Nek2 is a serine/threonine protein kinase that localizes to the centrosome and is implicated in mitotic regulation. Overexpression of Nek2 induces premature centrosome separation and nuclear defects indicative of mitotic errors, while depletion of Nek2 interferes with cell growth. As Nek2 expression is upregulated in a range of cancer cell lines and primary human tumors, inhibitors of Nek2 may have therapeutic value in cancer treatment. We used a radiometric proximity assay in a high-throughput screen to identify small molecule inhibitors of Nek2 kinase activity. The assay was based on the measurement of the radiolabelled phosphorylated product of the kinase reaction brought into contact with the surface of wells of solid scintillant-coated microtitre plates. Seventy non-aggregating hits were identified from approximately 73,000 compounds screened and included a number of toxoflavins and a series of viridin/wortmannin-like compounds. The viridin-like compounds were >70-fold selective for Nek2 over Nek6 and Nek7 and inhibited the growth of human tumor cell lines at concentrations consistent with their biochemical potencies. An automated mechanism-based microscopy assay in which centrosomes were visualised using pericentrin antibodies confirmed that two of the viridin inhibitors reduced centrosome separation in a human tumor cell line. The data presented show pharmacological inhibition of Nek2 kinase results in the expected phenotype of disruption to centrosome function associated with growth inhibition and further supports Nek2 as a target for cancer drug discovery.
Cell cycle; mitosis; centrosome separation; Nek2 kinase inhibitors; automated immunofluorescence
TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is a nucleic acid binding protein that is associated with the pathology of cystic fibrosis and neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar dementia. We have developed a robust, quantitative, nonradiometric high-throughput assay measuring oligonucleotide binding to TDP-43 using AlphaScreen® technology. Biotinylated single-stranded TAR DNA (bt-TAR-32) and 6 TG repeats (bt-TG6) bound with high affinity to TDP-43, with KD values of 0.75 nM and 0.63 nM, respectively. Both oligonucleotides exhibited slow dissociation rates, with half-lives of 750 min for bt-TAR-32 and 150 min for bt-TG6. The affinities of unlabeled oligonucleotides, as determined by displacement of either bt-TAR-32 or bt-TG6, were consistent with previous reports of nucleic acid interactions with TDP-43, where increasing TG or UG repeats yield greater affinity. A diversity library of 7360 compounds was screened for inhibition of TDP-43 binding to bt-TAR-32, and a series of compounds was discovered with nascent SAR and IC50 values ranging from 100 nM to 10 μM. These compounds may prove to be useful biochemical tools to elucidate the function of TDP-43 and may lead to novel therapeutics for indications where the TDP-43 nucleic acid interaction is causal to the associated pathology.
TDP-43; AlphaScreen; TAR DNA; ALS; cystic fibrosis
A number of diabetogenic stimuli interact to influence insulin promoter activity, making it an attractive target for both mechanistic studies and therapeutic interventions. High-throughput screening (HTS) for insulin promoter modulators has the potential to reveal novel inputs into the control of that central element of the pancreatic β-cell. A cell line from human islets in which the expression of insulin and other β-cell-restricted genes are modulated by an inducible form of the bHLH transcription factor E47 was developed. This cell line, T6PNE, was adapted for HTS by transduction with a vector expressing green fluorescent protein under the control of the human insulin promoter. The resulting cell line was screened against a library of known drugs for those that increase insulin promoter activity. Members of the phenothiazine class of neuroleptics increased insulin gene expression upon short-term exposure. Chronic treatment, however, resulted in suppression of insulin promoter activity, consistent with the effect of phenothiazines observed clinically to induce diabetes in chronically treated patients. In addition to providing insights into previously unrecognized targets and mechanisms of action of phenothiazines, the novel cell line described here provides a broadly applicable platform for mining new molecular drug targets and central regulators of β-cell differentiated function.
