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We validate a practical methodology for the rapid profiling of small molecule inhibitors of protein-protein interactions. We find that a well known BH3 family inhibitor can potently inhibit the p53/hDM2 interaction.

The 518 protein kinases encoded in the human genome are exquisitely regulated and their aberrant function(s) are often associated with human disease. Thus, in order to advance therapeutics and to probe signal transduction cascades, there is considerable interest in the development of inhibitors that can selectively target protein kinases. However, identifying specific compounds against such a large array of protein kinases is difficult to routinely achieve utilizing traditional activity assays, where purified protein kinases are necessary. Toward a simple, rapid, and practical method for identifying specific inhibitors, we describe the development and application of a split-protein methodology utilizing a coiled-coil-assisted three-hybrid system. In this approach, a protein kinase of interest is attached to the C-terminal fragment of split-firefly luciferase and the coiled-coil Fos, which is specific for the coiled-coil Jun, is attached to the N-terminal fragment. Upon addition of Jun conjugated to a pan-kinase inhibitor such as staurosporine, a three-hybrid complex is established with concomitant reassembly of the split-luciferase enzyme. An inhibitor can be potentially identified by the commensurate loss in split-luciferase activity by displacement of the modified staurosporine. We demonstrate that this new three-hybrid approach is potentially general by testing protein kinases from the different kinase families. To interrogate whether this method allows for screening inhibitors, we tested six different protein kinases against a library of 80 known protein kinase inhibitors. Finally, we demonstrate that this three-hybrid system can potentially provide a rapid method for structure/function analysis as well as aid in the identification of allosteric inhibitors.

Virtually all methods for reading the sequence of bases in DNA rely on the ability to denature double-stranded DNA into single strands and then use Watson-Crick base-pairing rules to hybridize the strands with high specificity to another DNA primer or probe. However, nature frequently uses an alternative method, reading the sequence information directly from double-stranded DNA using sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins. Here we describe methods for the construction and testing of sequence probes based on engineered zinc finger DNA-binding proteins. Background is reduced using split-reporter molecules, and signal is amplified using enzymatic reporters. The resulting sequence-enabled reassembly (SEER) probes can be configured to detect DNA sequence (genetic) or DNA methylation (epigenetic) information.

Subterranean termites are major global pests of wood structures and wood products. Among the most economically important subterranean termite species in the US are Heterotermes aureus, Reticulitermes flavipes, and Coptotermes formosanus. In prior studies, the entomopathogenic nematode, Steinernema riobrave strain 355, exhibited a high level of virulence to H. aureus compared with other nematode species. However, S. riobrave 355 was reported to be poorly or only moderately virulent to R. flavipes and C. formosanus, respectively. We hypothesized that other strains of S. riobrave may possess a high level of virulence to all three termite species. Under laboratory conditions we compared three novel strains of S. riobrave (3-8b, 7-12, and TP) with the 355 strain for virulence to H. aureus, R. flavipes, and C. formosanus workers. H. aureus was very susceptible to all the S. riobrave strains, and termites in all nematode treatments were dead after 4 d. The TP strain of S. riobrave caused greater mortality in R. flavipes and C. formosanus compared to the other nematode strains. Specifically, the TP strain caused 75% and 91% mortality in R. flavipes and C. formosanus, respectively, which was more than 300% and 70% higher than the mortality caused by other strains. Additional studies are warranted to determine the ability of S. riobrave (TP) to control the targeted termite species under field conditions.

Efficient muscle contraction requires regulation of actin filament lengths. In one highly cited model, the giant protein nebulin has been proposed to function as a molecular ruler specifying filament lengths. We directly challenged this hypothesis by constructing a unique, small version of nebulin (mini-nebulin). When endogenous nebulin was replaced with mini-nebulin in skeletal myocytes, thin filaments extended beyond the end of mini-nebulin, an observation which is inconsistent with a strict ruler function. However, under conditions that promote actin filament depolymerization, filaments associated with mini-nebulin were remarkably maintained at lengths either matching or longer than mini-nebulin. This indicates that mini-nebulin is able to stabilize portions of the filament it has no contact with. Knockdown of nebulin also resulted in more dynamic populations of thin filament components, whereas expression of mini-nebulin decreased the dynamics at both filament ends (i.e., recovered loss of endogenous nebulin). Thus, nebulin regulates thin filament architecture by a mechanism that includes stabilizing the filaments and preventing actin depolymerization.

