agent in the etiology of Burkitt's lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma and is also associated with multiple human malignancies, including Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and posttransplantation lymphoproliferative disease, as well as sporadic cancers of other tissues. A causal relationship of EBV to these latter malignancies remains controversial, although the episomic EBV genome in most of these cancers is clonal, suggesting infection very early in the development of the tumor and a possible role for EBV in the genesis of these diseases. Furthermore, the prognosis of these tumors is invariably poor when EBV is present, compared to their EBV-negative counterparts. The physical presence of EBV in these tumors represents a potential “tumor-specific” target for therapeutic approaches. While treatment options for other types of herpesvirus infections have evolved and improved over the last two decades, however, therapies directed at EBV have lagged. A major constraint to pharmacological intervention is the shift from lytic infection to a latent pattern of gene expression, which persists in those tumors associated with the virus. In this paper we provide a brief account of new virus-targeted therapeutic approaches against EBV-associated malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3303631  PMID: 22500168
10.  T-Oligos Inhibit Growth and Induce Apoptosis in Human Ovarian Cancer Cells 
Oligonucleotides  2011;21(1):47-53.
Ovarian cancer remains a leading cause of death among women worldwide, and current treatment regimens for advanced disease are inadequate. Oligonucleotides with sequence homology to telomeres (called T-oligos) have been shown to mimic DNA damage responses in cells and induce cytotoxic effects in certain tumor cell lines. We studied the effects of 2 distinct 16 mer T-oligos in 4 human ovarian epithelial carcinoma cell lines. A T-oligo with perfect homology to the telomere overhang region demonstrated some cytotoxic activity in half of the cell lines. A G-rich T-oligo derivative showed more potency and broader cytotoxic activity in these lines than the parental T-oligo. Activation of apoptotic pathways in ovarian cancer cells by exposure to the T-oligo was demonstrated by multiple independent assays. T-oligo was shown to have additive, or more than additive, activity in combination with 2 different histone deacetylase drugs currently in clinical testing. T-oligos may therefore provide a new and tumor-targeted approach to ovarian cancers.
PMCID: PMC3116203  PMID: 21281128
11.  Erythroid Kruppel-like factor (EKLF) is recruited to the γ-globin gene promoter as a co-activator and is required for γ-globin gene induction by short-chain fatty acid derivatives 
European journal of haematology  2009;82(6):466-476.
The erythroid Kruppel-like factor (EKLF) is an essential transcription factor for β-type globin gene switching, and specifically activates transcription of the adult β-globin gene promoter. We sought to determine if EKLF is also required for activation of the γ-globin gene by short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) derivatives, which are now entering clinical trials.
The functional and physical interaction of EKLF and co-regulatory molecules with the endogenous human globin gene promoters was studied in primary human erythroid progenitors and cell lines, using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays and genetic manipulation of the levels of EKLF and co-regulators.
Results and conclusions
Knockdown of EKLF prevents SCFA-induced expression of the γ-globin promoter in a stably expressed μLCRβprRlucAγprFluc cassette, and prevents induction of the endogenous γ-globin gene in primary human erythroid progenitors. EKLF is actively recruited to endogenous γ-globin gene promoters after exposure of primary human erythroid progenitors, and murine hematopoietic cell lines, to SCFA derivatives. The core ATPase BRG1 subunit of the human SWI/WNF complex, a ubiquitous multimeric complex that regulates gene expression by remodeling nucleosomal structure, is also required for γ-globin gene induction by SCFA derivatives. BRG1 is actively recruited to the endogenous γ-globin promoter of primary human erythroid progenitors by exposure to SCFA derivatives, and this recruitment is dependent upon the presence of EKLF. These findings demonstrate that EKLF, and the co-activator BRG1, previously demonstrated to be required for definitive or adult erythropoietic patterns of globin gene expression, are co-opted by SCFA derivatives to activate the fetal globin genes.
