As key negative regulator of the p53 tumour suppressor, Mdm2 is an attractive therapeutic target. Small molecules such as Nutlin have been developed to antagonise Mdm2, resulting in p53-dependent death of tumour cells. We have recently described a mutation in Mdm2 (M62A), which precludes binding of Nutlin, but not p53. This Nutlin-resistant variant is not, however, refractory to binding and inhibition by stapled peptide antagonists targeting the same region of Mdm2. A detailed understanding of how stapled peptides are recalcitrant to Mdm2 mutations conferring Nutlin-resistance will aid in the further development of potent Mdm2 antagonists. Here, we report the 2.00 Å crystal structure of a stapled peptide antagonist bound to Nutlin resistant Mdm2. The stapled peptide relies on an extended network of interactions along the hydrophobic binding cleft of Mdm2 for high affinity binding. Additionally, as seen in other stapled peptide structures, the hydrocarbon staple itself contributes to binding through favourable interactions with Mdm2. The structure highlights the intrinsic plasticity present in both Mdm2 and the hydrocarbon staple moiety, and can be used to guide future iterations of both small molecules and stapled peptides for improved antagonists of Mdm2.
We demonstrate the use of fluorescent molecular rotors as probes for detecting biomolecular interactions, specifically peptide-protein interactions. Molecular rotors undergo twisted intramolecular charge transfer upon irradiation, relax via the nonradiative torsional relaxation pathway, and have been typically used as viscosity probes. Their utility as a tool for detecting specific biomolecular interactions has not been explored. Using the well characterized p53-Mdm2 interaction as a model system, we designed a 9-(2-carboxy-2-cyanovinyl) julolidine-based p53 peptide reporter, JP1-R, which fluoresces conditionally only upon Mdm2 binding. The reporter was used in a rapid, homogeneous assay to screen a fragment library for antagonists of the p53-Mdm2 interaction, and several inhibitors were identified. Subsequent validation of these hits using established secondary assays suggests increased sensitivity afforded by JP1-R. The fluorescence of molecular rotors contingent upon target binding makes them a versatile tool for detecting specific biomolecular interactions.
Protein-protein interactions (PPIs) are attractive but challenging targets for drug discovery. To overcome numerous limitations of the currently available cell-based PPI assays, we have recently established a fully reversible microscopy-assisted fluorescent two-hybrid (F2H) assay. The F2H assay offers a fast and straightforward readout: an interaction-dependent co-localization of two distinguishable fluorescent signals at a defined spot in the nucleus of mammalian cells. We developed two reversible F2H assays for the interactions between the tumor suppressor p53 and its negative regulators, Mdm2 and Mdm4. We then performed a pilot F2H screen with a subset of compounds, including small molecules (such as Nutlin-3) and stapled peptides. We identified five cell-penetrating compounds as potent p53-Mdm2 inhibitors. However, none exhibited intracellular activity on p53-Mdm4. Live cell data generated by the F2H assays enable the characterization of stapled peptides based on their ability to penetrate cells and disrupt p53-Mdm2 interaction as well as p53-Mdm4 interaction. Here, we show that the F2H assays enable side-by-side analysis of substances' dual Mdm2-Mdm4 activity. In addition, they are suitable for testing various types of compounds (e.g., small molecules and peptidic inhibitors) and concurrently provide initial data on cellular toxicity. Furthermore, F2H assays readily allow real-time visualization of PPI dynamics in living cells.
We have previously developed a sensitive and modular homogenous biosensor system using peptides to detect target ligands. By transposing the basic mechanistic principle of the nuclease protection assay into this biosensor framework, we have developed the protease exclusion (PE) assay which can discern antagonists of protein-protein interactions in a rapid, single-step format. We demonstrate the concept with multiple protein-peptide pairs and validate the method by successfully screening a small molecule library for compounds capable of inhibiting the therapeutically relevant p53-Mdm2 interaction. The Protease Exclusion method adds to the compendium of assays available for rapid analyte detection and is particularly suited for drug screening applications.
Numerous peptide ligands including protease recognition sequences, peptides mediating protein-protein interactions, peptide epitopes of antibodies and mimotopes are available which bind molecules of interest. However, there is currently no facile method for the incorporation of these peptides into homogenous detection systems. We present a generalizable method for the incorporation of such peptides into a novel fusion protein framework comprising an enzyme and its inhibitor. The incorporated peptide functions as an allosteric hinge, linking enzyme to its inhibitor. Upon interaction with its cognate analyte, the peptide mediates dissociation of the inhibitor from the enzyme, and facilitates one-step signal generation. Likewise, cleavage of the peptide by a specific protease also causes enzyme-inhibitor dissociation, leading to signal generation. Using the ?-lactamase Tem1 and its inhibitor protein as a model scaffold, we show both specific and sensitive (between low nanomolar and mid-picomolar) colorimetric detection of proteases and antibodies within minutes in a homogenous one-step reaction visible to the naked eye. The same scaffold affords in vivo detection of antibody binding and protease function by linking activity to a selectable phenotype in E. coli.
