Alternative splicing (AS) is an efficient mechanism that involves the generation of transcriptome and protein diversity from a single gene. Defects in pre-mRNA splicing are an important cause of numerous diseases, including cancer. AS of pre-mRNA as a target for cancer therapy has not been well studied. We have reported previously that a splicing factor, polypyrimidine tract-binding protein (PTB) is overexpressed in ovarian tumors, compared to matched normal controls, and knockdown (KD) of PTB expression by shRNA impairs ovarian tumor cell growth, colony formation and invasiveness. Given the complexity of PTB’s molecular functions, a chemical method for controlling PTB activity might provide a therapeutic and experimental tool. However, no commercially available PTB inhibitors have yet been described. To expand our ability to find novel inhibitors, we developed a robust, fluorometric, cell-based high throughput screening HTS assay in 96-well plates that reports on the splicing activity of PTB. In an attempt to use the cells for large-scale chemical screens to identify PTB modulators, we established cell lines stably expressing the reporter gene. Our results suggest that this high throughput assay could be used to identify small molecule modulators of PTB activity. Based on these findings and the role that upregulated PTB has on cell proliferation and malignant properties of tumors targeting PTB for inhibition with small molecules offers a promising strategy for cancer therapy.
PTB; ovarian cancer; fluorescence methods; cell-based HTS; alternative splicing
Wnt/β-catenin signaling has emerged as a central player in pathways implicated in the pathophysiology and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. To identify potential novel therapeutics for these disorders, high-throughput screening (HTS) assays reporting on Wnt/β-catenin signaling in disease relevant contexts are needed. The use of human patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) models provides ideal disease relevant context if these stem cell cultures can be adapted for HTS-compatible formats. Here, we describe a sensitive, HTS-compatible Wnt/β-catenin signaling reporter system generated in homogeneous, expandable neural progenitor cells (NPCs) derived from human iPSCs. We validated this system by demonstrating dose responsive stimulation by several known Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway modulators, including Wnt3a, a glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) inhibitor, and the bipolar disorder therapeutic lithium. These responses were robust and reproducible over time across many repeated assays. We then conducted a screen of ~1,500 compounds from a library of FDA-approved drugs and known bioactives, and confirmed HTS hits, revealing multiple chemical and biological classes of novel small molecule probes of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Generating this type of pathway-selective, cell-based phenotypic assays in human iPSC-derived neural cells will advance the field of human experimental neurobiology toward the goal of identifying and validating targets for neuropsychiatric disorder therapeutics.
induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC); neural progenitor cell (NPC); Wnt/β-catenin signaling; neuropsychiatric disorders; human neurons
von Hippel Lindau (VHL) disease is an autosomal dominant inherited disorder that results in multiple organ systems being affected. Treatment is mainly surgical, however, effective systemic therapies are needed. We developed and tested a cell-based screening tool to identify compounds that stabilize or upregulate full-length, point mutated VHL.
The 786-0 cell line was infected with full-length W117A mutated VHL linked to a C-terminal Venus fluorescent protein. This VHL-W117A-Venus line was used to screen the Prestwick drug library and was tested against the known proteasome inhibitors MG132 and bortezomib. Western blot validation and evaluation of downstream functional readouts, including HIF and GLUT1 levels, were performed.
Bortezomib, MG132, and the Prestwick compounds 8-azaguanine, thiostrepton and thioguanosine were found to reliably upregulate VHL-W117A-Venus in 786-0 cells. 8-azaguanine was found to downregulate HIF2α levels, and was augmented by the presence of VHL W117A. VHL p30 band intensities varied as a function of compound used, suggesting alternate post-translational processing. In addition, nuclear-cytoplasmic localization of pVHL varied amongst the different compounds.
786-0 cells containing VHL-W117A-Venus can be successfully used to identify compounds that upregulate VHL levels, and that have a differential effect on pVHL intracellular localization and posttranslational processing. Further screening efforts will broaden the number of pharmacophores available to develop therapeutic agents that will upregulate and refunctionalize mutated VHL.
