Ribosome biogenesis is an important biological process for proper cellular function and development. Defects leading to improper ribosome biogenesis can cause diseases such as Diamond-Blackfan anemia and Shwachman-Bodian-Diamond syndrome. Nucleolar proteins are a large family of proteins and are involved in many cellular processes, including the regulation of ribosome biogenesis. Through a forward genetic screen and positional cloning, we identified and characterized a zebrafish line carrying mutation in nucleolar protein with MIF4G domain 1 (nom1), which encodes a conserved nulceolar protein with a role in pre-rRNA processing. Zebrafish nom1 mutants exhibit major defects in endoderm development, especially in exocrine pancreas. Further studies revealed that impaired proliferation of ptf1a-expressing pancreatic progenitor cells mainly contributed to the phenotype. RNA-seq and molecular analysis showed that ribosome biogenesis and pre-mRNA splicing were both affected in the mutant embryos. Several defects of ribosome assembly have been shown to have a p53-dependent mechanism. In the nom1 mutant, loss of p53 did not rescue the pancreatic defect, suggesting a p53-independent role. Further studies indicate that protein phosphatase 1 alpha, an interacting protein to Nom1, could partially rescue the pancreatic defect in nom1 morphants if a human nucleolar localization signal sequence was artificially added. This suggests that targeting Pp1? into the nucleolus by Nom1 is important for pancreatic proliferation. Altogether, our studies revealed a new mechanism involving Nom1 in controlling vertebrate exocrine pancreas formation.
Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1), one of the key regulators of mitosis, is a target for cancer therapy due to its abnormally high activity in several tumors. Plk1 is highly conserved and shares a nearly identical 3-D structure between zebrafish and humans. The initial 10 mitoses of zebrafish embryonic cleavages occur every?30 minutes, and therefore provide a rapid assay to evaluate mitosis inhibitors including those targeting Plk1. To increase efficiency and specificity, we first performed a computational virtual screen of?60000 compounds against the human Plk1 3-D structure docked to both its kinase and Polo box domain. 370 candidates with the top free-energy scores were subjected to zebrafish assay and 3 were shown to inhibit cell division. Compared to general screen for compounds inhibiting zebrafish embryonic cleavage, computation increased the efficiency by 11 folds. One of the 3 compounds, named I2, was further demonstrated to effectively inhibit multiple tumor cell proliferation in vitro and PC3 prostate cancer growth in Xenograft mouse model in vivo. Furthermore, I2 inhibited Plk1 enzyme activity in a dose dependent manner. The IC50 values of I2 in these assays are compatible to those of ON-01910, a Plk1 inhibitor currently in Phase III clinic trials. Our studies demonstrate that zebrafish assays coupled with computational screening significantly improves the efficiency of identifying specific regulators of biological targets. The PLK1 inhibitor I2, and its analogs, may have potential in cancer therapeutics.
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