Store-operated calcium (SOC) channels are vital for activation of the immune cells, and mutations in the channel result in severe combined immunodeficiency in human patients. In lymphocytes, SOC entry is mediated by the Orai1 channel, which is activated by direct binding of STIM1. Here we describe an alternative approach for identifying inhibitors of SOC entry using minimal functional domains of STIM1 and Orai1 to screen a small-molecule microarray. This screen identified AnCoA4, which inhibits SOC entry at submicromolar concentrations and blocks T cell activation in vitro and in vivo. Biophysical studies revealed that AnCoA4 binds to the C terminus of Orai1, directly inhibiting calcium influx through the channel and also reducing binding of STIM1. AnCoA4, unlike other reported SOC inhibitors, is a molecule with a known binding site and mechanism of action. These studies also provide proof of principle for an approach to ion channel drug discovery.
Members of the ETS transcription factor family have been implicated in several cancers, where they are often dysregulated by genomic derangement. ETS variant 1 (ETV1) is an ETS factor gene that undergoes chromosomal translocation in prostate cancers and Ewing sarcomas, amplification in melanomas, and lineage dysregulation in gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Pharmacologic perturbation of ETV1 would be appealing in these cancers; however, oncogenic transcription factors are often deemed "undruggable" by conventional methods. Here, we used small-molecule microarray screens to identify and characterize drug-like compounds that modulate the biologic function of ETV1. We identified the 1,3,5-triazine small molecule BRD32048 as a top candidate ETV1 perturbagen. BRD32048 binds ETV1 directly, modulating both ETV1-mediated transcriptional activity and invasion of ETV1-driven cancer cells. Moreover, BRD32048 inhibits p300-dependent acetylation of ETV1, thereby promoting its degradation. These results point to a new avenue for pharmacologic ETV1 inhibition and may inform a general means to discover small molecule perturbagens of transcription factor oncoproteins.
High-throughput and unbiased binding assays have proven useful in probe discovery for a myriad of biomolecules, including targets of unknown structure or function and historically challenging target classes. Over the past decade, a number of novel formats for executing large-scale binding assays have been developed and used successfully in probe discovery campaigns. Here we review the use of one such format, the small-molecule microarray (SMM), as a tool for discovering protein-small molecule interactions. This review will briefly highlight selected recent probe discoveries using SMMs as well as novel uses of SMMs in profiling applications.
2011 marks the 10-year anniversary of milestone manuscripts describing drafts of the human genome sequence. Over the past decade, a number of new proteins have been linked to disease-many of which fall into classes that have been historically considered challenging from the perspective of drug discovery. Several of these newly associated proteins lack structural information or strong annotation with regard to function, making development of conventional in vitro functional assays difficult. A recent resurgence in the popularity of simple small molecule binding assays has led to new approaches that do not require knowledge of protein structure or function in advance. Here we briefly review selected methods for executing binding assays that have been used successfully to discover small-molecule probes or drug candidates.
Using a diverse collection of small molecules we recently found that compound sets from different sources (commercial; academic; natural) have different protein-binding behaviors, and these behaviors correlate with trends in stereochemical complexity for these compound sets. These results lend insight into structural features that synthetic chemists might target when synthesizing screening collections for biological discovery. We report extensive characterization of structural properties and diversity of biological performance for these compounds and expand comparative analyses to include physicochemical properties and three-dimensional shapes of predicted conformers. The results highlight additional similarities and differences between the sets, but also the dependence of such comparisons on the choice of molecular descriptors. Using a protein-binding dataset, we introduce an information-theoretic measure to assess diversity of performance with a constraint on specificity. Rather than relying on finding individual active compounds, this measure allows rational judgment of compound subsets as groups. We also apply this measure to publicly available data from ChemBank for the same compound sets across a diverse group of functional assays. We find that performance diversity of compound sets is relatively stable across a range of property values as judged by this measure, both in protein-binding studies and functional assays. Because building screening collections with improved performance depends on efficient use of synthetic organic chemistry resources, these studies illustrate an important quantitative framework to help prioritize choices made in building such collections.
