Selected papers only [ Show all publications ]
Identification of low micromolar SARS-CoV-2 Mpro inhibitors from hits identified by in silico screens
bioRxiv, 2020 Dec 3; (409441):
Mpro, also known as 3CLpro, is the main protease of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and, as such, is essential for the viral life cycle. Two studies have each screened and ranked in silico more than one billion chemical compounds in an effort to identify putative inhibitors of Mpro. More than five hundred of the seven thousand top-ranking hits were synthesized by an external supplier and examined with respect to their activity in two biochemical assays: a protease activity assay and a thermal shift assay. Two clusters of chemical compounds with Mpro inhibitory activity were identified. An additional five hundred molecules, analogues of the compounds in the two clusters described above, were also synthesized and characterized in vitro. The study of the analogues revealed that the compounds of the first cluster acted by denaturing Mpro and might denature other proteins as well. In contrast, the compounds of the second cluster targeted Mpro with much greater specificity and enhanced its melting temperature, consistent with the formation of stable Mpro-inhibitor complexes. The most active compounds of the second cluster exhibited IC50 values between 4 and 7 μM and their chemical structure suggests that they could serve as leads for the development of potent Mpro inhibitors.
A Multi-Pronged Approach Targeting SARS-CoV-2 Proteins Using Ultra-Large Virtual Screening
ChemRxiv, 2020 Jul 24; Preprint :
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), previously known as 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), has spread rapidly across the globe, creating an unparalleled global health burden and spurring a deepening economic crisis. As of July 7th, 2020, almost seven months into the outbreak, there are no approved vaccines and few treatments available. Developing drugs that target multiple points in the viral life cycle could serve as a strategy to tackle the current as well as future coronavirus pandemics. Here we leverage the power of our recently developed in silico screening platform, VirtualFlow, to identify inhibitors that target SARS-CoV-2. VirtualFlow is able to efficiently harness the power of computing clusters and cloud-based computing platforms to carry out ultra-large scale virtual screens. In this unprecedented structure-based multi-target virtual screening campaign, we have used VirtualFlow to screen an average of approximately 1 billion molecules against each of 40 different target sites on 17 different potential viral and host targets in the cloud. In addition to targeting the active sites of viral enzymes, we also target critical auxiliary sites such as functionally important protein-protein interaction interfaces. This multi-target approach not only increases the likelihood of finding a potent inhibitor, but could also help identify a collection of anti-coronavirus drugs that would retain efficacy in the face of viral mutation. Drugs belonging to different regimen classes could be combined to develop possible combination therapies, and top hits that bind at highly conserved sites would be potential candidates for further development as coronavirus drugs. Here, we present the top 200 in silico hits for each target site. While in-house experimental validation of some of these compounds is currently underway, we want to make this array of potential inhibitor candidates available to researchers worldwide in consideration of the pressing need for fast-tracked drug development.
High-resolution mapping of mitotic DNA synthesis regions and common fragile sites in the human genome through direct sequencing.
Cell Res, 2020 Jun 19; :
DNA replication stress, a feature of human cancers, often leads to instability at specific genomic loci, such as the common fragile sites (CFSs). Cells experiencing DNA replication stress may also exhibit mitotic DNA synthesis (MiDAS). To understand the physiological function of MiDAS and its relationship to CFSs, we mapped, at high resolution, the genomic sites of MiDAS in cells treated with the DNA polymerase inhibitor aphidicolin. Sites of MiDAS were evident as well-defined peaks that were largely conserved between cell lines and encompassed all known CFSs. The MiDAS peaks mapped within large, transcribed, origin-poor genomic regions. In cells that had been treated with aphidicolin, these regions remained unreplicated even in late S phase; MiDAS then served to complete their replication after the cells entered mitosis. Interestingly, leading and lagging strand synthesis were uncoupled in MiDAS, consistent with MiDAS being a form of break-induced replication, a repair mechanism for collapsed DNA replication forks. Our results provide a better understanding of the mechanisms leading to genomic instability at CFSs and in cancer cells.
Intragenic origins due to short G1 phases underlie oncogene-induced DNA replication stress.