PMCID: PMC3232177  PMID: 19220418
erythropoiesis; fetal hemoglobin; gamma globin; globin gene switching; hemoglobinopathy; sickle cell disease; thalassemia
12.  MicroRNA Let-7 Downregulates STAT3 Phosphorylation in Pancreatic Cancer Cells by Increasing SOCS3 Expression 
Cancer letters  2014;347(1):54-64.
Although dispensable for normal pancreatic function, STAT3 signaling is frequently activated in pancreatic cancers. Consistent downregulation of expression of microRNA let-7 is also characteristic of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) biopsy specimens. We demonstrate in this study that re-expression of let-7 in poorly-differentiated PDAC cell lines reduced phosphorylation/activation of STAT3 and its downstream signaling events and reduced the growth and migration of PDAC cells. Let-7 re-expression did not repress expression of STAT3 protein or its activator cytokine interleukin 6 (IL-6). However, let-7 re-expression enhanced cytoplasmic expression of suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 (SOCS3), which blocks STAT3 activation by JAK2. Our study thus identified a mechanism by which STAT3 signaling can be inhibited in pancreatic cancer cells by modifying let-7 expression.
PMCID: PMC3972339  PMID: 24491408
Pancreatic cancer; STAT3; let-7; SOCS3; EMT
13.  PKCδ survival signaling in cells containing an activated p21Ras protein requires PDK1 
Cellular signalling  2008;21(4):502-508.
Protein kinase C δ (PKC δ) modulates cell survival and apoptosis in diverse cellular systems. We recently reported that PKCδ functions as a critical anti-apoptotic signal transducer in cells containing activated p21Ras and results in the activation of AKT, thereby promoting cell survival. How PKCδ is regulated by p21Ras, however, remains incompletely understood. In this study, we show that PKCδ, as a transducer of anti-apoptotic signals, is activated by phosphotidylinositol 3′ kinase/Phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1 (PI3K-PDK1) to deliver the survival signal to Akt in the environment of activated p21Ras. PDK1 is upregulated in cells containing an activated p21Ras. Knockdown of PDK1, PKCδ, or AKT forces cells containing activated p21Ras to undergo apoptosis. PDK1 regulates PKCδ activity, and constitutive expression of PDK1 increases PKCδ activity in different cell types. Conversely, expression of a kinase-dead (dominant-negative) PDK1 significantly suppresses PKCδ activity. p21Ras-mediated survival signaling is therefore regulated by via a PI3K-AKT pathway, which is dependent upon both PDK1 and PKCδ, and PDK1 activates and regulates PKCδ to determine the fate of cells containing a mutated, activated p21Ras.
PMCID: PMC2644428  PMID: 19146951
PKCδ; PI3K; Akt; Protein kinase C; Apoptosis; Proliferation
14.  Prohibitin and the SWI/SNF ATPase subunit BRG1 are required for effective androgen antagonist-mediated transcriptional repression of androgen receptor-regulated genes 
Carcinogenesis  2008;29(9):1725-1733.
