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Accelerating PROTAC drug discovery: Establishing a relationship between ubiquitination and target protein degradation

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

PROTACs have been explored in multiple disease fields with focus on only few ligases like cereblon (CRBN), Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL), IAP and MDM2. Cancer targets like androgen receptor, estrogen receptor, BTK, BCL2, CDK8 and c-MET [[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11]] have been successfully targeted using PROTACs. A variety of BET family (BRD2, BRD3, and BRD4)- PROTACs were designed using multiple ligases; MDM2-based BRD4 PROTAC [12], CRBN based dBET1 [13] and BETd-24-6 [14] for triple-negative breast cancer, enhanced membrane permeable dBET6 [15], and dBET57 PROTAC [16]. PROTACs for Hepatitis c virus (HCV) protease, IRAK4 and Tau [[17], [18], [19]] have been explored for viral, immune and neurodegenerative diseases, respectively. Currently, the PROTAC field expansion to vast undruggable proteome is hindered due to narrow focus on select E3 ligases. Lack of reliable tools to rapidly evaluate PROTACs based on new ligases is hindering the progress. Screening platforms designed must be physiologically relevant and represent true PROTAC cellular function, i.e., PROTAC-mediated target ubiquitination and degradation.

In the current study, we employ TUBEs as affinity capture reagents to monitor PROTAC-induced poly-ubiquitination and degradation as a measure of potency. We established and validated proof-of-concept cell-based assays in a 96-well format using PROTACS for three therapeutic targets BET family proteins, kinases, and KRAS. To our knowledge, the proposed PROTAC assays are first of its kind that can simultaneously 1) detect ubiquitination of endogenous, native protein targets, 2) evaluate the potency of PROTACs, and 3) establish a link between the UPS and protein degradation. Using these TUBE assays, we established rank order potencies between four BET family PROTACs dBET1, dBET6, BETd246 and dBET57 based on peak ubiquitination signals (“UbMax”) of the target protein. TUBE assay was successful in demonstrating promiscuous kinase PROTACs efficiency to degrade Aurora Kinase A at sub-nanomolar concentrations within 1 h. A comparative study to identify changes in the ubiquitination and degradation profile of KRAS G12C PROTACs recruiting two E3 ligases (CRBN and VHL). All of the ubiquitination and degradation profiles obtained from TUBE based assays correlate well with traditional low throughput immunoblotting. Significant correlation between DC50 obtained from protein degradation in western blotting and UbMax values demonstrates our proposed assays can aid in high-throughput screening and drastically eliminate artifacts to overcome bottlenecks in PROTAC drug discovery.

To successfully set up HTS screening with novel PROTACs without pre-existing knowledge, we recommend the following steps. 1. Identify a model PROTAC that can potentially demonstrate activity based on knowledge in PROTAC design or in vitro binding studies. 2. Perform a time course study with 2–3 doses of the model PROTAC based on affinities of the ligands selected. 3. Monitor ubiquitination and degradation profiles using plate-based assay and identify time point that demonstrates UbMax. 4. Perform a dose response at selected time point with a library of PROTACs to establish rank order potency.

INTRODUCTION

Ubiquitination is a major regulatory mechanism to maintain cellular protein homeostasis by marking proteins for proteasomal-mediated degradation [1]. Given ubiquitin’s role in a variety of pathologies, the idea of targeting the Ubiquitin Proteasome System (UPS) is at the forefront of drug discovery [2]. “Event-driven” protein degradation using the cell’s own UPS is a promising technology for addressing the “undruggable” proteome [3]. Targeted protein degradation (TPD) has emerged as a new paradigm and promising therapeutic option to selectively attack previously intractable drug targets using PROteolytic TArgeting Chimeras (PROTACs) [4]. PROTACs are heterobifunctional molecules with a distinct ligand that targets a specific E3 ligase which is tethered to another ligand specific for the target protein using an optimized chemical linker. A functional PROTAC induces a ternary E3-PROTAC-target complex, resulting in poly-ubiquitination and subsequent controlled protein degradation [5]. Ability to function at sub-stoichiometric levels for efficient degradation, a significant advantage over traditional small molecules.