VHL upregulation; proteostasis; high-throughput screen; Prestwick
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.
Phosphatase; Eyes Absent 2; Eya2; Eya2 inhibitor; Six1
Chemotherapeutics tumor resistance is a principal reason for treatment failure and clinical and experimental data indicate that multidrug transporters such as ATP-binding Cassette (ABC) B1 and ABCG2 play a leading role by preventing cytotoxic intracellular drug concentrations. Functional efflux inhibition of existing chemotherapeutics by these pumps continues to present a promising approach for treatment. A contributing factor to the failure of existing inhibitors in clinical applications is limited understanding of specific substrate/inhibitor/pump interactions. We have identified selective efflux inhibitors by profiling multiple ABC transporters against a library of small molecules to find molecular probes to further explore such interactions. In our primary screening protocol using JC-1 as a dual-pump fluorescent reporter substrate we identified a piperazine substituted pyrazolo[1,5-a]pyrimidine substructure with promise for selective efflux inhibition. As a result of a focused SAR-driven chemistry effort we describe compound 1 (CID44640177), an efflux inhibitor with selectivity toward ABCG2 over ABCB1. Compound 1 is also shown to potentiate the activity of mitoxantrone in vitro as well as preliminarily in vivo in an ABCG2 over-expressing tumor model. At least two analogs significantly reduce tumor size in combination with the chemotherapeutic topotecan. To our knowledge, low nanomolar chemoreversal activity coupled with direct evidence of efflux inhibition for ABCG2 is unprecedented.
Multi-drug resistance; ABC Transporter; ABCG2; ABCB1; Efflux inhibition
Using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), we performed a high-throughput screen (HTS) in a reconstituted membrane system, seeking compounds that reverse inhibition of sarco-/endoplasmic reticulum Ca-ATPase (SERCA) by its endogenous regulator, phospholamban (PLB). Such compounds have long been sought to correct aberrant Ca2+ regulation in heart failure. Donor-SERCA was reconstituted in phospholipid membranes with or without acceptor-PLB, and FRET was measured in a steady-state fluorescence microplate reader. A 20,000-compound library was tested in duplicate. Compounds that decreased FRET by more than three standard deviations were considered hits. From 43 primary hits (0.2%), 31 (72%) were found to be false positives upon more thorough testing. The remaining 12 hits were tested in assays of Ca-ATPase activity, and six of these activated SERCA significantly, by as much as 60%, and several also enhanced cardiomyocyte contractility. These compounds directly activated SERCA from heart and other tissues. These results validate our FRET approach and set the stage for medicinal chemistry and pre-clinical testing. We were concerned about the high rate of false positives, resulting from the low precision of steady-state fluorescence. Preliminary studies with a novel fluorescence lifetime plate reader show 20-fold higher precision. This instrument can dramatically increase the quality of future HT.
calcium pump; calcium transport; phospholamban; reconstituted membrane; fluorescence lifetime
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by progressive loss of motor neuron function. It is caused by the homozygous loss of the SMN1 (survival of motor neuron 1) gene and a decrease in full-length SMN protein. SMN2 is a nearly identical homolog of SMN1 that, due to alternative splicing, expresses predominantly truncated SMN protein. SMN2 represents an enticing therapeutic target. Increasing expression of full-length SMN from the SMN2 gene might represent a treatment for SMA. We describe a newly designed cell-based reporter assay that faithfully and reproducibly measures full-length SMN expression from the SMN2 gene. This reporter can detect increases of SMN protein by an array of compounds previously shown to regulate SMN2 expression and by the overexpression of proteins that modulate SMN2 splicing. It also can be used to evaluate changes at both the transcriptional and splicing level. This assay can be a valuable tool for the identification of novel compounds that increase SMN2 protein levels and the optimization of compounds already known to modulate SMN2 expression. We present here preliminary data from a high-throughput screen using this assay to identify novel compounds that increase expression of SMN2.