diabetes; chlorpromazine; ethopropazine
Latent infection with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is a carcinogenic cofactor in several lymphoid and epithelial cell malignancies. At present, there are no small molecule inhibitors that specifically target EBV latent infection or latency-associated oncoproteins. EBNA1 is an EBV-encoded sequence-specific DNA-binding protein that is consistently expressed in EBV-associated tumors and required for stable maintenance of the viral genome in proliferating cells. EBNA1 is also thought to provide cell survival function in latently infected cells. In this work we describe the development of a biochemical high-throughput screening (HTS) method using a homogenous fluorescence polarization (FP) assay monitoring EBNA1 binding to its cognate DNA binding site. An FP-based counterscreen was developed using another EBV-encoded DNA binding protein, Zta, and its cognate DNA binding site. We demonstrate that EBNA1 binding to a fluorescent labeled DNA probe provides a robust assay with a Z-factor consistently greater than 0.6. A pilot screen of a small molecule library of ~14,000 compounds identified 3 structurally related molecules that selectively inhibit EBNA1, but not Zta. All three compounds had activity in a cell-based assay specific for the disruption of EBNA1 transcription repression function. One of the compounds was effective in reducing EBV genome copy number in Raji Burkitt lymphoma cells. These experiments provide a proof-of-concept that small molecule inhibitors of EBNA1 can be identified by biochemical high-throughput screening of compound libraries. Further screening in conjunction with medicinal chemistry optimization may provide a selective inhibitor of EBNA1 and EBV latent infection.
Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP), a key enzyme in the methionine salvage pathway, is inactivated in a variety of human cancers. Since all human tissues express MTAP, it would be of potential interest to identify compounds that selectively inhibit the growth of MTAP deficient cells. To determine if MTAP inactivation could be targeted, we have performed a differential chemical genetic screen in isogenic MTAP+ and MTAP− S. cerevisiae. A low molecular weight compound library containing 30,080 unique compounds was screened for those that selectively inhibit growth of MTAP− yeast using a differential growth assay. One compound, containing a 1,3,4-thiadiazine ring, repeatedly showed a differential dose response, with MTAP− cells exhibiting a four-fold shift in IC50 compared to MTAP+ cells. Several structurally related derivatives of this compound also showed enhanced growth inhibition in MTAP− yeast. These compounds were also examined for growth inhibition of isogenic MTAP+ and MTAP− HT1080 fibrosarcoma cells, and four of the five compounds exhibited evidence of modest, but significant, increased potency in MTAP− cells. In summary, these studies show the feasibility of differential growth screening technology and have identified a novel class of compounds that can preferentially inhibit growth of MTAP− cells.
Methionine Salvage Pathway; Drug screening; Yeast; Genetic-chemical interaction
Members of the heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) family of molecular chaperones are emerging as potential therapeutic targets. Their ATPase activity has classically been measured using colorimetric phosphate-detection reagents, such as quinaldine red (QR). While such assays are suitable for 96-well plate formats, they typically lose sensitivity when attempted in lower volume due to path length and meniscus effects. These limitations and Hsp70’s weak enzymatic activity have combined to create significant challenges in high throughput screening. To overcome these difficulties, we have adopted an energy transfer strategy that was originally reported by Zuck et al. (Anal. Biochem. 2005, 342:254–259). Briefly, white 384-well plates emit fluorescence when irradiated at 430 nm. In turn, this intrinsic fluorescence can be quenched by energy transfer with the QR-based chromophore. Using this more sensitive approach, we tested 55,400 compounds against DnaK, a prokaryotic member of the Hsp70 family. The assay performance was good (Z′ ~ 0.6, CV ~8%) and at least one promising new inhibitor was identified. In secondary assays, this compound specifically blocked stimulation of DnaK by its co-chaperone, DnaJ. Thus, this simple and inexpensive adaptation of a colorimetric method might be suitable for screening against Hsp70-family members.
phosphate; malachite green; ATPase; molecular chaperone; fluorescence assay
Cyclophilin A (CypA) is an overexpressed protein in lung cancer tumors and as a result is a potential therapeutic and diagnostic target. Here we utilize an H/D exchange- and MALDI mass spectrometry-based assay, termed single-point SUPREX (Stability of Unpurified Proteins from Rates of H/D Exchange), to screen two chemical libraries, including the 1280-compound LOPAC library and the 9600 compound DIVERSet library, for binding to CypA. This work represents the first application of single-point SUPREX using a pooled ligand approach, which we demonstrate is capable of screening rates as fast as six seconds/ligand. The false positive and false negative rates determined in the current work using a set of control samples were 0% and 9%, respectively. A false positive rate of 20% was found in screening the actual libraries. Eight novel ligands to CypA were discovered including: 2-(α-naphthoyl)ethyltrimethyl-ammonium iodide, (E)-3-(4-t-Butylphenylsulfonyl)-2-propenenitrile, 3-(N-benzyl-N-isopropyl)amino-1-(naphthalen-2-yl)propan-1-one, cis-diammineplatinum (II) chloride, 1-(3,5-dichlorophenyl)-1H-pyrrole-2,5-dione, N-(3-chloro-1,4-dioxo-1,4-dihydro-2-naphthalenyl)-N-cyclohexylacetamide, 1-[2-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)ethyl]-1H-pyrrole-2,5-dione, and 4-(2-methoxy-4-nitrophenyl)-1-methyl-10-oxa-4-azatricyclo[126.96.36.199~2,6~]dec-8-ene-3,5-dione. These compounds, which had moderate binding affinities to CypA (i.e., Kd values in the low micromolar range), provide new molecular scaffolds that might be useful in the development of CypA targeted diagnostic imaging or therapeutic agents for lung cancer.