PRKAR1A inactivation leads to dysregulated cAMP signaling and Carney complex (CNC) in humans, a syndrome associated with skin, endocrine and other tumors. The CNC phenotype is not easily explained by the ubiquitous cAMP signaling defect; furthermore, Prkar1a(+/-) mice did not develop skin and other CNC tumors. To identify whether a Prkar1a defect is truly a generic but weak tumorigenic signal that depends on tissue-specific or other factors, we investigated Prkar1a(+/-) mice when bred within the Rb1(+/-) or Trp53(+/-) backgrounds, or treated with a two-step skin carcinogenesis protocol. Prkar1a(+/-) Trp53(+/-) mice developed more sarcomas than Trp53(+/-) mice (P < 0.05) and Prkar1a(+/-) Rb1(+/-) mice grew more (and larger) pituitary and thyroid tumors than Rb1(+/-) mice. All mice with double heterozygosity had significantly reduced life-spans compared with their single-heterozygous counterparts. Prkar1a(+/-) mice also developed more papillomas than wild-type animals. A whole-genome transcriptome profiling of tumors produced by all three models identified Wnt signaling as the main pathway activated by abnormal cAMP signaling, along with cell cycle abnormalities; all changes were confirmed by qRT-PCR array and immunohistochemistry. siRNA down-regulation of Ctnnb1, E2f1 or Cdk4 inhibited proliferation of human adrenal cells bearing a PRKAR1A-inactivating mutation and Prkar1a(+/-) mouse embryonic fibroblasts and arrested both cell lines at the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle. In conclusion, Prkar1a haploinsufficiency is a relatively weak tumorigenic signal that can act synergistically with other tumor suppressor gene defects or chemicals to induce tumors, mostly through Wnt-signaling activation and cell cycle dysregulation, consistent with studies in human neoplasms carrying PRKAR1A defects.

Two new rare irregular sesquiterpenes, tricinonoic acid (1) and tricindiol (2), and the known furanopyrrolidones, NG-391 (3) and NG-393 (4), have been isolated from an EtOAc extract of Fusarium tricinctum, a fungus endophytic in the root tissue of the Sonoran desert plant, Rumex hymenosepalus. The structures of 1 and 2 were elucidated on the basis of their high-resolution mass, 1D and 2D NMR spectroscopic data. A possible biosynthetic route to 1 and 2 from farnesyl diphosphate is proposed.

Dinophysis is exceptional among dinoflagellates, possessing plastids derived from cryptophyte algae. Although Dinophysis can be maintained in pure culture for several months, the genus is mixotrophic and needs to feed either to acquire plastids (a process known as kleptoplastidy) or obtain growth factors necessary for plastid maintenance. Dinophysis does not feed directly on cryptophyte algae, but rather on a ciliate (Myrionecta rubra) that has consumed the cryptophytes and retained their plastids. Despite the apparent absence of cryptophyte nuclear genes required for plastid function, Dinophysis can retain cryptophyte plastids for months without feeding.

To determine if this dinoflagellate has nuclear-encoded genes for plastid function, we sequenced cDNA from Dinophysis acuminata, its ciliate prey M. rubra, and the cryptophyte source of the plastid Geminigera cryophila. We identified five proteins complete with plastid-targeting peptides encoded in the nuclear genome of D. acuminata that function in photosystem stabilization and metabolite transport. Phylogenetic analyses show that the genes are derived from multiple algal sources indicating some were acquired through horizontal gene transfer.

These findings suggest that D. acuminata has some functional control of its plastid, and may be able to extend the useful life of the plastid by replacing damaged transporters and protecting components of the photosystem from stress. However, the dearth of plastid-related genes compared to other fully phototrophic algae suggests that D. acuminata does not have the nuclear repertoire necessary to maintain the plastid permanently.