spinal muscular atrophy; survival of motor neuron; SMN1; SMN2; cell-based assay; high-content screening; HTS
Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is an emerging infectious pathogen that causes severe disease in humans and livestock and has the potential for global spread. Currently, there is no proven effective treatment for RVFV infection and there is no licensed vaccine. Inhibition of RNA binding to the essential viral nucleocapsid (N) protein represents a potential anti-viral therapeutic strategy because all of the functions performed by N during infection involve RNA binding. To target this interaction, we developed a fluorescence polarization-based high-throughput drug screening assay and tested 26,424 chemical compounds for their ability to disrupt an N-RNA complex. From libraries of FDA approved drugs, drug-like molecules and natural products extracts we identified several lead compounds that are promising candidates for medicinal chemistry.
nucleocapsid; RNA; Rift Valley fever virus; high-throughput screen; fluorescence polarization
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous, single-stranded, noncoding RNAs of 21 to 23 nucleotides that regulate gene expression, typically by binding the 3′ untranslated regions of target messenger RNAs. It is estimated that miRNAs are involved in the regulation of 30% of all genes and almost every genetic pathway. Recently, the misregulation of miRNAs has been linked to various human diseases including cancer and viral infections, identifying miRNAs as potential targets for drug discovery. Thus, small-molecule modifiers of miRNAs could serve as lead structures for the development of new therapeutic agents and be useful tools in the elucidation of detailed mechanisms of miRNA function. As a result, we have developed a high-throughput screen for potential small-molecule regulators of the liver-specific microRNA miR-122, which is involved in hepatocellular carcinoma development and hepatitis C virus infection. Our small-molecule screen employs a Huh7 human hepatoma cell line stably transfected with a Renilla luciferase sensor for endogenous miR-122. The assay was optimized and validated using an miR-122 antisense agent and a previously identified small-molecule miR-122 inhibitor. The described reporter assay will enable the high-throughput screening of small-molecule miR-122 inhibitors and can be readily extended to other miRNAs.
high-throughput assay; cell-based assay; luciferase; microRNA; small-molecule inhibitor
Fragment-based screening has typically relied on X-ray or NMR methods to identify low affinity ligands that bind to therapeutic targets. These techniques are expensive in terms of material and time, so it useful to have a higher-throughput method to reliably pre-screen a fragment library to identify a subset of compounds for structural analysis. Calorimetry provides a label-free method to assay binding and enzymatic activity that is unaffected by the spectroscopic properties of the sample. Conventional microcalorimetry is hampered by requiring large quantities of reagents and long measurement times. Nanocalorimeters can overcome these limitations of conventional ITC. Here we have used enthalpy arrays, which are arrays of nanocalorimeters, to perform an enzyme activity based fragment screen for competitive inhibitors of phosphodiesterase 4A (PDE4A). Several inhibitors with KI<2 mM were identified and moved to X-ray crystallization trials. Although the co-crystals did not yield high-resolution data, evidence of binding was observed and the chemical structures of the hits were consistent with motifs of known PDE4 inhibitors. This study shows how array calorimetry can be used as a pre-screening method for fragment-based lead discovery with enzyme targets, and it provides a list of candidate fragments for inhibition of PDE4A.
nanocalorimetry; enzyme assay; label-free assay; fragment-based lead discovery; X-ray crystallography
One of the objectives of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Biodefense Program is to identify or develop broad-spectrum antimicrobials for use against bioterrorism pathogens and emerging infectious agents. As a part of that program, our institution has screened the 10 000-compound MyriaScreen Diversity Collection of high-purity druglike compounds against three NIAID category A and one category B priority pathogens in an effort to identify potential compound classes for further drug development. The effective use of a Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute–based high-throughput screening (HTS) 96-well–based format allowed for the identification of 49 compounds that had in vitro activity against all four pathogens with minimum inhibitory concentration values of ≤16 μg/mL. Adaptation of the HTS process was necessary to conduct the work in higher-level containment, in this case, biosafety level 3. Examination of chemical scaffolds shared by some of the 49 compounds and assessment of available chemical databases indicates that several may represent broad-spectrum antimicrobials whose activity is based on novel mechanisms of action.