Cyclophilin A; Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization; amide H/D exchange; high-throughput screening
The tyrosine kinase Wee1 is part of a key cellular sensing mechanism that signals completion of DNA replication, ensuring proper timing of entry into mitosis. Wee1 acts as an inhibitor of mitotic entry by phosphorylating cyclin-dependent kinase CDK1. Wee1 activity is mainly regulated at the protein level through its phosphorylation and subsequent degradation by the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. To facilitate identification of small molecules preventing Wee1 degradation, a homogeneous cell-based assay was developed using HeLa cells transiently transfected with a Wee1-Luciferase fusion protein. To insure uHTS compatibility, the assay was scaled to 1,536-well plate format and cells were transfected in bulk and cryopreserved. This miniaturized homogenous assay demonstrated robust performance, with a calculated Z′ factor of 0.65±0.05. The assay was screened against a publicly available library of ~218,000 compounds in order to identify Wee1 stabilizers. Nonselective, cytotoxic and promiscuous compounds were rapidly triaged through the use of a similarly formatted counterscreen that measured stabilization of a N-cyclin B-Luciferase fusion protein, as well as execution of viability assessment in the parental HeLa cell line. This screening campaign led to the discovery of four unrelated cell-permeable small molecules that showed selective Wee1-Luciferase stabilization with micromolar potency. One of these compounds, SID4243143, was shown to inhibit cell cycle progression, underscoring the importance of Wee1 degradation to the cell cycle. Our results suggest that this uHTS approach is suitable for identifying selective chemical probes that prevent Wee1 degradation, and generally applicable to discovering inhibitors of the ubiquitin proteasome pathway.
Wee1; degradation; stabilizer; reporter assay; transient transfection; cryopreserved cells; ubiquitin; proteasome
RNA interference-based screening is a powerful new genomic technology which addresses gene function en masse. To evaluate factors influencing hit list composition and reproducibility, we performed two identically designed small interfering RNA (siRNA)-based, whole genome screens for host factors supporting yellow fever virus infection. These screens represent two separate experiments completed five months apart and allow the direct assessment of the reproducibility of a given siRNA technology when performed in the same environment. Candidate hit lists generated by sum rank, median absolute deviation, z-score, and strictly standardized mean difference were compared within and between whole genome screens. Application of these analysis methodologies within a single screening dataset using a fixed threshold equivalent to a p-value ≤ 0.001 resulted in hit lists ranging from 82 to 1,140 members and highlighted the tremendous impact analysis methodology has on hit list composition. Intra- and inter-screen reproducibility was significantly influenced by the analysis methodology and ranged from 32% to 99%. This study also highlighted the power of testing at least two independent siRNAs for each gene product in primary screens. To facilitate validation we conclude by suggesting methods to reduce false discovery at the primary screening stage.
In this study we present the first comprehensive comparison of multiple analysis strategies, and demonstrate the impact of the analysis methodology on the composition of the “hit list”. Therefore, we propose that the entire dataset derived from functional genome-scale screens, especially if publicly funded, should be made available as is done with data derived from gene expression and genome-wide association studies.
RNA interference; analysis; RNAi screen analysis; siRNA; RNAi; siRNA screening; sum rank; median absolute deviation; strictly standardized mean difference; genome-wide; whole-genome; comparison; overlap; hit list
Fas-Associated protein with Death Domain (FADD) was originally reported as a pro-apoptotic adaptor molecule that mediates receptor induced apoptosis. Recent studies have revealed a potential role of FADD in NF-κB activation, embryogenesis, and cell cycle regulation and proliferation. Over-expression of FADD and its phosphorylation have been associated with the transformed phenotype in many cancers and is therefore a potential target for therapeutic intervention. In an effort to delineate signaling events that lead to FADD phosphorylation and to identify novel compounds that impinge on this pathway, we developed a cell based reporter for FADD kinase activity. The reporter assay, optimized for a high throughput screen (HTS), measures bioluminescence in response to modulation of FADD kinase activity in live cells. In addition, the potential use of the reporter cell line in the rapid evaluation of pharmacologic properties of HTS hits in mouse models has been demonstrated.