Insects use visual estimates of flight speed for a variety of behaviors, including visual navigation, odometry, grazing landings and flight speed control, but the neuronal mechanisms underlying speed detection remain unknown. Although many models and theories have been proposed for how the brain extracts the angular speed of the retinal image, termed optic flow, we lack the detailed electrophysiological and behavioral data necessary to conclusively support any one model. One key property by which different models of motion detection can be differentiated is their spatiotemporal frequency tuning. Numerous studies have suggested that optic-flow-dependent behaviors are largely insensitive to the spatial frequency of a visual stimulus, but they have sampled only a narrow range of spatial frequencies, have not always used narrowband stimuli, and have yielded slightly different results between studies based on the behaviors being investigated. In this study, we present a detailed analysis of the spatial frequency dependence of the centering response in the bumblebee Bombus impatiens using sinusoidal and square wave patterns.

Insect navigational behaviors including obstacle avoidance, grazing landings, and visual odometry are dependent on the ability to estimate flight speed based only on visual cues. In honeybees, this visual estimate of speed is largely independent of both the direction of motion and the spatial frequency content of the image. Electrophysiological recordings from the motion-sensitive cells believed to underlie these behaviors have long supported spatio-temporally tuned correlation-type models of visual motion detection whose speed tuning changes as the spatial frequency of a stimulus is varied. The result is an apparent conflict between behavioral experiments and the electrophysiological and modeling data. In this article, we demonstrate that conventional correlation-type models are sufficient to reproduce some of the speed-dependent behaviors observed in honeybees when square wave gratings are used, contrary to the theoretical predictions. However, these models fail to match the behavioral observations for sinusoidal stimuli. Instead, we show that non-directional motion detectors, which underlie the correlation-based computation of directional motion, can be used to mimic these same behaviors even when narrowband gratings are used. The existence of such non-directional motion detectors is supported both anatomically and electrophysiologically, and they have been hypothesized to be critical in the Dipteran elementary motion detector (EMD) circuit.

Nucleolin, the most abundant nucleolar phosphoprotein of eukaryotic cells, is known primarily for its role in ribosome biogenesis and cell proliferation. It is, however, a multifunctional protein that, depending on the cellular context, can drive either cell proliferation or apoptosis. Our laboratory recently demonstrated that nucleolin can function as a repressor of c-MYC transcription by binding to and stabilizing the formation of a G-quadruplex structure in a region of the c-MYC promoter responsible for controlling 85-90% of c-MYC's transcriptional activity. In this study, we investigate the structural elements of nucleolin that are required for c-MYC repression. The effect of nucleolin deletion mutants on the formation and stability of the c-MYC G-quadruplex, as well as c-MYC transcriptional activity, was assessed by circular dichroism spectropolarimetry, thermal stability, and in vitro transcription. Here we report that nucleolin's RNA binding domains 3 and 4, as well as the arginine-glycine-glycine (RGG) domain, are required to repress c-MYC transcription.

This study addresses whether pathological levels of cyclic strain activate the c-Myc promoter, leading to c-Myc transcription and downstream gene induction in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) or human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC). mRNA and protein expression of c-Myc under physiological (6-10%) and pathological cyclic strain conditions (20%) were studied. Both c-Myc mRNA and protein expression increased 2-3-fold in HUVEC cyclically strained at 20%. c-Myc protein increased 4-fold in HAEC. In HUVEC, expression of mRNA peaked at 1.5-2 h. Subsequently, the effect of modulating c-Myc on potential downstream gene targets was determined. A small molecular weight compound that binds to and stabilizes the silencer element in the c-Myc promoter attenuates cyclic strain-induced c-Myc transcription by about 50%. This compound also modulates c-Myc downstream gene targets that may be instrumental in induction of vascular disease. Cyclic strain-induced gene expression of vascular endothelial growth factor, proliferating cell nuclear antigen and heat shock protein 60 are attenuated by this compound. These results offer a possible mechanism and promising clinical treatment for vascular diseases initiated by increased cyclic strain.

