PhD Student, National University of Ireland, Galway
Computational screening for identification of potential anti-cancer agents
I generate computer models and use them for identification of potential inhibitors to key proteins involved in Cancer progression.
Abstract: Stress caused by accumulation of misfolded proteins within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) elicits a cellular unfolded protein response (UPR) aimed at maintaining protein-folding capacity. PERK, a key upstream component, recognizes ER stress via its luminal sensor/transducer domain, but the molecular events that lead to UPR activation remain unclear. Here, we describe the crystal structures of mammalian PERK luminal domains captured in dimeric state as well as in a novel tetrameric state. Small angle X-ray scattering analysis (SAXS) supports the existence of both crystal structures also in solution. The salient feature of the tetramer interface, a helix swapped between dimers, implies transient association. Moreover, interface mutations that disrupt tetramer formation in vitro reduce phosphorylation of PERK and its target eIF2α in cells. These results suggest that transient conversion from dimeric to tetrameric state may be a key regulatory step in UPR activation.
Pub.: 01 May '15, Pinned: 30 Aug '17
Abstract: Up-regulation of the dolichol pathway, a "hallmark" of asparagine-linked protein glycosylation, enhances angiogenesis in vitro. The dynamic relationship between these two processes is now evaluated with tunicamycin. Capillary endothelial cells treated with tunicamycin were growth inhibited and could not be reversed with exogenous VEGF(165). Inhibition of angiogenesis is supported by down-regulation of (i) phosphorylated VEGFR1 and VEGFR2 receptors; (ii) VEGF(165)-specific phosphotyrosine kinase activity; and (iii) Matrigel(TM) invasion and chemotaxis. In vivo, tunicamycin prevented the vessel development in Matrigel(TM) implants in athymic Balb/c (nu/nu) mice. Immunohistochemical analysis of CD34 (p < 0.001) and CD144 (p < 0.001) exhibited reduced vascularization. A 3.8-fold increased expression of TSP-1, an endogenous angiogenesis inhibitor in Matrigel(TM) implants correlated with that in tunicamycin (32 h)-treated capillary endothelial cells. Intravenous injection of tunicamycin (0.5 mg/kg to 1.0 mg/kg) per week slowed down a double negative (MDA-MB-435) grade III breast adenocarcinoma growth by ∼50-60% in 3 weeks. Histopathological analysis of the paraffin sections indicated significant reduction in vessel size, the microvascular density and tumor mitotic index. Ki-67 and VEGF expression in tumor tissue were also reduced. A significant reduction of N-glycan expression in tumor microvessel was also observed. High expression of GRP-78 in CD144-positive cells supported unfolded protein response-mediated ER stress in tumor microvasculature. ∼65% reduction of a triple negative (MDA-MB-231) breast tumor xenograft in 1 week with tunicamycin (0.25 mg/kg) given orally and the absence of systemic and/or organ failure strongly supported tunicamycin's potential for a powerful glycotherapeutic treatment of breast cancer in the clinic.
Pub.: 17 Jun '11, Pinned: 30 Aug '17
Abstract: Inflammation and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress are associated with many neurological diseases. ER stress is brought on by the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the ER, which leads to activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR); a conserved pathway that transmits signals to restore homeostasis or eliminate the irreparably damaged cell. We provide evidence that inhibition or genetic haploinsufficiency of PKR-like ER kinase (PERK) can selectively control inflammation brought on by ER stress without impinging on UPR-dependent survival and adaptive responses or normal immune responses. Using astrocytes lacking one or both alleles of PERK or the PERK inhibitor GSK2606414, we demonstrate that PERK haploinsufficiency or partial inhibition led to reduced ER stress-induced inflammation (IL-6, CCL2, CCL20 expression) without compromising pro-survival responses. In contrast, complete loss of PERK blocked canonical PERK-dependent UPR genes and promoted apoptosis. Reversal of eIF2α-mediated translational repression using ISRIB potently suppressed PERK-dependent inflammatory gene expression. Indicating that the selective modulation of inflammatory gene expression by PERK inhibition may be linked to attenuation of eIF2α phosphorylation and reveals a previously unknown link between translational repression and transcription of inflammatory genes. Additionally, ER stressed astrocytes can drive an inflammatory M1-like phenotype in microglia, and this can be attenuated with inhibition of PERK. Importantly, targeting PERK neither disrupted normal cytokine signaling in astrocytes or microglia nor impaired macrophage phagocytosis or T cell polarization. Collectively, this work suggests that targeting PERK may provide a means for selective immunoregulation in the context of ER stress without disrupting normal immune function.
Pub.: 23 May '16, Pinned: 30 Aug '17
Abstract: Loss of ER Ca(2+) homeostasis triggers endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and drives ER-PM contact sites formation in order to refill ER-luminal Ca(2+). Recent studies suggest that the ER stress sensor and mediator of the unfolded protein response (UPR) PERK regulates intracellular Ca(2+) fluxes, but the mechanisms remain elusive. Here, using proximity-dependent biotin identification (BioID), we identified the actin-binding protein Filamin A (FLNA) as a key PERK interactor. Cells lacking PERK accumulate F-actin at the cell edges and display reduced ER-PM contacts. Following ER-Ca(2+) store depletion, the PERK-FLNA interaction drives the expansion of ER-PM juxtapositions by regulating F-actin-assisted relocation of the ER-associated tethering proteins Stromal Interaction Molecule 1 (STIM1) and Extended Synaptotagmin-1 (E-Syt1) to the PM. Cytosolic Ca(2+) elevation elicits rapid and UPR-independent PERK dimerization, which enforces PERK-FLNA-mediated ER-PM juxtapositions. Collectively, our data unravel an unprecedented role of PERK in the regulation of ER-PM appositions through the modulation of the actin cytoskeleton.
Pub.: 28 Feb '17, Pinned: 30 Aug '17
Abstract: Life is stressful. Organisms are repeatedly exposed to stressors that disrupt protein homeostasis (proteostasis), resulting in protein misfolding and aggregation. To sense and respond to proteotoxic perturbations, cells have evolved compartment-specific stress responses, such as the unfolded protein response of the endoplasmic reticulum (UPR(ER)). However, UPR(ER) function is impaired with age, which, we propose, creates a permissive environment for protein aggregation, unresolved ER stress, and chronic inflammation. Understanding age-related changes to the UPR(ER) will provide new avenues for therapeutic intervention in metabolic disease, neurodegeneration, and aging.
Pub.: 18 Jun '17, Pinned: 30 Aug '17