FADD; phosphorylation; non-invasive molecular imaging; bioluminescence; kinase activity
Studies of the phosphodiesterase PDE7 family are impeded by there being only one commercially-available PDE7 inhibitor, BRL50481. We have employed a high throughput screen of commercial chemical libraries, using a fission yeast-based assay, to identify PDE7 inhibitors that include steroids, podocarpanes, and an unusual heterocyclic compound, BC30. In vitro enzyme assays measuring the potency of BC30 and two podocarpanes, in comparison with BRL50481, produce data consistent with those from yeast-based assays. In other enzyme assays, BC30 stimulates the PDE4D catalytic domain, but not full-length PDE4D2, suggesting an allosteric site of action. BC30 significantly enhances the anti-inflammatory effect of the PDE4 inhibitor rolipram as measured by release of TNFα from activated monocytes. These studies introduce several new PDE7 inhibitors that may be excellent candidates for medicinal chemistry due to the requirements for drug-like characteristics placed on them by the nature of the yeast-based screen.
Schizosaccharomyces pombe; cAMP; phosphodiesterase; high throughput; inhibitors; PDE7
Shigella flexneri is a human enteropathogen that infects ca. 165 million people and claims more than 1 million lives per year worldwide. Although shigellosis has been considered a disease of the “Third World,” like many other contagious diseases, it does occur in developed countries. The emergence of drug and multi-drug-resistant strains of Shigella emphasize the need for novel antibiotic development. VirF, an AraC-type transcriptional regulator, is responsible for the expression of all downstream virulence factors that control intracellular invasion and cell-to-cell spread of Shigella. Gene knockout studies have validated that inhibition of VirF expression is sufficient to block the normal life cycle of Shigella in the host and thereby increase susceptibility to the host immune system. The authors have developed a high-throughput, cell-based assay to monitor inhibition of VirF using β-galactosidase as a reporter protein. Using an avirulent strain of Shigella, they have screened libraries containing ~42,000 small molecules. Following confirmation and dose-response analysis, they have identified 25 compounds that demonstrate VirF inhibition in vivo ≥55% in comparison to the controls and little general antibacterial activity (measured by cell growth, OD600). The authors are in the process of confirming these “hits” in several secondary assays to assess the mechanism of action.
VirF; Shigella flexneri; AraC family; HTS; transcriptional activators
How many hits from a high-throughput screen should be sent for confirmatory experiments? Analytical answers to this question are derived from statistics alone and aim to fix, for example, the false-discovery rate at a predetermined tolerance. These methods, however, neglect local economic context and consequently lead to irrational experimental strategies. In contrast, we argue that this question is essentially economic, not statistical, and is amenable to an economic analysis that admits an optimal solution. This solution, in turn, suggests a novel tool for deciding the number of hits to confirm, the marginal cost of discovery, which meaningfully quantifies the local economic trade-off between true and false positives, yielding an economically optimal experimental strategy. Validated with retrospective simulations and prospective experiments, this strategy identified 157 additional actives which had been erroneously labeled inactive in at least one real-world screening experiment.
Evaluation of drug cardiotoxicity is essential to the safe development of novel pharmaceuticals. Assessing a compound's risk for prolongation of the surface electrocardiographic QT interval, and hence risk for life threatening arrhythmias is mandated before approval of nearly all new pharmaceuticals. QT prolongation has most commonly been associated with loss of current through hERG (human ether-a-go-go related gene) potassium ion channels due to direct block of the ion channel by drugs or occasionally by inhibition of the plasma membrane expression of the channel protein. To develop an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective hERG screening assay for detecting drug-mediated disruption of hERG membrane trafficking, we demonstrate the use of microfluidic-based systems to improve throughput and lower cost of current methods. We validate our microfluidics array platform in polystyrene (PS), cyclo-olefin polymer (COP) and poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) microchannels for drug-induced disruption of hERG trafficking by culturing stably transfected HEK cells that overexpressed hERG (WT-hERG), and studying their morphology, proliferation rates, hERG protein expression, and response to drug treatment. Our results show that WT-hERG cells readily proliferate in PS, COP, and PDMS microfluidic channels. We demonstrated that conventional Western blot analysis was possible using cell lysate extracted from a single microchannel. The Western blot analysis also provided important evidence that WT-hERG cells cultured in microchannels maintained regular (well plate-based) expression of hERG. We further showed that experimental procedures can be streamlined by using direct in-channel immunofluorescent staining in conjunction with detection using an infrared scanner. Finally, treatment of WT-hERG cells with five different drugs suggested that PS (and COP) microchannels were more suitable than PDMS microchannels for drug screening applications, particularly for tests involving hydrophobic drug molecules.