anti-infective drugs; automation; cell-based assays; compound repositories; high-content screening
Early success of kinase inhibitors has validated their use as drugs. However, discovery efforts have also suffered from high attrition rates; due to lack of cellular activity. We reasoned that screening for such candidates in live cells would identify novel cell permeable modulators for development. For this purpose, we have used our recently optimized EGFR biosensor (EGFRB) assay to screen for modulators of EGFR activity. Here, we report on its validation under HTS conditions displaying a S/N ratio of 21 and a Z’ value of 0.56; attributes of a robust cell based assay. We performed a pilot screen against a library of 6,912 compounds demonstrating good reproducibility and identifying 82 inhibitors and 66 activators with initial hit rates of 1.2% and 0.95 %, respectively. Follow up dose response studies revealed that 12 out of the 13 known EGFR inhibitors in the library confirmed as hits. ZM-306416, a VEGFR antagonist, was identified as a potent inhibitor of EGFR function. Flurandrenolide, beclomethasone and ebastine were confirmed as activators of EGFR function. Taken together, our results validate this novel approach and demonstrate its utility in the discovery of novel kinase modulators with potential use in the clinic.
EGFR; domain-based biosensor; high content analysis; live cell imaging
Recent advances in stem cell technology have enabled large scale production of human cells such as cardiomyocytes, hepatocytes and neurons for evaluation of pharmacological effect and toxicity of drug candidates. The assessment of compound efficacy and toxicity using human cells should lower the high clinical attrition rates of drug candidates by reducing the impact of species differences on drug efficacy and toxicity from animal studies. Methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MBCD) has shown to reduce lysosomal cholesterol accumulation in skin fibroblasts derived from patients with Niemann Pick type C disease and in the NPC1−/− mouse model. However, the compound has never been tested in human differentiated neurons. We have determined the cholesterol reduction effect of MBCD in neurons differentiated from human neural stem cells and commercially available astrocytes. The use of NSCs for producing differentiated neurons in large quantities can significantly reduce the production time and enhance the reproducibility of screening results. The EC50 values of MBCD on cholesterol reduction in human neurons and astrocytes were 66.9 and 110.7 µM, respectively. The results indicate that human neurons differentiated from the NSCs and human astrocytes are useful tools for evaluating pharmacological activity and toxicity of drug candidates to predict their clinical efficacy.
induced pluripotent stem cells; neural stem cells; human neurons; astrocytes; skin fibroblasts; methyl-β-cyclodextrin
The secretory and transmembrane isoforms of Prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) can dephosphorylate extracellular adenosine 5′-monophosphate (AMP) to adenosine, classifying PAP as an ectonucleotidase. Currently, there are no compounds that inhibit PAP in living cells. To identify small molecule modulators of PAP, we used a 1,536-well based quantitative high-throughput fluorogenic assay to screen the Library of Pharmacologically Active Compounds (LOPAC1280) arrayed as eight-concentration dilution series. This fluorogenic assay used difluoro-4-methylumbelliferyl phosphate (DiFMUP) as substrate and collected data in kinetic mode. Candidate hits were subsequently tested in an orthogonal absorbance-based biochemical assay that used AMP as substrate. From these initial screens, three inhibitors of secretory human (h) and mouse (m)PAP were identified: 8-(4-chlorophenylthio) cAMP (pCPT-cAMP), calmidazolium chloride and nalidixic acid. These compounds did not inhibit recombinant alkaline phosphatase. Of these compounds, only pCPT-cAMP and a related cyclic nucleotide analog [8-(4-chlorophenylthio) cGMP; pCPT-cGMP] inhibited the ectonucleotidase activity of transmembrane PAP in a cell-based assay. These cyclic nucleotides are structurally similar to AMP but cannot be hydrolyzed by PAP. In summary, we identified two cyclic nucleotide analogs that inhibit secretory and transmembrane PAP in vitro and in live cells.