Histone deacetylases (HDACs) are enzymes involved in many important biological functions. They have been linked to a variety of cancers, psychiatric disorders, and other diseases. Since small molecules can serve as probes to study the relevant biological roles of HDACs, novel scaffolds are necessary to develop more efficient, selective drug candidates. Screening libraries of molecules may yield structurally diverse probes that bind these enzymes and modulate their functions in cells. Here we report a small molecule with a novel hydroxy-pyrimidine scaffold that inhibits multiple HDAC enzymes and modulates acetylation levels in cells. Analogs were synthesized in an effort to evaluate structure-activity relationships.
Latent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection causes human lymphomas and carcinomas. EBV usually persists as an episome in malignant cells. EBV episome persistence, replication, and gene expression are dependent on EBNA1 binding to multiple cognate sites in oriP. To search for inhibitors of EBNA1- and oriP-dependent episome maintenance or transcription, a library of 40,550 small molecules was screened for compounds that inhibit EBNA1- and oriP-dependent transcription and do not inhibit EBNA1- and oriP-independent transcription. This screening identified roscovitine, a selective inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (CDK1), CDK2, CDK5, and CDK7. Based on motif predictions of EBNA1 serine 393 as a CDK phosphorylation site and (486)RALL(489) and (580)KDLVM(584) as potential cyclin binding domains, we hypothesized that cyclin binding to EBNA1 may enable CDK1, -2, -5, or -7 to phosphorylate serine 393. We found that Escherichia coli-expressed EBNA1 amino acids 387 to 641 were phosphorylated in vitro by CDK1-, -2-, -5-, and -7/cyclin complexes and serine 393 phosphorylation was roscovitine inhibited. Further, S393A mutation abrogated phosphorylation. S393A mutant EBNA1 was deficient in supporting EBNA1- and oriP-dependent transcription and episome persistence, and roscovitine had little further effect on the diminished S393A mutant EBNA1-mediated transcription or episome persistence. Immunoprecipitated FLAG-EBNA1 was phosphorylated in vitro, and roscovitine inhibited this phosphorylation. Moreover, roscovitine decreased nuclear EBNA1 and often increased cytoplasmic EBNA1, whereas S393A mutant EBNA1 was localized equally in the nucleus and cytoplasm and was unaffected by roscovitine treatment. These data indicate that roscovitine effects are serine 393 specific and that serine 393 is important in EBNA1- and oriPCp-dependent transcription and episome persistence.
The amyloid-? (A?) aggregation pathway is a key target in efforts to discover therapeutics that prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimers disease. Efforts at rational drug design, however, are hampered by uncertainties about the precise nature of the toxic aggregate. In contrast, high-throughput screening of compound libraries does not require a detailed understanding of the structure of the toxic species, and can provide an unbiased method for the discovery of small molecules that may lead to effective therapeutics. Here, we show that small molecule microarrays (SMMs) represent a particularly promising tool for identifying compounds that bind the A? peptide. Microarray slides with thousands of compounds immobilized on their surface were screened for binding to fluorescently labeled A?. Seventy-nine compounds were identified by the SMM screen, and then assayed for their ability to inhibit the A?-induced killing of PC12 cells. Further experiments focused on exploring the mechanism of rescue for one of these compounds: Electron microscopy and Congo red binding showed that the compound enhances fibril formation, and suggest that it may rescue cells by accelerating A? aggregation past an early toxic oligomer. These findings demonstrate that the SMM screen for binding to A? is effective at identifying compounds that reduce A? toxicity, and can reveal potential therapeutic leads without the biases inherent in methods that focus on inhibitors of aggregation.