microfluidics; cell culture; hERG; drug screening; live-cell Western; high throughput; fluoxetine
Excitotoxicity has been implicated as the mechanism of neuronal damage resulting from acute insults such as stroke, epilepsy, and trauma, as well as during the progression of adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Excitotoxicity is defined as excessive exposure to the neurotransmitter glutamate or overstimulation of its membrane receptors, leading to neuronal injury or death. One potential approach to protect against excitotoxic neuronal damage is enhanced glutamate reuptake. The glial glutamate transporter EAAT2 is the quantitatively dominant glutamate transporter and plays a major role in clearance of glutamate. Expression of EAAT2 protein is highly regulated at the translational level. In an effort to identify compounds that can induce translation of EAAT2 transcripts, a cell-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was developed using a primary astrocyte line stably transfected with a vector designed to identify modulators of EAAT2 translation. This assay was optimized for high-throughput screening, and a library of approximately 140,000 compounds was tested. In the initial screen, 293 compounds were identified as hits. These 293 hits were retested at 3 concentrations, and a total of 61 compounds showed a dose-dependent increase in EAAT2 protein levels. Selected compounds were tested in full 12-point dose-response experiments in the screening assay to assess potency as well as confirmed by Western blot, immunohistochemistry, and glutamate uptake assays to evaluate the localization and function of the elevated EAAT2 protein. These hits provide excellent starting points for developing therapeutic agents to prevent excitotoxicity.
excitotoxicity; glutamate transporter; EAAT2; high-throughput screen; neurodegeneration
Dietary long-chain fatty acid (LCFA) uptake across cell membranes is mediated principally by fatty acid transport proteins (FATPs). Six subtypes of this transporter are differentially expressed throughout the human and rodent body. To facilitate drugs discovery against FATP subtypes, we utilized mammalian cell lines stably expressing the recombinant human FATP4 and 5, and developed a high-throughput screening (HTS) assay using a 96-well fluorometric imaging plate reader (FLIPR). LCFA uptake signal-to background ratios were between 3 and 5-fold. Two 4-aryl-dihydropyrimidinones, j3 and j5, produced inhibition of FATP4 with a half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 0.21 uM, and 0.63 uM, respectively, and displayed approximately 100-fold selectivity over FATP5. The US Drug Collection library was screened against the FATP5. A hit rate of around 0.4% was observed with a Z’ factor of 0.6 ± 0.2. Two confirmed hits are bile acids, chenodiol and ursodiol with an IC50 of 2.4 and 0.22 uM, respectively. To increase throughput, a single-time-point measurement in 384-well format was developed using the Analyst HT and the results are comparable with 96-well format. In conclusion, the FATP4 and 5 cell-based fluorescence assays are suitable for a primary drug screen, while differentiated cell lines useful for a secondary drug screen.
Long-chain fatty acids; Fatty acid transport proteins; High-throughput screening; Fluorometric imaging plate reader (FLIPR); Bile acids
The typical “design” approach to image-based assay development involves choosing measurements that are likely to correlate with the phenotype of interest, based on the researcher’s intuition and knowledge of image analysis. An alternate “screening” approach is to measure a large number of cellular features and systematically test each feature to identify those that are best able to distinguish positive and negative controls while taking precautions to avoid overfitting the available data. The cell measurement software the authors previously developed, CellProfiler, makes both approaches straightforward, easing the process of assay development. Here, they demonstrate the use of the screening approach to image assay development to select the best measures for scoring publicly available image sets of 2 cytoplasm-to-nucleus translocation assays and 2 Transfluor assays. The authors present the resulting assay quality measures as a baseline for future algorithm comparisons, and all software, methods, and images they present are freely available.
high-throughput screening; high-content screening; image-based screening; open-source software; assay development