PROTACs have been explored in multiple disease fields with focus on only few ligases like cereblon (CRBN), Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL), IAP and MDM2. Cancer targets like androgen receptorestrogen receptor, BTK, BCL2, CDK8 and c-MET [[6][7][8][9][10][11]] have been successfully targeted using PROTACs. A variety of BET family (BRD2, BRD3, and BRD4)- PROTACs were designed using multiple ligases; MDM2-based BRD4 PROTAC [12], CRBN based dBET1 [13] and BETd-24-6 [14] for triple-negative breast cancer, enhanced membrane permeable dBET6 [15], and dBET57 PROTAC [16]. PROTACs for Hepatitis c virus (HCV) proteaseIRAK4 and Tau [[17][18][19]] have been explored for viral, immune and neurodegenerative diseases, respectively. Currently, the PROTAC field expansion to vast undruggable proteome is hindered due to narrow focus on select E3 ligases. Lack of reliable tools to rapidly evaluate PROTACs based on new ligases is hindering the progress. Screening platforms designed must be physiologically relevant and represent true PROTAC cellular function, i.e., PROTAC-mediated target ubiquitination and degradation.

Cellular PROTAC screening is traditionally performed using cell lines harboring reporter genes and/or Western blotting. While Western blotting is easy to perform, they are low throughput, semi-quantitative and lack sensitivity. While reporter gene assays address some of the issues, they are challenged by reporter tags having internal lysines leading to artifacts. Currently, no approaches are available that can identify true PROTAC effects such as target ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation simultaneously. High affinity ubiquitin capture reagents like TUBEs [20] (tandem ubiquitin binding entities), are engineered ubiquitin binding domains (UBDs) that allow for detection of ultralow levels of polyubiquitinated proteins under native conditions with affinities as low as 1 nM. The versatility and selectivity of TUBEs makes them superior to antibodies, and they also offer chain-selectivity (-K48, -K63, or linear) [21]. High throughput assays that can report the efficacy of multiple PROTACs simultaneously by monitoring PROTAC mediated ubiquitination can help establish rank order potency and guide chemists in developing meaningful structure activity relationships (SAR) rapidly.

In the current study, we employ TUBEs as affinity capture reagents to monitor PROTAC-induced poly-ubiquitination and degradation as a measure of potency. We established and validated proof-of-concept cell-based assays in a 96-well format using PROTACS for three therapeutic targets BET family proteins, kinases, and KRAS. To our knowledge, the proposed PROTAC assays are first of its kind that can simultaneously 1) detect ubiquitination of endogenous, native protein targets, 2) evaluate the potency of PROTACs, and 3) establish a link between the UPS and protein degradation. Using these TUBE assays, we established rank order potencies between four BET family PROTACs dBET1, dBET6, BETd246 and dBET57 based on peak ubiquitination signals (“UbMax”) of the target protein. TUBE assay was successful in demonstrating promiscuous kinase PROTACs efficiency to degrade Aurora Kinase A at sub-nanomolar concentrations within 1 h. A comparative study to identify changes in the ubiquitination and degradation profile of KRAS G12C PROTACs recruiting two E3 ligases (CRBN and VHL). All of the ubiquitination and degradation profiles obtained from TUBE based assays correlate well with traditional low throughput immunoblotting. Significant correlation between DC50 obtained from protein degradation in western blotting and UbMax values demonstrates our proposed assays can aid in high-throughput screening and drastically eliminate artifacts to overcome bottlenecks in PROTAC drug discovery.