Using a diverse collection of small molecules generated from a variety of sources, we measured protein-binding activities of each individual compound against each of 100 diverse (sequence-unrelated) proteins using small-molecule microarrays. We also analyzed structural features, including complexity, of the small molecules. We found that compounds from different sources (commercial, academic, natural) have different protein-binding behaviors and that these behaviors correlate with general trends in stereochemical and shape descriptors for these compound collections. Increasing the content of sp(3)-hybridized and stereogenic atoms relative to compounds from commercial sources, which comprise the majority of current screening collections, improved binding selectivity and frequency. The results suggest structural features that synthetic chemists can target when synthesizing screening collections for biological discovery. Because binding proteins selectively can be a key feature of high-value probes and drugs, synthesizing compounds having features identified in this study may result in improved performance of screening collections.
General binding assays involving microarrays of small molecules can be used to identify small molecule ligands for nearly any protein, even in the absence of knowledge about protein structure or function. Several suitable methods for manufacturing small molecule microarrays (SMMs) exist and different immobilization methods may be more or less preferable for any given application. Here, we describe a protocol for noncovalent and homogenous capture of small molecules using fluorous interactions between small molecules containing fluorocarbon tags and fluorocarbon-coated glass surfaces. These arrays are especially useful for applications that require display of compounds in a specific orientation such as screening biased libraries.
Transcription factors with aberrant activity in disease are promising yet untested targets for therapeutic development, particularly in oncology. Directly inhibiting or activating the function of a transcription factor requires specific disruption or recruitment of protein-protein or protein-DNA interactions. The discovery or design of small molecules that specifically modulate these interactions has thus far proven to be a significant challenge and the protein class is often perceived to be undruggable. This review will summarize recent progress in the development of small-molecule probes of transcription factors and provide evidence to challenge the notion that this important protein class is chemically intractable.
Marine organisms are continuously exposed to heavy metals in their environment. Bivalve mollusks such as the blue mussel Mytilus edulis accumulate high levels of heavy metals effecting cellular homeostasis and functions. Lead (Pb) exposure (2.5 mg/L of lead (II) nitrate for 10 d) and depuration (10 d in clean seawater) experiments were conducted to study its intracellular fate in the gills and digestive gland of M. edulis. For this purpose, an antibody-based detection method for ultrastructural localization and a subcellular fractionation approach for chemical analysis of Pb were used. In addition, effects of Pb on enzyme activities involved in oxyradical scavenging, such as the conjugative enzyme glutathione-S-transferase and the antioxidative enzyme catalase, were determined. The ultrastructural studies showed that Pb was mainly detected in lysosomes of gill epithelial cells and digestive cells. Lead was also detected in cell nuclei and granular hemocytes. Higher metal concentrations were measured by chemical analysis in subcellular fractions of the gills compared to those of the digestive gland. Increased activities of glutathione-S-transferase were found in gills after exposure and remained elevated during the depuration period, whereas glutathione-S-transferase activity remained unaffected in the digestive gland. Catalase activities showed no changes after Pb exposure, neither in the gills nor in the digestive gland. We conclude that gill cells are major sites of uptake and accumulation for dissolved Pb and are involved in sequestration and detoxification of this metal in M. edulis.
The Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) gene is disrupted by a balanced chromosomal translocation (1; 11) (q42; q14.3) in a Scottish family with a high incidence of major depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Subsequent studies provided indications that DISC1 plays a role in brain development. Here, we demonstrate that suppression of DISC1 expression reduces neural progenitor proliferation, leading to premature cell cycle exit and differentiation. Several lines of evidence suggest that DISC1 mediates this function by regulating GSK3beta. First, DISC1 inhibits GSK3beta activity through direct physical interaction, which reduces beta-catenin phosphorylation and stabilizes beta-catenin. Importantly, expression of stabilized beta-catenin overrides the impairment of progenitor proliferation caused by DISC1 loss of function. Furthermore, GSK3 inhibitors normalize progenitor proliferation and behavioral defects caused by DISC1 loss of function. Together, these results implicate DISC1 in GSK3beta/beta-catenin signaling pathways and provide a framework for understanding how alterations in this pathway may contribute to the etiology of psychiatric disorders.