Pharmacological modulation of p53 activity is an attractive therapeutic strategy in cancers with wild-type p53. Presently in clinical trials, the small molecule Nutlin-3A competitively binds to HDM2, a key negative regulator of p53 and blocks its activity. We have described resistance mutations in HDM2 that selectively reduce affinity for Nutlin but not p53. In the present communication, we show that stapled peptides targeting the same region of HDM2 as Nutlin are refractory to these mutations, and display reduced discrimination between the wild-type and mutant HDM2s with regards to functional abrogation of interaction with p53. The larger interaction footprint afforded by stapled peptides suggests that this class of ligands may prove comparatively more resilient to acquired resistance in a clinical setting.
HDM2 binds to the p53 tumour suppressor and targets it for proteosomal degradation. Presently in clinical trials, the small molecule Nutlin-3A competitively binds to HDM2 and abrogates its repressive function. Using a novel in vitro selection methodology, we simulated the emergence of resistance by evolving HDM2 mutants capable of binding p53 in the presence of Nutlin concentrations that inhibit the wild-type HDM2-p53 interaction. The in vitro phenotypes were recapitulated in ex vivo assays measuring both p53 transactivation function and the direct p53-HDM2 interaction in the presence of Nutlin. Mutations conferring drug resistance were not confined to the N-terminal p53/Nutlin-binding domain, and were additionally seen in the acidic, zinc finger and RING domains. Mechanistic insights gleaned from this broad spectrum of mutations will aid in future drug design and further our understanding of the complex p53-HDM2 interaction.
Emulsion technology has been successfully applied to the fields of next-generation high-throughput sequencing, protein engineering and clinical diagnostics. Here, we extend its scope to proteomics research by developing and characterizing a method, termed iCLIP (in vitro compartmentalized linkage of interacting partners), which enables genes encoding interacting protein pairs to be linked in a single segment of DNA. This will facilitate archiving of the interactomes from library versus library two-hybrid screens as libraries of linked DNAs. We further demonstrate the ability to interrogate a model yeast two-hybrid iCLIP library for interactants by "PCR-pulldown," using a primer specific to a gene of interest along with a universal primer. iCLIP libraries may also be subjected to high-throughput sequencing to generate interactome information. The applicability of the technique is also demonstrated in the related context of the bacterial two-hybrid system.
The p53 tumor suppressor plays a critical role in cancer biology, functioning as a transcription factor capable of directing cell fate. It interacts with specific DNA response elements (REs) to regulate the activity of target genes. We describe here a novel, non-radioactive assay to measure p53-DNA binding which involves the sequential use of in vitro transcription/ translation (IVT), immunoprecipitation and real-time PCR. The method reliably enables the detection of sequence-specific DNA binding of full-length p53 at low concentrations of physiologically relevant REs (<5 nM). Furthermore, we demonstrate multiplexing of 4 different REs in a single binding reaction. The use of IVT precludes the requirement for purified protein, enabling rapid characterization of the binding properties of p53 variants. Uniquely, it also offers the opportunity to add compounds during translation that might modulate and activate p53. When compared to prevailing protein-DNA binding assays, this method exhibits comparable or higher sensitivity, in addition to an expansive dynamic range afforded by the use of real-time PCR. A further extrapolation of its utility is demonstrated when the addition of a peptide known to activate p53 increased its binding to a consensus RE, consistent with published data.
Isoforms of p53 have been described in both zebrafish and human systems based on sensitive analysis of RNA using PCR-based methods. Despite consistent evidence of the existence of these isoforms at the RNA level it has been difficult to detect the endogenous proteins in a physiological setting. In the zebrafish we have previously shown that the mRNA encoding the ?113p53 is abundantly induced in whole embryos following induction of the p53 response by radiation, CDK inhibitors and chemotherapeutic drugs. Using a set of monoclonal antibodies raised against different domains of ZFp53 we now show for the first time clear evidence for the controlled expression of a truncated form of the ZFp53 protein, ?113p53. The protein is present at very low levels but is induced by transcriptionally active full-length ZFp53 following the exposure of zebrafish embryos to the CDK inhibitor roscovitine. Induction of the protein is completely ZFp53 dependent and morpholinos that specifically block the expression of endogenous D113p53 protein selectively enhance the expression of some but not all ZFp53 responsive genes. We map the p53 response elements in the ?113p53 promoter using functional assays and identify an region at 1593-1612 in intron 4 of ZFp53, as being crucial in the full-length promoter. Thus the endogenous D113p53 protein, which oligomerises with the full-length ZFp53 protein, can act as a selective dominant negative inhibitor of the ZFp53 response, creating a distinct feedback response that varies the nature of the p53 response over time after exposure to an inducing signal.