Androgen antagonists or androgen deprivation are the primary therapeutic modalities for the treatment of prostate cancer. Invariably, however, the disease becomes progressive and unresponsive to androgen ablation therapy (hormone refractory). The molecular mechanisms by which androgen antagonists inhibit prostate cancer proliferation are not fully defined. In this study, we identify two molecules which are required for effective prostate cancer cell responsiveness to androgen antagonists. We establish that androgen receptor (AR)-dependent transcriptional suppression by androgen antagonists requires the tumor suppressor prohibitin. This requirement for prohibitin was demonstrated using structurally-distinct androgen antagonists, stable and transient knockdown of prohibitin and transfected and endogenous AR-responsive genes. The SWI–SNF complex core ATPase BRG1, but not its closely-related counterpart ATPase BRM, is required for this repressive action of prohibitin on AR-responsive promoters. Androgen antagonists induce recruitment of prohibitin and BRG1 to endogenous AR-responsive promoters and induce a physical association between AR and prohibitin and BRG1. The recruitment of prohibitin to endogenous AR-responsive promoters is dependent upon antagonist-bound AR. Prohibitin binding in the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) promoter results in the recruitment of BRG1 and the dissociation of p300 from the PSA promoter. These findings suggest that prohibitin may function through BRG1-mediated local chromatin remodeling activity and the removal of p300-mediated acetylation to produce androgen antagonist-mediated transcriptional repression. Furthermore, in addition to its necessary role in AR-mediated transcriptional repression, we demonstrate that prohibitin is required for full and efficient androgen antagonist-mediated growth suppression of prostate cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC2722849  PMID: 18487222
15.  Short, Discontinuous Exposure to Butyrate Effectively Sensitizes Latently EBV-Infected Lymphoma Cells to Nucleoside Analogue Antiviral Agents 
Antiviral drugs alone have been unsuccessful in the treatment of Epstein Barr virus (EBV)-associated malignancies because the virus maintains a latent state of replication in these tumors. In recent years, novel therapeutic approaches are being investigated wherein lytic replication of the virus is induced prior to the use of cytotoxic antiviral drugs. The choice of suitable agents to induce lytic replication has been a critical step in this novel approach. We have previously demonstrated that butyrate derivatives induce a lytic pattern of EBV gene expression in patient-derived EBV-positive lymphoblastoid cell lines and, together with nucleoside analog ganciclovir, effectively reduce or eliminate tumor growth in humans. Butyrate has drawbacks as a therapeutic agent, however, as constant intravenous infusion is required to achieve detectable plasma levels of this drug. In this study, we investigated whether discontinuous exposure to butyrate is capable of initiating lytic-phase gene expression and thymidine kinase induction, and sensitizing EBV-positive lymphoma cells to ganciclovir-mediated cell growth arrest and apoptosis. We demonstrate that multiple daily 6 hr exposures of the EBV-positive Burkitt’s lymphoma cell line P3HR1 to butyrate induced sustained expression of the EBV lytic-phase protein BMRF. Viral thymidine kinase was also induced by intermittent exposure, although to a lower level than with continuous exposure treatment. However, discontinuous exposure to butyrate in combination with ganciclovir induced a similar level of tumor cell growth inhibition as did continuous treatment, as measured by serial enumeration of viable cells, MTT cell proliferation assays, and measurement of cellular DNA content. We further demonstrated that those cells which survived initial exposure to butyrate plus ganciclovir remained susceptible to further cycles of combination treatment. These findings suggests that continuous infusion of butyrate may not be necessary for maintaining viral thymidine kinase gene expression and sensitization to anti-viral agents in EBV-associated tumors, and that therapeutic regimens which employ more convenient, discontinuous exposure to butyrate may also be effective clinically.
PMCID: PMC1829174  PMID: 17161633
Epstein-Barr Virus; Butyrate; Thymidine Kinase; Ganciclovir; Growth inhibition; Apoptosis
16.  Sustained Induction of Fetal Hemoglobin by Pulse Butyrate Therapy in Sickle Cell Disease 
Blood  1999;93(6):1790-1797.
High levels of fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) protect from many of the complications of sickle cell disease and lead to improved survival. Butyrate and other short chain fatty acids were previously shown to increase Hb F production in erythroid cells in vitro and in animal models in vivo. However, butyrates are also known to inhibit the proliferation of many cell types, including erythroid cells. Experience with the use of butyrate in animal models and in early clinical trials demonstrated that the Hb F response may be lost after prolonged administration of high doses of butyrate. We hypothesized that this loss of response may be a result of the antiproliferative effects of butyrate. We designed a regimen consisting of intermittent or pulse therapy in which butyrate was administered for 4 days followed by 10 to 24 days with no drug exposure. This pulse regimen induced fetal globin gene expression in 9 of 11 patients. The mean Hb F in this group increased from 7.2% to 21.0% (P < .002) after intermittent butyrate therapy for a mean duration of 29.9 weeks. This was associated with a parallel increase in the number of F cells and F reticulocytes. The total hemoglobin levels also increased from a mean of 7.8 g/dL to a mean of 8.8 g/dL (P < .006). The increased levels of Hb F were sustained in all responders, including 1 patient who has been on pulse butyrate therapy for more than 28 months. This regimen, which resulted in a marked and sustained increase in Hb F levels in more than two thirds of the adult sickle cell patients enrolled in this study, was well tolerated without adverse side effects. These encouraging results require confirmation along with an appropriate evaluation of clinical outcomes in a larger number of patients with sickle cell disease.