Most small-molecule probes and drugs alter cell circuitry by interacting with 1 or more proteins. A complete understanding of the interacting proteins and their associated protein complexes, whether the compounds are discovered by cell-based phenotypic or target-based screens, is extremely rare. Such a capability is expected to be highly illuminating--providing strong clues to the mechanisms used by small-molecules to achieve their recognized actions and suggesting potential unrecognized actions. We describe a powerful method combining quantitative proteomics (SILAC) with affinity enrichment to provide unbiased, robust and comprehensive identification of the proteins that bind to small-molecule probes and drugs. The method is scalable and general, requiring little optimization across different compound classes, and has already had a transformative effect on our studies of small-molecule probes. Here, we describe in full detail the application of the method to identify targets of kinase inhibitors and immunophilin binders.
During fertilization, eggs undergo a temporary rise in the intracellular concentration of free Ca(2+) ions. Using the membrane permeable acetoxymethylester of the fluorescent calcium indicator dye Fura-2, Fura-2 AM, the Ca(2+)-signal at fertilization was not detectable in eggs of the sea urchin Psammechinus miliaris. However, after treatment of the eggs with Fura-2 AM in combination with MK571, an inhibitor for multidrug resistance associated proteins, clear Ca(2+)-signals at fertilization could be measured without microinjection of the dye. We used this methodology to detect possible alterations of Ca(2+)-signalling at fertilization by exposure of eggs to environmental pollutants. For this purpose, the heavy metal copper, the bromophenol 2,4,6-tribromophenol, the organic compound bisphenol A and the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon phenanthrene were tested for their potential to inhibit fertilization success of P. miliaris. Copper and 2,4,6-tribromophenol showed a dose-dependent effect on fertilization rates of P. miliaris and significantly inhibited fertilization at 6.3 microM Cu(2+) and 1 microM 2,4,6-tribromphenol. Bisphenol A significantly inhibited fertilization success at 438 microM while phenanthrene had no effect up to 56 microM. 6.3 microM copper and 100 microM 2,4,6-tribromophenol significantly increased the Ca(2+)-signal at fertilization. This alteration may contribute to the reduced fertilization rates of P. miliaris after exposure to copper and 2,4,6-tribromophenol.
Small-molecule inhibition of extracellular proteins that activate membrane receptors has proven to be extremely challenging. Diversity-oriented synthesis and small-molecule microarrays enabled the discovery of robotnikinin, a small molecule that binds the extracellular Sonic hedgehog (Shh) protein and blocks Shh signaling in cell lines, human primary keratinocytes and a synthetic model of human skin. Shh pathway activity is rescued by small-molecule agonists of Smoothened, which functions immediately downstream of the Shh receptor Patched.
The availability of large collections of de novo designed proteins presents new opportunities to harness novel macromolecules for synthetic biological functions. Many of these new functions will require binding to small molecules. Is the ability to bind small molecules a property that arises only in response to biological selection or computational design? Or alternatively, is small molecule binding a property of folded proteins that occurs readily amidst collections of unevolved sequences? These questions can be addressed by assessing the binding potential of de novo proteins that are designed to fold into stable structures, but are "naïve" in the sense that they (i) share no significant sequence similarity with natural proteins and (ii) were neither selected nor designed to bind small molecules. We chose three naïve proteins from a library of sequences designed to fold into 4-helix bundles and screened for binding to 10,000 compounds displayed on small molecule microarrays. Several binders were identified, and binding was characterized by a series of biophysical assays. Surprisingly, despite the similarity of the three de novo proteins to one another, they exhibit selective ligand binding. These findings demonstrate the potential of novel proteins for molecular recognition and have significant implications for a range of applications in synthetic biology.
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