The p53 protein and its negative regulator the ubiquitin E3 ligase Mdm2 have been shown to be conserved from the T. adhaerens to man. In common with D. melanogaster and C. elegans, there is a single copy of the p53 gene in T. adhaerens, while in the vertebrates three p53-like genes can be found: p53, p63 and p73. The Mdm2 gene is not present within the fully sequenced and highly annotated genomes of C. elegans and D. melanogaster. However, it is present in Placazoanand the presence of multiple distinct p53 genes in the Sea anemone N. vectensis led us to examine the genomes of other phyla for p53 and Mdm2-like genes. We report here the discovery of an Mdm2-like gene and two distinct p53-like genes in the Arachnid Ioxodes scapularis (Northern Deer Tick). The two predicted Deer Tick p53 proteins are much more highly related to the human p53 protein in sequence than are the fruit fly and nematode proteins. One of the Deer Tick genes encodes a p53 protein that is initiated within the DNA binding domain of p53 and shows remarkable homology to the newly described N-terminally truncated delta isoforms of human and zebrafish p53.
The p53 protein is the most commonly mutated tumor suppressor gene in man. Understanding of its evolutionary origins have been enhanced by the recent discovery of p53 family genes in the Sea Anemone Nematostella vectensis. This amino acid sequence conservation has been reflected in biological activity since the early p53 proteins, like their human counterparts, are responsible for DNA damage-induced cellular apoptosis, albeit restricted to the germ cell compartment in model organisms such as the nematode and fruit fly. In vertebrates from zebrafish to man the function of p53 is tightly and absolutely constrained by a negative regulator Mdm2. However the Mdm2 gene has not been detected in the genome of the model nematode (C. elegans) and insect (D. melanogaster) species. We have found that the p53 gene and the Mdm2 gene are present in Placozoans, one of the simplest of all free living multi-cellular organisms, implying that both proteins arose much earlier in evolution than previously thought. Detailed sequence analysis shows the exceptional retention of key features of both proteins from man to Placazoan implying that the p53-Mdm2 interaction and its regulation have been conserved from a basal eumetazoan since the pre-cambrian era over 1 billion years ago.
In vitro compartmentalization (IVC) was employed for the first time to select for novel bacteriophage lambda integrase variants displaying significantly enhanced recombination activity on a non-cognate target DNA sequence. These variants displayed up to 9-fold increased recombination activity over the parental enzyme, and one mutant recombined the chosen non-cognate substrate more efficiently than the parental enzyme recombined the wild-type DNA substrate. The in vitro specificity phenotype extended to the intracellular recombination of episomal vectors in HEK293 cells. Surprisingly, mutations conferring the strongest phenotype do not occur in the lambda integrase core-binding domain, which is known to interact directly with cognate target sequences. Instead, they locate to the N-terminal domain which allosterically modulates integrase activity, highlighting a previously unknown role for this domain in directing integrase specificity. The method we describe provides a robust, completely in vitro platform for the development of novel integrase reagent tools for in vitro DNA manipulation and other biotechnological applications.
Translationally Controlled Tumour Protein (TCTP), a highly conserved protein present in all eukaryotic organisms, has a number of intracellular and extracellular functions including an anti-apoptotic role. TCTP was recently shown to interact with both p53 and HDM2, inhibiting auto-ubiquitination of the latter and thereby promoting p53 degradation. In this study, we further investigated the interaction between TCTP and HDM2, mapping the reciprocal binding sites of TCTP and HDM2. TCTP primarily interacts with the N-terminal, p53-binding region of HDM2 through its highly basic domain 2. Furthermore, we discovered that Nutlin-3, a small molecule known to promote apoptosis and cell cycle arrest by blocking binding between HDM2 and p53, has a similar inhibitory effect on the interaction of HDM2 and TCTP. This result may provide an additional explanation of how Nutlin-derived compounds currently in clinical trials function to promote apoptosis in cancer cells.
Transcription factors play a central role in cell biology through binding to target DNA elements and regulating gene expression. In this study, we used the p53 tumour suppressor as a model transcription factor to develop an imaging based assay to measure DNA binding. The assay utilizes fluorescence imaging microscopy to detect labelled p53 bound to DNA coated on microbeads. We demonstrate the ability to multiplex the assay by interrogating simultaneous binding to variant DNA sequences present on tractable beads. Additionally, the assay measures activation of p53 for increased DNA binding by a known peptide in addition to reactivation of mutant p53 by a small molecule. It may therefore be adaptable to a high-content imaging screen for compounds capable of restoring the function of mutant p53 associated with cancer.
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