Polycomb/Trithorax response elements (PRE/TREs) can switch their function reversibly between silencing and activation by mechanisms that are poorly understood. Here we show that a switch in forward and reverse noncoding transcription from the Drosophila melanogaster vestigial (vg) PRE/TRE switches the status of the element between silencing (induced by the forward strand) and activation (induced by the reverse strand). In vitro, both noncoding RNAs inhibit PRC2 histone methyltransferase activity, but, in vivo, only the reverse strand binds PRC2. Overexpression of the reverse strand evicts PRC2 from chromatin and inhibits its enzymatic activity. We propose that the interaction of RNAs with PRC2 is differentially regulated in vivo, allowing regulated inhibition of local PRC2 activity. Genome-wide analysis shows that strand switching of noncoding RNAs occurs at several hundred Polycomb-binding sites in fly and vertebrate genomes. This work identifies a previously unreported and potentially widespread class of PRE/TREs that switch function by switching the direction of noncoding RNA transcription.
Genotoxic chemotherapy is the most common cancer treatment strategy. However, its untargeted generic DNA-damaging nature and associated systemic cytotoxicity greatly limit its therapeutic applications. Here, we used a haploid genetic screen in human cells to discover an absolute dependency of the clinically evaluated anticancer compound YM155 on solute carrier family member 35 F2 (SLC35F2), an uncharacterized member of the solute carrier protein family that is highly expressed in a variety of human cancers. YM155 generated DNA damage through intercalation, which was contingent on the expression of SLC35F2 and its drug-importing activity. SLC35F2 expression and YM155 sensitivity correlated across a panel of cancer cell lines, and targeted genome editing verified SLC35F2 as the main determinant of YM155-mediated DNA damage toxicity in vitro and in vivo. These findings suggest a new route to targeted DNA damage by exploiting tumor and patient-specific import of YM155.
High-throughput screening allows rapid identification of new candidate compounds for biological probe or drug development. Here, we describe a principled method to generate "assay performance profiles" for individual compounds that can serve as a basis for similarity searches and cluster analyses. Our method overcomes three challenges associated with generating robust assay performance profiles: (1) we transform data, allowing us to build profiles from assays having diverse dynamic ranges and variability; (2) we apply appropriate mathematical principles to handle missing data; and (3) we mitigate the fact that loss-of-signal assay measurements may not distinguish between multiple mechanisms that can lead to certain phenotypes (e.g., cell death). Our method connected compounds with similar mechanisms of action, enabling prediction of new targets and mechanisms both for known bioactives and for compounds emerging from new screens. Furthermore, we used Bayesian modeling of promiscuous compounds to distinguish between broadly bioactive and narrowly bioactive compound communities. Several examples illustrate the utility of our method to support mechanism-of-action studies in probe development and target identification projects.
Epigenetic deregulation is a hallmark of cancer, and there has been increasing interest in therapeutics that target chromatin-modifying enzymes and other epigenetic regulators. The rationale for applying epigenetic drugs to treat cancer is twofold. First, epigenetic changes are reversible, and drugs could therefore be used to restore the normal (healthy) epigenetic landscape. However, it is unclear whether drugs can faithfully restore the precancerous epigenetic state. Second, chromatin regulators are often mutated in cancer, making them attractive drug targets. However, in most instances it is unknown whether cancer cells are addicted to these mutated chromatin proteins, or whether their mutation merely results in epigenetic instability conducive to the selection of secondary aberrations. An alternative incentive for targeting chromatin regulators is the exploitation of cancer-specific vulnerabilities, including synthetic lethality, caused by epigenetic deregulation. We review evidence for the hypothesis that mechanisms other than oncogene addiction are a basis for the application of epigenetic drugs, and propose future research directions.