PMCID: PMC4269326  PMID: 10068649
17.  Short-chain fatty acid derivatives induce fetal globin expression and erythropoiesis in vivo 
Blood  2002;100(13):4640-4648.
Orally bioactive compounds that induce γ globin gene expression at tolerable doses are needed for optimal treatment of the β-hemoglobinopathies. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) of 2 to 6 carbons in length induce γ globin expression in animal models, and butyrate, phenylbutyrate, and valproate induce γ globin in human patients. The usefulness of these compounds, however, is limited by requirements for large doses because of their rapid metabolism and their tendency to inhibit cell proliferation, which limits the pool of erythroid progenitors in which γ globin can be induced. Selected short-chain fatty acid derivatives (SCFADs) were recently found to induce γ globin and to stimulate the proliferation of hematopoietic cells in vitro. These SCFADs are now evaluated in vivo in nonanemic transgenic mice containing the human β globin gene locus and in anemic phlebotomized baboons. In mice treated with a SCFAD once daily for 5 days, γ globin mRNA increased 2-fold, reticulocytes increased 3- to 7-fold, and hematocrit levels increased by 27%. Administration of 3 SCFADs in anemic baboons increased F-reticulocytes 2- to 15-fold over baseline and increased total hemoglobin levels by 1 to 2 g/dL per week despite ongoing significant daily phlebotomy. Pharmacokinetic studies demonstrated 90% oral bioavailability of 2 SCFADs, and targeted plasma levels were maintained for several hours after single oral doses equivalent to 10% to 20% of doses required for butyrate. These findings identify SCFADs that stimulate γ globin gene expression and erythropoiesis in vivo, activities that are synergistically beneficial for treatment of the β hemoglobinopathies and useful for the oral treatment of other anemias.
PMCID: PMC4269367  PMID: 12393583
18.  Identification of Novel Small-molecule Inducers of Fetal Hemoglobin Using Pharmacophore and ’PSEUDO’ Receptor Models 
Chemical biology & drug design  2006;67(5):318-328.
Pharmacologic reinduction of the developmentally silenced fetal (γ) globin genes has been achieved in hemoglobinopathy patients using short chain fatty acid derivatives, with therapeutic effects. However, higher-potency inducers than are available in currently identified short chain fatty acid derivatives are desirable for long-term use. Using several short-chain fatty acids with established γ-globin induction activity, a pharmacophore template was constructed with the TFIT module of the flo software and used to select several new candidate compounds, three of which exhibited significant activity in a γ-globin gene reporter transcriptional assay which detects only strong inducers. The data were used to construct a new pharmacophore and a ‘pseudo’ receptor around it. Six hundred and thirty low-molecular weight compounds were docked into this receptor model. Of 26 compounds selected and tested in functional assays, two compounds showed activity >500% over control levels and two had activity 200% over control range, significantly more active than previously identified short chain fatty acid derivative fetal globin gene inducers. Three compounds had less activity; the remainder showed moderate activity. These findings demonstrate the feasibility of using iterative construction of pharmacophores, pseudo-binding site modeling, and virtual screening to identify small molecules with the ability to induce transcription of specific target genes, for potential therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4263278  PMID: 16784456
pharmacophore; pseudo receptor; fetal globin; FLO/QXP
19.  Short-chain fatty acid derivatives stimulate cell proliferation and induce STAT-5 activation 
Blood  2001;97(10):3259-3267.