Fig. 1. Schematic representation of TUBE assay to monitor PROTAC mediated cellular ubiquitination of target proteins.
Fig. 2. TUBE based assay screening of PROTACs: Jurkat cell lysates were treated with BRD3-specific PROTACs A) dBET1, B) dBET6, C) BETd24-6, and D) dBET57. Polyubiquitination profiles and Ubmax of BRD3 for each PROTAC were represented as relative CL intensity. Relative CL intensities were calculated by dividing raw CL signals from a given PROTAC dose over DMSO treated samples. Error bars represent standard deviations, n = 3.
Fig. 3. PROTAC mediated degradation of bromodomain proteins analyzed by anti-BRD3 western blotting. Dose response of PROTACs dBET1, dBET6, Betd-24-6 and dBET57 at 45 min in Jurkat cells demonstrates degradation of BRD3, Acting as loading control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig. 4. PROTAC mediated ubiquitination and degradation of AURKA in K562 cells. (A) Time course study to evaluate intracellular ubiquitination and degradation. (B) Western blot analysis of time course study: degradation kinetics (C) A dose response study to evaluate DC50 of the promiscuous kinase PROTAC in K562 cells. (D) Western blot analysis of dose response study to monitor degradation, GAPDH as loading control. Error bars represent standard deviation, n = 3.

SOURCE

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006291X22011792

Other articles of PROTACs in this Open Access Journal Include

The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Proteovant Therapeutics Using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Develop PROTACs

The Map of human proteins drawn by artificial intelligence and PROTAC (proteolysis targeting chimeras) Technology for Drug Discovery

Live Conference Coverage AACR 2020 in Real Time: Monday June 22, 2020 Late Day Sessions

From High-Throughput Assay to Systems Biology: New Tools for Drug Discovery

 

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Live 12:00 – 1:00 P.M  Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle: A Symposium on Diet and Human Health : October 19, 2018

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

12.00 The Italian Mediterranean Diet as a Model of Identity of a People with a Universal Good to Safeguard Health?

Prof. Antonino De Lorenzo, MD, PhD.

Director of the School of Specialization in Clinical Nutrition, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”

It is important to determine how our bodies interacts with the environment, such as absorption of nutrients.

Studies shown here show decrease in life expectancy of a high sugar diet, but the quality of the diet, not just the type of diet is important, especially the role of natural probiotics and phenolic compounds found in the Mediterranean diet.

The WHO report in 2005 discusses the unsustainability of nutrition deficiencies and suggest a proactive personalized and preventative/predictive approach of diet and health.

Most of the noncommunicable diseases like CV (46%) cancer 21% and 11% respiratory and 4% diabetes could be prevented and or cured with proper dietary approaches

Italy vs. the US diseases: in Italy most disease due to environmental contamination while US diet plays a major role

The issue we are facing in less than 10% of the Italian population (fruit, fibers, oils) are not getting the proper foods, diet and contributing to as we suggest 46% of the disease

The Food Paradox: 1.5 billion are obese; we notice we are eating less products of quality and most quality produce is going to waste;

  •  growing BMI and junk food: our studies are correlating the junk food (pre-prepared) and global BMI
  • modern diet and impact of human health (junk food high in additives, salt) has impact on microflora
  • Western Diet and Addiction: We show a link (using brain scans) showing correlation of junk food, sugar cravings, and other addictive behaviors by affecting the dopamine signaling in the substantia nigra
  • developed a junk food calculator and a Mediterranean diet calculator
  • the intersection of culture, food is embedded in the Mediterranean diet; this is supported by dietary studies of two distinct rural Italian populations (one of these in the US) show decrease in diet
  • Impact of diet: have model in Germany how this diet can increase health and life expectancy
  • from 1950 to present day 2.7 unit increase in the diet index can increase life expectancy by 26%
  • so there is an inverse relationship with our index and breast cancer

Environment and metal contamination and glyphosate: contribution to disease and impact of maintaining the healthy diet

  • huge problem with use of pesticides and increase in celiac disease

12:30 Environment and Health

Dr. Iris Maria Forte, PhD.

National Cancer Institute “Pascale” Foundation | IRCCS · Department of Research, Naples, Italy

Cancer as a disease of the environment.  Weinberg’s hallmarks of Cancer reveal how environment and epigenetics can impact any of these hallmarks.