The GC-rich nuclease hypersensitivity element III1 (NHE III1) of the c-MYC promoter largely controls the transcriptional activity of the c-MYC oncogene. The C-rich strand in this region can form I-motif DNA secondary structures. We determined the folding pattern of the major I-motif formed in the NHE III1, which can be formed at near-neutral pH. While we find that the I-motif formed in the four 3' consecutive runs of cytosines appears to be the most favored, our results demonstrate that the C-rich strand of the c-MYC NHE III1 exhibits a high degree of dynamic equilibration. Using a trisubstituted oligomer of this region, we determined the formation of two equilibrating loop isomers, one of which contains a flipped-out cytosine. Our results indicate that the intercalative cytosine+-cytosine base pairs are not always necessary for an intramolecular I-motif. The dynamic character of the c-MYC I-motif is intrinsic to the NHE III1 sequence and appears to provide stability to the c-MYC I-motif.

The majority of kinase inhibitors developed to date are competitive inhibitors that target the ATP binding site; however, recent crystal structures of Gleevec (imatinib mesylate, STI571, PDB: 1IEP), Nexavar (Sorafenib tosylate, BAY 43-9006, PDB: 1UWJ), and BIRB-796 (PDB: 1KV2) have revealed a secondary binding site adjacent to the ATP binding site known as the DFG-out allosteric binding site. The recent successes of Gleevec and Nexavar for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia and renal cell carcinoma has generated great interest in the development of other kinase inhibitors that target this secondary binding site. Here, we present a structural comparison of the important and similar interactions necessary for Gleevec(R), Nexavar, and BIRB-796 to bind to their respective DFG-out allosteric binding pockets and the selectivity of each with respect to c-Abl, B-Raf, and p38alpha. A structural analysis of their selectivity profiles has been generated from the synthesis and evaluation of 8 additional DFG-out allosteric inhibitors that were developed directly from fragments of these successful scaffolds.

B-Raf protein kinase, which is a key signaling molecule in the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK signaling pathway, plays an important role in many cancers. The B-Raf V600E mutation represents the most frequent oncogenic kinase mutation known and is responsible for increased kinase activity in approximately 7% of all human cancers, establishing B-Raf as an important therapeutic target for inhibition. Through the use of an iterative program that utilized a chemocentric approach and a rational structure based design, we have developed novel, potent, and specific DFG-out allosteric inhibitors of B-Raf kinase. Here, we present efficient and versatile chemistry that utilizes a key one pot, [3+2] cycloaddition reaction to obtain highly substituted imidazoles and their application in the design of allosteric B-Raf inhibitors. Inhibitors based on this scaffold display subnanomolar potency and a favorable kinase profile.

c-MYC is an important regulator of a wide array of cellular processes necessary for normal cell growth and differentiation, and its dysregulation is one of the hallmarks of many cancers. Consequently, understanding c-MYC transcriptional activation is critical for understanding developmental and cancer biology, as well as for the development of new anticancer drugs. The nuclease hypersensitive element (NHE) III(1) region of the c-MYC promoter has been shown to be particularly important in regulating c-MYC expression. Specifically, the formation of a G-quadruplex structure appears to promote repression of c-MYC transcription. This review focuses on what is known about the formation of a G-quadruplex in the NHE III(1) region of the c-MYC promoter, as well as on those factors that are known to modulate its formation. Last, we discuss the development of small molecules that stabilize or induce the formation of G-quadruplex structures and could potentially be used as anticancer agents.