Current chemotherapeutic and butyrate therapeutics that induce fetal hemoglobin expression generally also suppress erythropoiesis, limiting the production of cells containing fetal hemoglobin (F cells). Recently, selected short-chain fatty acid derivatives (SCFADs) were identified that induce endogenous γ-globin expression in K562 cells and human burst-forming units–erythroid and that increase proliferation of human erythroid progenitors and a multilineage interleukin-3–depen-dent hematopoietic cell line. In this report, γ-globin inducibility by these SCFADs was further demonstrated in mice transgenic for the locus control region and the entire β-globin gene locus in a yeast artificial chromosome and in 2 globin promoter-reporter assays. Conditioned media experiments strongly suggest that their proliferative activity is a direct effect of the test compounds. Investigation of potential mechanisms of action of these SCFADs demonstrates that these compounds induce prolonged expression of the growth-promoting genes c-myb and c-myc. Both butyrate and specific growth-stimulatory SCFADs induced prolonged signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)-5 phosphorylation and activation, and c-cis expression, persisting for more than 120 minutes, whereas with IL-3 alone phosphorylation disappeared within minutes. In contrast to butyrate treatment, the growth-stimulating SCFADs did not result in bulk histone H4 hyperacetylation or induction of p21 Waf/Cip, which mediates the suppression of cellular growth by butyrate. These findings suggest that the absence of bulk histone hyperacetylation and p21 induction, but prolonged induction of cis, myb, myc, and STAT-5 activation, contribute to the cellular proliferation induced by selected SCFADs.
PMCID: PMC4263369  PMID: 11342457
20.  Enhancement of growth and survival and alterations in Bcl-family proteins in β-thalassemic erythroid progenitors by novel short-chain fatty acid derivatives 
Blood cells, molecules & diseases  2005;35(2):217-226.
Accelerated apoptosis of erythroid progenitors is a characteristic of β-thalassemia which presents a significant barrier to definitive therapeutic approaches utilizing induction of endogenous fetal globin gene expression. γ-globin gene expression may not be inducible in, or may not be able to rescue, erythroid cells in which programmed cell death is initiated early in erythroblast development. In this report, short-chain fatty acid derivatives (SCFADs) which induce fetal globin gene expression were tested for their ability to promote proliferation and survival of erythroid progenitors cultured from β-thalassemic subjects, and of cytokine-dependent erythroid cell lines. Certain SCFADs promoted thalassemic Bfu-e growth and cytokine-independent growth and survival of erythroid cell lines. A 40–80% increase in erythroid Bfu-e colony number was observed in cultures established with any of five mitogenic SCFADs, compared to control or butyrate-treated cultures from the same subjects. Immunoblot analysis demonstrated that these same SCFADs also regulated the expression of specific protein inhibitors of apoptosis. Anti-apoptotic ratios of the proteins Bcl-xL/Bcl-xS in thalassemic Bfu-e were increased by 30–120% with exposure to the SCFDs, compared to the ratios in the same cells cultured under control conditions. Similar anti-apoptotic increases in Mcl-1L/Mcl-1S ratios were induced by the SCFADs. These findings suggest that select fetal globin-inducing SCFADs which enhance proliferation of β-thalassemia progenitors may enhance survival of these progenitors by altering levels of Bcl-family protein members. This combination of effects should enhance erythroid cell survival in the β-thalassemia syndromes, allowing fetal globin gene expression to be induced more effectively than currently available, growth-suppressing, fetal globin-inducing agents, such as the butyrates or chemotherapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC4260805  PMID: 16099182
Growth; Survival; Bcl-family protein; β-thalassemia; Erythroid; Fatty acid
21.  Identification of a novel polyprenylated acylphloroglucinol-derived SIRT1 inhibitor with cancer-specific anti-proliferative and invasion-suppressing activities 
International Journal of Oncology  2014;45(5):2128-2136.