Epigenetic effects

  • gene gatekeepers (Rb and P53)
  • DNA repair and damage stabilization

Heavy Metals and Dioxins:( alterations of the immune system as well as epigenetic regulations)

Asbestos and Mesothelioma:  they have demonstrated that p53 can be involved in development of mesothelioma as reactivating p53 may be a suitable strategy for therapy

Diet, Tomato and Cancer

  • looked at tomato extract on p53 function in gastric cancer: tomato extract had a growth reduction effect and altered cell cycle regulation and results in apoptosis
  • RBL2 levels are increased in extract amount dependent manner so data shows effect of certain tomato extracts of the southern italian tomato (     )

Antonio Giordano: we tested whole extracts of almost 30 different varieties of tomato.  The tomato variety  with highest activity was near Ravela however black tomatoes have shown high antitumor activity.  We have done a followup studies showing that these varieties, if grow elsewhere lose their antitumor activity after two or three generations of breeding, even though there genetics are similar.  We are also studying the effects of different styles of cooking of these tomatoes and if it reduces antitumor effect

please see post https://news.temple.edu/news/2017-08-28/muse-cancer-fighting-tomatoes-study-italian-food

 

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Please see related articles on Live Coverage of Previous Meetings on this Open Access Journal

Real Time Conference Coverage for Scientific and Business Media: Unique Twitter Hashtags and Handles per Conference Presentation/Session

LIVE – Real Time – 16th Annual Cancer Research Symposium, Koch Institute, Friday, June 16, 9AM – 5PM, Kresge Auditorium, MIT

Real Time Coverage and eProceedings of Presentations on 11/16 – 11/17, 2016, The 12th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL, Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston

Tweets Impression Analytics, Re-Tweets, Tweets and Likes by @AVIVA1950 and @pharma_BI for 2018 BioIT, Boston, 5/15 – 5/17, 2018

BIO 2018! June 4-7, 2018 at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

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Li -Fraumeni Syndrome and Pancreatic Cancer

Curator: Marzan Khan, B.Sc.

Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is a condition that makes individuals prone to developing a wide variety of cancers that occur early on in life, the most common types being- soft tissue sarcoma, osteosarcoma, breast cancer, brain tumors, adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC), and leukemia. (1) Pancreatic cancer is minimally associated with the condition. (2) A survey found the presence of pancreatic cancer in only 1% of 475 tumor samples collected from 91 families who were carriers of p53 mutations, with half of them having LFS. The incidence of breast cancer amongst them was the highest -24%. (2) Pancreatic carcinoma in LFS patients usually occurs in the later stages of life. (3)

The underlying cause of LFS is germline mutations in TP53 gene on chromosome 17p, that encodes the transcription factor p53, crucial in cell cycle regulation and the repair of damaged and/or abnormal cells. (4) In the majority of cases, this mutation is obtained by inheritance. (5) De-novo germline mutations in p53 occur in 7%-20% of the cases. (5)

A person showing symptoms of any type of cancer at an early age or having first or second-degree relatives with cancer are at risk of developing LFS. (5) That is why tracing family history is an important part of diagnosis in LFS patients. Genetic testing can confirm mutations present in the gene, however, there are controversial ethical issues regarding their use, particularly in children and fetuses.

In patients with LFS, it is important to control the manifestations of the disease. They should be monitored closely so that any new cancers that arise are diagnosed and treated during the early stages. (6) Patients are also at risk of developing radiation-induced second and third primary tumors. (6) Therefore, radiation and alkylating agents should be used minimally (6) People at risk can be cautioned to avoid exposure to carcinogens such as sunlight, cigarette smoke, and alcohol consumption. (5) Therapeutic approaches that are aimed at restoring wild-type p53 by gene therapy as well as reactivating non-functional p53 by the use of small-molecule drugs are currently being investigated in many cancers. (7) Unlike radiation therapy, these small-molecule drugs are non-toxic to healthy cells, thus eliminating the risk of forming new tumors.