Type-1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells are destroyed by the immune system. An emerging strategy to regenerate beta-cell mass is through transdifferentiation of pancreatic alpha cells to beta cells. We previously reported two small molecules, BRD7389 and GW8510, that induce insulin expression in a mouse alpha cell line and provide a glimpse into potential intermediate cell states in beta-cell reprogramming from alpha cells. These small-molecule studies suggested that inhibition of kinases in particular may induce the expression of several beta-cell markers in alpha cells. To identify potential lineage reprogramming protein targets, we compared the transcriptome, proteome, and phosphoproteome of alpha cells, beta cells, and compound-treated alpha cells. Our phosphoproteomic analysis indicated that two kinases, BRSK1 and CAMKK2, exhibit decreased phosphorylation in beta cells compared to alpha cells, and in compound-treated alpha cells compared to DMSO-treated alpha cells. Knock-down of these kinases in alpha cells resulted in expression of key beta-cell markers. These results provide evidence that perturbation of the kinome may be important for lineage reprogramming of alpha cells to beta cells.
Ewings sarcoma is a pediatric cancer of the bone that is characterized by the expression of the chimeric transcription factor EWS-FLI1 that confers a highly malignant phenotype and results from the chromosomal translocation t(11;22)(q24;q12). Poor overall survival and pronounced long-term side effects associated with traditional chemotherapy necessitate the development of novel, targeted, therapeutic strategies. We therefore conducted a focused viability screen with 200 small molecule kinase inhibitors in 2 different Ewings sarcoma cell lines. This resulted in the identification of several potential molecular intervention points. Most notably, tozasertib (VX-680, MK-0457) displayed unique nanomolar efficacy, which extended to other cell lines, but was specific for Ewings sarcoma. Furthermore, tozasertib showed strong synergies with the chemotherapeutic drugs etoposide and doxorubicin, the current standard agents for Ewings sarcoma. To identify the relevant targets underlying the specific vulnerability toward tozasertib, we determined its cellular target profile by chemical proteomics. We identified 20 known and unknown serine/threonine and tyrosine protein kinase targets. Additional target deconvolution and functional validation by RNAi showed simultaneous inhibition of Aurora kinases A and B to be responsible for the observed tozasertib sensitivity, thereby revealing a new mechanism for targeting Ewings sarcoma. We further corroborated our cellular observations with xenograft mouse models. In summary, the multilayered chemical biology approach presented here identified a specific vulnerability of Ewings sarcoma to concomitant inhibition of Aurora kinases A and B by tozasertib and danusertib, which has the potential to become a new therapeutic option.
Histone methylations are important chromatin marks that regulate gene expression, genomic stability, DNA repair, and genomic imprinting. Histone demethylases are the most recent family of histone-modifying enzymes discovered. Here, we report the characterization of a small-molecule inhibitor of Jumonji C domain-containing histone demethylases. The inhibitor derives from a structure-based design and preferentially inhibits the subfamily of trimethyl lysine demethylases. Its methyl ester prodrug, methylstat, selectively inhibits Jumonji C domain-containing his-tone demethylases in cells and may be a useful small-molecule probe of chromatin and its role in epigenetics.
High-content screening for small-molecule inducers of insulin expression identified the compound BRD7389, which caused alpha-cells to adopt several morphological and gene expression features of a beta-cell state. Assay-performance profile analysis suggests kinase inhibition as a mechanism of action, and we show that biochemical and cellular inhibition of the RSK kinase family by BRD7389 is likely related to its ability induce a beta-cell-like state. BRD7389 also increases the endocrine cell content and function of donor human pancreatic islets in culture.
During replicative aging of primary cells morphological transformations occur, the expression pattern is altered and chromatin changes globally. Here we show that chronic damage signals, probably caused by telomere processing, affect expression of histones and lead to their depletion. We investigated the abundance and cell cycle expression of histones and histone chaperones and found defects in histone biosynthesis during replicative aging. Simultaneously, epigenetic marks were redistributed across the phases of the cell cycle and the DNA damage response (DDR) machinery was activated. The age-dependent reprogramming affected telomeric chromatin itself, which was progressively destabilized, leading to a boost of the telomere-associated DDR with each successive cell cycle. We propose a mechanism in which changes in the structural and epigenetic integrity of telomeres affect core histones and their chaperones, enforcing a self-perpetuating pathway of global epigenetic changes that ultimately leads to senescence.