Nature, 2018 Mar 1; 555 (7694): 112-116
Oncogene-induced DNA replication stress contributes critically to the genomic instability that is present in cancer. However, elucidating how oncogenes deregulate DNA replication has been impeded by difficulty in mapping replication initiation sites on the human genome. Here, using a sensitive assay to monitor nascent DNA synthesis in early S phase, we identified thousands of replication initiation sites in cells before and after induction of the oncogenes CCNE1 and MYC. Remarkably, both oncogenes induced firing of a novel set of DNA replication origins that mapped within highly transcribed genes. These ectopic origins were normally suppressed by transcription during G1, but precocious entry into S phase, before all genic regions had been transcribed, allowed firing of origins within genes in cells with activated oncogenes. Forks from oncogene-induced origins were prone to collapse, as a result of conflicts between replication and transcription, and were associated with DNA double-stranded break formation and chromosomal rearrangement breakpoints both in our experimental system and in a large cohort of human cancers. Thus, firing of intragenic origins caused by premature S phase entry represents a mechanism of oncogene-induced DNA replication stress that is relevant for genomic instability in human cancer.
Enhanced Rate of Acquisition of Point Mutations in Mouse Intestinal Adenomas Compared to Normal Tissue.
Cell Rep, 2017 Jun 13; 19 (11): 2185-2192
The most prevalent single-nucleotide substitution (SNS) found in cancers is a C-to-T substitution in the CpG motif. It has been proposed that many of these SNSs arise during organismal aging, prior to transformation of a normal cell into a precancerous/cancer cell. Here, we isolated single intestinal crypts derived from normal tissue or from adenomas of Apc(min/+) mice, expanded them minimally in vitro as organoids, and performed exome sequencing to identify point mutations that had been acquired in vivo at the single-cell level. SNSs, most of them being CpG-to-TpG substitutions, were at least ten times more frequent in adenoma than normal cells. Thus, contrary to the view that substitutions of this type are present due to normal-cell aging, the acquisition of point mutations increases upon transformation of a normal intestinal cell into a precancerous cell.
Mammalian RAD52 Functions in Break-Induced Replication Repair of Collapsed DNA Replication Forks.
Mol Cell, 2016 Dec 15; 64 (6): 1127-1134
Human cancers are characterized by the presence of oncogene-induced DNA replication stress (DRS), making them dependent on repair pathways such as break-induced replication (BIR) for damaged DNA replication forks. To better understand BIR, we performed a targeted siRNA screen for genes whose depletion inhibited G1 to S phase progression when oncogenic cyclin E was overexpressed. RAD52, a gene dispensable for normal development in mice, was among the top hits. In cells in which fork collapse was induced by oncogenes or chemicals, the Rad52 protein localized to DRS foci. Depletion of Rad52 by siRNA or knockout of the gene by CRISPR/Cas9 compromised restart of collapsed forks and led to DNA damage in cells experiencing DRS. Furthermore, in cancer-prone, heterozygous APC mutant mice, homozygous deletion of the Rad52 gene suppressed tumor growth and prolonged lifespan. We therefore propose that mammalian RAD52 facilitates repair of collapsed DNA replication forks in cancer cells.
Alternative lengthening of human telomeres is a conservative DNA replication process with features of break-induced replication.
EMBO Rep, 2016 Dec; 17 (12): 1731-1737
Human malignancies overcome replicative senescence either by activating the reverse-transcriptase telomerase or by utilizing a homologous recombination-based mechanism, referred to as alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). In budding yeast, ALT exhibits features of break-induced replication (BIR), a repair pathway for one-ended DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) that requires the non-essential subunit Pol32 of DNA polymerase delta and leads to conservative DNA replication. Here, we examined whether ALT in human cancers also exhibits features of BIR A telomeric fluorescence in situ hybridization protocol involving three consecutive staining steps revealed the presence of conservatively replicated telomeric DNA in telomerase-negative cancer cells. Furthermore, depletion of PolD3 or PolD4, two subunits of human DNA polymerase delta that are essential for BIR, reduced the frequency of conservatively replicated telomeric DNA ends and led to shorter telomeres and chromosome end-to-end fusions. Taken together, these results suggest that BIR is associated with conservative DNA replication in human cells and mediates ALT in cancer.
DNA replication stress as a hallmark of cancer.