ectonucleotidase; prostatic acid phosphatase; ACPP; pain; nociception
Nitric oxide (NO) is a potent signaling molecule that needs to be tightly regulated to maintain metabolic and cardiovascular homeostasis. The nitric oxide synthase (NOS)/Dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH)/Asymmetric Dimethylarginine (ADMA) pathway is central to this regulation. Specifically, the small molecule ADMA competitively inhibits NOS, thus lowering NO levels. The majority of ADMA is physiologically metabolized by DDAH, thus maintaining NO levels at physiological concentration. However, under pathophysiological conditions, DDAH activity is impaired, in part as a result of its sensitivity to oxidative stress. Therefore, the application of high throughput chemical screening for the discovery of small molecules that could restore or enhance DDAH activity might have significant potential in treating metabolic and vascular diseases characterized by reduced NO levels, including atherosclerosis, hypertension, and insulin resistance. By contrast, excessive generation of NO (primarily driven by iNOS) could play a role in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), sepsis, migraine headaches, and some types of cancer. In these conditions, small molecules that inhibit DDAH activity might be therapeutically useful. Here, we describe optimization and validation of a highly reproducible and robust assay successfully used in a high throughput screen for DDAH modulators.
nitric oxide; asymmetric dimethylarginine; diabetes; hypertension; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
High-throughput screening (HTS) has historically been used by the pharmaceutical industry to rapidly test hundreds of thousands of compounds to identify potential drug candidates. More recently, academic groups have used HTS to identify new chemical probes or small interfering RNA (siRNA) that can serve as experimental tools to examine the biology or physiology of novel proteins, processes, or interactions. HTS presents a significant challenge with the vast and complex nature of data generated. This report describes MScreen, a web-based, open-source cheminformatics application for chemical library and siRNA plate management, primary HTS and dose-response data handling, structure search, and administrative functions. Each project in MScreen can be secured with passwords or shared in an open information environment which enables collaborators to easily compare data from many screens, providing a useful means to identify compounds with desired selectivity. Unique features include compound, substance, mixture, and siRNA plate creation and formatting; automated dose-response fitting and quality control (QC); and user, target, and assay method administration. MScreen provides an effective means to facilitate HTS information handling and analysis in the academic setting so that users can efficiently view their screening data and evaluate results for follow-up.
chemoinformatics; data analysis software; open source; high-throughput screening
Protein degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway is important for a diverse number of cellular processes ranging from cell signaling to development. Disruption of the ubiquitin pathway occurs in a variety of human diseases, including several cancers and neurological disorders. Excessive proteolysis of tumor suppressor proteins, such as p27, occurs in numerous aggressive human tumors. To discover small-molecule inhibitors that potentially prevent p27 degradation, we developed a series of screening assays, including a cell-based screen of a small-molecule compound library and two novel nucleotide exchange assays. Several small-molecule inhibitors, including NSC624206, were identified and subsequently verified to prevent p27 ubiquitination in vitro. The mechanism of NSC624206 inhibition of p27 ubiquitination was further unraveled using the nucleotide exchange assays and shown to be due to antagonizing ubiquitin activating enzyme (E1). We determined that NSC624206 and PYR-41, a recently reported inhibitor of ubiquitin E1, specifically block ubiquitin-thioester formation but have no effect on ubiquitin adenylation. These studies reveal a novel E1 inhibitor that targets a specific step of the E1 activation reaction. NSC624206 could, therefore, be potentially useful for the control of excessive ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis in vivo.
ubiquitin E1; inhibitor; p27kip1; ubiquitin; proteolysis