SIRT1, a class III histone deacetylase, plays a critical role in regulating cancer cell growth, migration and invasion, which makes it a potential target for cancer therapeutics. In this study, we screened derivatives of several groups of natural products and identified a novel SIRT1 inhibitor JQ-101, a synthetic derivative of the polyprenylated acylphloroglucinol (PPAP) natural products, with an IC50 for SIRT1 of 30 μM in vitro, with 5-fold higher activity for SIRT1 vs. SIRT2. Exposure of tumor cells to JQ-101 significantly enhanced acetylation of p53 and histone H4K16 at known sites of SIRT1 deacetylation, validating SIRT1 as its cellular target. JQ-101 suppressed cancer cell growth and survival by targeting SIRT1, and also exhibited selective cytotoxicity towards a panel of human tumor cell lines, while producing no toxicity in two normal human cell types at comparable concentrations. JQ-101 induced both apoptosis and cell senescence, and suppressed cancer cell invasion in vitro. In summary, we have identified JQ-101 as a new SIRT1 inhibitor which may have potential application in cancer treatment through its ability to induce tumor cell apoptosis and senescence and suppress cancer cell invasion.
PMCID: PMC4203335  PMID: 25189993
SIRT1 inhibitor; polyprenylated acylphloroglucinol; cancer cell growth; cancer cell invasion
22.  RING3 Kinase Transactivates Promoters of Cell Cycle Regulatory Genes through E2F1 
RING3 is a novel, nuclear-localized, serine-threonine kinase that has elevated activity in human leukemias. RING3 transforms NIH/3T3 cells and is activated by mitogenic signals, all of which suggest that it may play a role in cell cycle-responsive transcription. We tested this hypothesis with transient transfection of RING3 into fibroblasts and assayed transactivation of the promoters of cyclin D1, cyclin A, cyclin E, and dihydrofolate reductase (dhfr) genes. RING3 transactivates these promoters in a manner dependent on ras signaling. A kinase-deficient point mutant of RING3 does not transactivate. Mutational analysis of the dhfr promoter reveals that transactivation also depends on the presence of a functional E2F binding site. Furthermore, ectopic expression of Rb protein, a negative regulator of E2F activity, suppresses the RING3-dependent transactivation of this promoter. Consistent with a potential role of E2F in RING3-dependent transcription, anti-RING3 immunoaffinity chromatography or recombinant RING3 protein affinity chromatography of nuclear extracts copurified a protein complex that contains E2F-1 and E2F-2. These data suggest that RING3 is a potentially important regulator of E2F-dependent cell cycle genes.
PMCID: PMC3968681  PMID: 10965846
23.  Activation-induced nuclear translocation of RING3 
Journal of cell science  2000;113(0 17):3085-3091.
RING3 is a novel protein kinase linked to human leukaemia. Its Drosophila homologue female sterile homeotic is a developmental regulator that interacts genetically with trithorax, a human homologue of which is also associated with leukaemia. The RING3 structure contains two mutually related bromodomains that probably assist in the remodelling of chromatin and thereby affect transcription. Consistent with this hypothesis, a RING3-like protein has been identified in the mouse Mediator complex, where it is associated with transcription factors. We show that, whilst RING3 is constitutively localised to the nucleus of exponentially growing HeLa cells, it is delocalised throughout serumstarved fibroblasts. We use immunostaining and confocal microscopy to demonstrate that RING3 translocates to the fibroblast nucleus upon serum stimulation. After translocation, RING3 participates in nuclear protein complexes that include E2F proteins; it transactivates the promoters of several important mammalian cell cycle genes that are dependent on E2F, including dihydrofolate reductase, cyclin D1, cyclin A and cyclin E. We use site-directed mutagenesis of a putative nuclear localisation motif to show that the activation-induced nuclear localisation and consequent transcriptional activity of RING3 depends on a monopartite, classical nuclear localisation sequence. These observations refine and extend the mechanism by which RING3 contributes to E2Fregulated cell cycle progression. Deregulation of this mechanism may be leukaemogenic.