Annu Rev Pathol, 2015; 10 : 425-448
Human cancers share properties referred to as hallmarks, among which sustained proliferation, escape from apoptosis, and genomic instability are the most pervasive. The sustained proliferation hallmark can be explained by mutations in oncogenes and tumor suppressors that regulate cell growth, whereas the escape from apoptosis hallmark can be explained by mutations in the TP53, ATM, or MDM2 genes. A model to explain the presence of the three hallmarks listed above, as well as the patterns of genomic instability observed in human cancers, proposes that the genes driving cell proliferation induce DNA replication stress, which, in turn, generates genomic instability and selects for escape from apoptosis. Here, we review the data that support this model, as well as the mechanisms by which oncogenes induce replication stress. Further, we argue that DNA replication stress should be considered as a hallmark of cancer because it likely drives cancer development and is very prevalent.
Break-induced replication repair of damaged forks induces genomic duplications in human cells.
Science, 2014 Jan 3; 343 (6166): 88-91
In budding yeast, one-ended DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and damaged replication forks are repaired by break-induced replication (BIR), a homologous recombination pathway that requires the Pol32 subunit of DNA polymerase delta. DNA replication stress is prevalent in cancer, but BIR has not been characterized in mammals. In a cyclin E overexpression model of DNA replication stress, POLD3, the human ortholog of POL32, was required for cell cycle progression and processive DNA synthesis. Segmental genomic duplications induced by cyclin E overexpression were also dependent on POLD3, as were BIR-mediated recombination events captured with a specialized DSB repair assay. We propose that BIR repairs damaged replication forks in mammals, accounting for the high frequency of genomic duplications in human cancers.
A single-nucleotide substitution mutator phenotype revealed by exome sequencing of human colon adenomas.
Cancer Res, 2012 Dec 1; 72 (23): 6279-6289
Oncogene-induced DNA replication stress is thought to drive genomic instability in cancer. In particular, replication stress can explain the high prevalence of focal genomic deletions mapping within very large genes in human tumors. However, the origin of single-nucleotide substitutions (SNS) in nonfamilial cancers is strongly debated. Some argue that cancers have a mutator phenotype, whereas others argue that the normal DNA replication error rates are sufficient to explain the number of observed SNSs. Here, we sequenced the exomes of 24, mostly precancerous, colon polyps. Analysis of the sequences revealed mutations in the APC, CTNNB1, and BRAF genes as the presumptive cancer-initiating events and many passenger SNSs. We used the number of SNSs in the various lesions to calculate mutation rates for normal colon and adenomas and found that colon adenomas exhibit a mutator phenotype. Interestingly, the SNSs in the adenomas mapped more often than expected within very large genes, where focal deletions in response to DNA replication stress also map. We propose that single-stranded DNA generated in response to oncogene-induced replication stress compromises the repair of deaminated cytosines and other damaged bases, leading to the observed SNS mutator phenotype.
An induced fit mechanism regulates p53 DNA binding kinetics to confer sequence specificity.
EMBO J, 2011 Jun 1; 30 (11): 2167-2176
The p53 tumour suppressor gene, the most frequently mutated gene in human cancer, encodes a transcription factor that contains sequence-specific DNA binding and homo-tetramerization domains. Interestingly, the affinities of p53 for specific and non-specific DNA sites differ by only one order of magnitude, making it hard to understand how this protein recognizes its specific DNA targets in vivo. We describe here the structure of a p53 polypeptide containing both the DNA binding and oligomerization domains in complex with DNA. The structure reveals that sequence-specific DNA binding proceeds via an induced fit mechanism that involves a conformational switch in loop L1 of the p53 DNA binding domain. Analysis of loop L1 mutants demonstrated that the conformational switch allows DNA binding off-rates to be regulated independently of affinities. These results may explain the universal prevalence of conformational switching in sequence-specific DNA binding proteins and suggest that proteins like p53 rely more on differences in binding off-rates, than on differences in affinities, to recognize their specific DNA sites.
Genomic instability--an evolving hallmark of cancer.
Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 2010 Mar; 11 (3): 220-228
Genomic instability is a characteristic of most cancers. In hereditary cancers, genomic instability results from mutations in DNA repair genes and drives cancer development, as predicted by the mutator hypothesis. In sporadic (non-hereditary) cancers the molecular basis of genomic instability remains unclear, but recent high-throughput sequencing studies suggest that mutations in DNA repair genes are infrequent before therapy, arguing against the mutator hypothesis for these cancers. Instead, the mutation patterns of the tumour suppressor TP53 (which encodes p53), ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A (CDKN2A; which encodes p16INK4A and p14ARF) support the oncogene-induced DNA replication stress model, which attributes genomic instability and TP53 and ATM mutations to oncogene-induced DNA damage.