To understand the mechanisms controlling platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta (PDGFR-beta) expression in malignancies, we have cloned and characterized the first functional promoter of the human PDGFR-beta gene, which has been confirmed by luciferase reporter gene assays. The transcription initiation sites were mapped by primer extension. Promoter deletion experiments demonstrate that the proximal, highly GC-rich region (positions -165 to -139) of the human PDGFR-beta promoter is crucial for basal promoter activity. This region is sensitive to S1 nuclease and likely to assume a non-B-form DNA secondary structure within the supercoiled plasmid. The G-rich strand in this region contains a series of runs of three or more guanines that can form multiple different G-quadruplex structures, which have been subsequently assessed by circular dichroism. A Taq polymerase stop assay has shown that three different G-quadruplex-interactive drugs can each selectively stabilize different G-quadruplex structures of the human PDGFR-beta promoter. However, in transfection experiments, only telomestatin significantly reduced the human PDGFR-beta basal promoter activity relative to the control. Furthermore, the PDGFR-beta mRNA level in Daoy cells was significantly decreased after treatment with 1 muM telomestatin for 24 h. Therefore, we propose that ligand-mediated stabilization of specific G-quadruplex structures in the human PDGFR-beta promoter can modulate its transcription.

The proximal promoter region of many human growth-related genes contains a polypurine/polypyrimidine tract that serves as multiple binding sites for Sp1 or other transcription factors. These tracts often contain a guanine-rich sequence consisting of four runs of three or more contiguous guanines separated by one or more bases, corresponding to a general motif known for the formation of an intramolecular G-quadruplex. Recent results provide strong evidence that specific G-quadruplex structures form naturally within these polypurine/polypyrimidine tracts in many human promoter regions, raising the possibility that the transcriptional control of these genes can be modulated by G-quadruplex-interactive agents. In this chapter, we describe three general biochemical methodologies, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), dimethylsulfate (DMS) footprinting, and the DNA polymerase stop assay, which can be useful for initial characterization of G-quadruplex structures formed by G-rich sequences.

In this review, the authors describe a novel mechanism for control of MYC expression that involves a four-stranded DNA structure, termed a G-quadruplex, amenable to small molecule targeting. The DNA element involved in this mechanism, the nuclease hypersensitive element III(1) (NHE III(1)), is just upstream of the P1 promoter and is subjected to dynamic stress (negative superhelicity) resulting from transcription. This is sufficient to convert the duplex DNA to a G-quadruplex on the purine-rich strand and an i-motif of the pyrimidine-rich strand, which displaces the activating transcription factors to silence gene expression. Specific proteins have been identified, NM23-H2 and nucleolin, that resolve and fold the G-quadruplex to activate and silence MYC expression, respectively. Inhibition of the activity of NM23-H2 molecules that bind to the G-quadruplex silences gene expression, and redistribution of nucleolin from the nucleolus to the nucleoplasm is expected to inhibit MYC. The authors also describe the mechanism of action of Quarfloxin, a first-in-class G-quadruplex-interactive compound that involves the redistribution of nucleolin from the nucleolus to the nucleoplasm. G-quadruplexes have been best known as test-tube oddities for more than four decades. However, during the past decade, they have emerged as likely players in a number of important biological processes, including transcriptional control. Only time will tell if these odd DNA structures will assume the role of an established receptor class, but it is clear from the scientific literature that there is a dramatic increase in interest in this little-known area in the past few years.

We have previously reported on the anti-tumoral potential of a chaperone-rich cell lysate (CRCL) vaccine. Immunization with CRCL generated from tumors elicits specific T and NK cell-dependent immune responses leading to protective immunity in numerous mouse tumor models. CRCL provides both a source of tumor antigens and danger signals leading to dendritic cell activation. In humans, tumor-derived CRCL induces dendritic cell activation and CRCL-loaded dendritic cells promote the generation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes in vitro. The current study was designed to identify the signaling events and modifications triggered by CRCL in antigen presenting cells. Our results indicate that tumor-derived CRCL not only promotes the activation of dendritic cells, but also significantly fosters the function of macrophages that thus appear as major targets of this vaccine. Activation of both cell types is associated with the induction of the MAP kinase pathway, the phosphorylation of STAT1, STAT5 and AKT and with transcription factor NF-kappaB activation in vitro and in vivo. These results thus provide important insights into the mechanisms by which CRCL-based vaccines exert their adjuvant effects on antigen presenting cells.