So far, PRIMA-1 has proven to be quite effective at correcting non-functional p53. (8) PRIMA-1 is changed to its methylated form, PRIMA-1MET   that forms covalent adducts to thiol groups in the mutated protein and modifies them. (8) As a result, p53 regains its ability to destroy malignant cells. (8) A research study also found that PRIMA-1 induces apoptosis and increases the sensitivity of pancreatic cancer cells to various chemotherapeutic agents. (9)

  1. Magali Olivier, David E. Goldgar, Nayanta Sodha, Hiroko Ohgaki, Paul Kleihues, Pierre Hainaut and Rosalind A. Eeles. Li-Fraumeni and Related Syndromes. Cancer Res October 15 2003 63 (20) 6643-6650 http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/63/20/6643.abstract
  2. Kleihues P, Schauble B, zur Hausen H, et al. Tumors associated with p53 germline mutations: a synopsis of 91 families. Am J Pathol 1997; 150:1-13 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1858532/
  3. John P. Neoptolemos, Raul Urrutia, James L. Abbruzzese, Markus W. Buchler. Pancreatic Cancer. 2010.1st ed, pp-6, 2010, Springer, Verlag, New York
  4. Mishra B and Patel RR. Gene Therapy for Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer. Austin Therapeutics. 2014;1(1): 10. https://books.google.ca/books?id=NmBB5ZoKkk4C&pg=PA6&lpg=PA6&dq=connection+between+li+fraumeni+and+Pancreatic+cancer&source=bl&ots=H0iCeaPP0N&sig=pqJT1tPMR6C-NIig3S_NkFKFsD0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi4nLrgzuPQAhUUIWMKHS3wBoc4ChDoAQhNMAg#v=onepage&q=connection%20between%20li%20fraumeni%20and%20Pancreatic%20cancer&f=false
  5. Schneider K, Zelley K, Nichols KE, et al. Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. 1999 Jan 19 [Updated 2013 Apr 11]. In: Pagon RA, Adam MP, Ardinger HH, et al., editors. GeneReviews® [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993-2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20301488
  6. Elisa Becze BA, ELS, 2011 Mar 1. An introduction to Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, Five-Minute-In-Service. http://connect.ons.org/columns/five-minute-in-service/an-introduction-to-li-fraumeni-syndrome
  7. Sorrell, A. D., Espenschied, C. R., Culver, J. O., & Weitzel, J. N. (2013).TP53Testing and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome: Current Status of Clinical Applications and Future Directions. Molecular Diagnosis & Therapy17(1), 31–47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3627545/
  8. Emily J. Lewis. PRIMA-1 as a cancer therapy restoring mutant p53: a reviewBioscience Horizons (2015) 8: hzv006 http://biohorizons.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/hzv006.full
  9. Izetti, Patricia, Agnes Hautefeuille, Ana Lucia Abujamra, Caroline Brunetto de Farias, Juliana Giacomazzi, Bárbara Alemar, Guido Lenz, et al. ‘PRIMA-1, a Mutant p53 Reactivator, Induces Apoptosis and Enhances Chemotherapeutic Cytotoxicity in Pancreatic Cancer Cell Lines’. Investigational New Drugs 32, no. 5 (October 2014): 783–94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24838627

Izetti, Patricia, Agnes Hautefeuille, Ana Lucia Abujamra, Caroline Brunetto de Farias, Juliana Giacomazzi, Bárbara Alemar, Guido Lenz, et al. ‘PRIMA-1, a Mutant p53 Reactivator, Induces Apoptosis and Enhances Chemotherapeutic Cytotoxicity in Pancreatic Cancer Cell Lines’. Investigational New Drugs 32, no. 5 (October 2014): 783–94

Other related articles published in this Online Scientific Journal include the following:

p53 mutation – Li-Fraumeni Syndrome – Likelihood of Genetic or Hereditary conditions playing a role in Intergenerational incidence of Cancer

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/12/01/p53-mutation-li-fraumeni-syndrome-likelihood-of-genetic-or-hereditary-conditions-playing-a-role-in-intergenerational-incidence-of-cancer/

Pancreatic Cancer: Articles of Note @PharmaceuticalIntelligence.com

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/05/26/pancreatic-cancer-articles-of-note-pharmaceuticalintelligence-com/

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