An oncogene-induced DNA damage model for cancer development.
Science, 2008 Mar 7; 319 (5868): 1352-1355
Of all types of DNA damage, DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) pose the greatest challenge to cells. One might have, therefore, anticipated that a sizable number of DNA DSBs would be incompatible with cell proliferation. Yet recent experimental findings suggest that, in both precancerous lesions and cancers, activated oncogenes induce stalling and collapse of DNA replication forks, which in turn leads to formation of DNA DSBs. This continuous formation of DNA DSBs may contribute to the genomic instability that characterizes the vast majority of human cancers. In addition, in precancerous lesions, these DNA DSBs activate p53, which, by inducing apoptosis or senescence, raises a barrier to tumor progression. Breach of this barrier by various mechanisms, most notably by p53 mutations, that impair the DNA damage response pathway allows cancers to develop. Thus, oncogene-induced DNA damage may explain two key features of cancer: genomic instability and the high frequency of p53 mutations.
Oncogene-induced senescence is part of the tumorigenesis barrier imposed by DNA damage checkpoints.
Nature, 2006 Nov 30; 444 (7119): 633-637
Recent studies have indicated the existence of tumorigenesis barriers that slow or inhibit the progression of preneoplastic lesions to neoplasia. One such barrier involves DNA replication stress, which leads to activation of the DNA damage checkpoint and thereby to apoptosis or cell cycle arrest, whereas a second barrier is mediated by oncogene-induced senescence. The relationship between these two barriers, if any, has not been elucidated. Here we show that oncogene-induced senescence is associated with signs of DNA replication stress, including prematurely terminated DNA replication forks and DNA double-strand breaks. Inhibiting the DNA double-strand break response kinase ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) suppressed the induction of senescence and in a mouse model led to increased tumour size and invasiveness. Analysis of human precancerous lesions further indicated that DNA damage and senescence markers cosegregate closely. Thus, senescence in human preneoplastic lesions is a manifestation of oncogene-induced DNA replication stress and, together with apoptosis, provides a barrier to malignant progression.
Activation of the DNA damage checkpoint and genomic instability in human precancerous lesions.
Nature, 2005 Apr 14; 434 (7035): 907-913
DNA damage checkpoint genes, such as p53, are frequently mutated in human cancer, but the selective pressure for their inactivation remains elusive. We analysed a panel of human lung hyperplasias, all of which retained wild-type p53 genes and had no signs of gross chromosomal instability, and found signs of a DNA damage response, including histone H2AX and Chk2 phosphorylation, p53 accumulation, focal staining of p53 binding protein 1 (53BP1) and apoptosis. Progression to carcinoma was associated with p53 or 53BP1 inactivation and decreased apoptosis. A DNA damage response was also observed in dysplastic nevi and in human skin xenografts, in which hyperplasia was induced by overexpression of growth factors. Both lung and experimentally-induced skin hyperplasias showed allelic imbalance at loci that are prone to DNA double-strand break formation when DNA replication is compromised (common fragile sites). We propose that, from its earliest stages, cancer development is associated with DNA replication stress, which leads to DNA double-strand breaks, genomic instability and selective pressure for p53 mutations.
Methylated lysine 79 of histone H3 targets 53BP1 to DNA double-strand breaks.
Nature, 2004 Nov 18; 432 (7015): 406-411
The mechanisms by which eukaryotic cells sense DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in order to initiate checkpoint responses are poorly understood. 53BP1 is a conserved checkpoint protein with properties of a DNA DSB sensor. Here, we solved the structure of the domain of 53BP1 that recruits it to sites of DSBs. This domain consists of two tandem tudor folds with a deep pocket at their interface formed by residues conserved in the budding yeast Rad9 and fission yeast Rhp9/Crb2 orthologues. In vitro, the 53BP1 tandem tudor domain bound histone H3 methylated on Lys 79 using residues that form the walls of the pocket; these residues were also required for recruitment of 53BP1 to DSBs. Suppression of DOT1L, the enzyme that methylates Lys 79 of histone H3, also inhibited recruitment of 53BP1 to DSBs. Because methylation of histone H3 Lys 79 was unaltered in response to DNA damage, we propose that 53BP1 senses DSBs indirectly through changes in higher-order chromatin structure that expose the 53BP1 binding site.