Post-translational modifications of histones alter chromatin structure and play key roles in gene expression and specification of cell states. Small molecules that target chromatin-modifying enzymes selectively are useful as probes and have promise as therapeutics, although very few are currently available. G9a (also named euchromatin histone methyltransferase 2 (EHMT2)) catalyzes methylation of lysine 9 on histone H3 (H3K9), a modification linked to aberrant silencing of tumor-suppressor genes, among others. Here, we report the discovery of a novel histone methyltransferase inhibitor, BRD4770. This compound reduced cellular levels of di- and trimethylated H3K9 without inducing apoptosis, induced senescence, and inhibited both anchorage-dependent and -independent proliferation in the pancreatic cancer cell line PANC-1. ATM-pathway activation, caused by either genetic or small-molecule inhibition of G9a, may mediate BRD4770-induced cell senescence. BRD4770 may be a useful tool to study G9a and its role in senescence and cancer cell biology.
Maintaining sufficient levels of Pdx1 activity is a prerequisite for proper regulation of blood glucose homeostasis and beta cell function. Mice that are haploinsufficient for Pdx1 display impaired glucose tolerance and lack the ability to increase beta cell mass in response to decreased insulin signaling. Several studies have shown that post-translational modifications are regulating Pdx1 activity through intracellular localization and binding to co-factors. Understanding the signaling cues converging on Pdx1 and modulating its activity is therefore an attractive approach in diabetes treatment. We employed a novel technique called Nanofluidic Proteomic Immunoassay to characterize the post-translational profile of Pdx1. Following isoelectric focusing in nano-capillaries, this technology relies on a pan specific antibody for detection and it therefore allows the relative abundance of differently charged protein species to be examined simultaneously. In all eukaryotic cells tested we find that the Pdx1 protein separates into four distinct peaks whereas Pdx1 protein from bacteria only produces one peak. Of the four peaks in eukaryotic cells we correlate one of them to a phosphorylation Using alanine scanning and mass spectrometry we map this phosphorylation to serine 61 in both Min6 cells and in exogenous Pdx1 over-expressed in HEK293 cells. A single phosphorylation is also present in cultured islets but it remains unaffected by changes in glucose levels. It is present during embryogenesis but is not required for pancreas development.
Under the instruction of cell-fate-determining, DNA-binding transcription factors, chromatin-modifying enzymes mediate and maintain cell states throughout development in multicellular organisms. Currently, small molecules modulating the activity of several classes of chromatin-modifying enzymes are available, including clinically approved histone deacetylase (HDAC) and DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibitors. We describe the genome-wide expression changes induced by 29 compounds targeting HDACs, DNMTs, histone lysine methyltransferases (HKMTs), and protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) in pancreatic ?- and ?-cell lines. HDAC inhibitors regulate several hundred transcripts irrespective of the cell type, with distinct clusters of dissimilar activity for hydroxamic acids and orthoamino anilides. In contrast, compounds targeting histone methyltransferases modulate the expression of restricted gene sets in distinct cell types. For example, we find that G9a/GLP methyltransferase inhibitors selectively up-regulate the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway in pancreatic but not liver cells. These data suggest that, despite their conservation across the entire genome and in different cell types, chromatin pathways can be targeted to modulate the expression of selected transcripts.
Expression of insulin in terminally differentiated non-beta cell types in the pancreas could be important to treating type-1 diabetes. Previous findings led us to hypothesize involvement of kinase inhibition in induction of insulin expression in pancreatic alpha cells.
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