PMCID: PMC3936601  PMID: 10934046
RING3; Nuclear translocation; Immunolocalisation; Confocal microscopy; Leukaemia
24.  Protein kinase C-delta inactivation inhibits the proliferation and survival of cancer stem cells in culture and in vivo 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:90.
A subpopulation of tumor cells with distinct stem-like properties (cancer stem-like cells, CSCs) may be responsible for tumor initiation, invasive growth, and possibly dissemination to distant organ sites. CSCs exhibit a spectrum of biological, biochemical, and molecular features that are consistent with a stem-like phenotype, including growth as non-adherent spheres (clonogenic potential), ability to form a new tumor in xenograft assays, unlimited self-renewal, and the capacity for multipotency and lineage-specific differentiation. PKCδ is a novel class serine/threonine kinase of the PKC family, and functions in a number of cellular activities including cell proliferation, survival or apoptosis. PKCδ has previously been validated as a synthetic lethal target in cancer cells of multiple types with aberrant activation of Ras signaling, using both genetic (shRNA and dominant-negative PKCδ mutants) and small molecule inhibitors. In contrast, PKCδ is not required for the proliferation or survival of normal cells, suggesting the potential tumor-specificity of a PKCδ-targeted approach.
shRNA knockdown was used validate PKCδ as a target in primary cancer stem cell lines and stem-like cells derived from human tumor cell lines, including breast, pancreatic, prostate and melanoma tumor cells. Novel and potent small molecule PKCδ inhibitors were employed in assays monitoring apoptosis, proliferation and clonogenic capacity of these cancer stem-like populations. Significant differences among data sets were determined using two-tailed Student’s t tests or ANOVA.
We demonstrate that CSC-like populations derived from multiple types of human primary tumors, from human cancer cell lines, and from transformed human cells, require PKCδ activity and are susceptible to agents which deplete PKCδ protein or activity. Inhibition of PKCδ by specific genetic strategies (shRNA) or by novel small molecule inhibitors is growth inhibitory and cytotoxic to multiple types of human CSCs in culture. PKCδ inhibition efficiently prevents tumor sphere outgrowth from tumor cell cultures, with exposure times as short as six hours. Small-molecule PKCδ inhibitors also inhibit human CSC growth in vivo in a mouse xenograft model.
These findings suggest that the novel PKC isozyme PKCδ may represent a new molecular target for cancer stem cell populations.
PMCID: PMC3927586  PMID: 24528676
Protein Kinase C isozymes; Synthetic lethal interaction; Cancer-initiating cell; Xenograft tumor model
25.  Fetal Globin Gene Inducers: Novel Agents & New Potential 
Inducing expression of endogenous fetal globin (γ-globin) gene expression to 60-70% of alpha globin synthesis produces β-thalassemia trait globin synthetic ratios and can reduce anemia to a mild level. Several classes of therapeutics have induced γ-globin expression in beta thalassemia patients and subsequently raised total hemoglobin levels, demonstrating proof-of-concept of the approach. Butyrate treatment eliminated transfusion requirements in formerly transfusion-dependent patients with treatment for as long as 7 years. However, prior generations were not readily applicable for widespread use. Currently, a novel oral dual-action therapeutic sodium 2,2-dimethylbutyrate is in clinical trials, an oral decitabine formulation is under development, and agents with complementary mechanisms of action can be applied in combined regimens. Identification of 3 major genetic trait loci which modulate clinical severity provides avenues for developing tailored regimens. These refinements offer renewed potential to apply fetal globin induction as a treatment approach in patient-friendly regimens that can be used world-wide.
PMCID: PMC3913055  PMID: 20712788
thalassemia; short chain fatty acids; butyrates; erythropoiesis; fetal globin; quantitative trait loci

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