Publications by authors named "Jeffery A Porter"

21 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Systematic Chemogenetic Library Assembly.

Cell Chem Biol 2020 09 23;27(9):1124-1129. Epub 2020 Jul 23.

Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, 181 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. Electronic address:

Chemogenetic libraries, collections of well-defined chemical probes, provide tremendous value to biomedical research but require substantial effort to ensure diversity as well as quality of the contents. We have assembled a chemogenetic library by data mining and crowdsourcing institutional expertise. We are sharing our approach, lessons learned, and disclosing our current collection of 4,185 compounds with their primary annotated gene targets (https://github.com/Novartis/MoaBox). This physical collection is regularly updated and used broadly both within Novartis and in collaboration with external partners.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chembiol.2020.07.004DOI Listing
September 2020

Discovery of a ZIP7 inhibitor from a Notch pathway screen.

Nat Chem Biol 2019 02 14;15(2):179-188. Epub 2019 Jan 14.

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA, USA.

The identification of activating mutations in NOTCH1 in 50% of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia has generated interest in elucidating how these mutations contribute to oncogenic transformation and in targeting the pathway. A phenotypic screen identified compounds that interfere with trafficking of Notch and induce apoptosis via an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress mechanism. Target identification approaches revealed a role for SLC39A7 (ZIP7), a zinc transport family member, in governing Notch trafficking and signaling. Generation and sequencing of a compound-resistant cell line identified a V430E mutation in ZIP7 that confers transferable resistance to the compound NVS-ZP7-4. NVS-ZP7-4 altered zinc in the ER, and an analog of the compound photoaffinity labeled ZIP7 in cells, suggesting a direct interaction between the compound and ZIP7. NVS-ZP7-4 is the first reported chemical tool to probe the impact of modulating ER zinc levels and investigate ZIP7 as a novel druggable node in the Notch pathway.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41589-018-0200-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7251565PMC
February 2019

Project DRIVE: A Compendium of Cancer Dependencies and Synthetic Lethal Relationships Uncovered by Large-Scale, Deep RNAi Screening.

Cell 2017 Jul;170(3):577-592.e10

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Oncology Disease Area, Basel 4002, Switzerland; Cambridge, MA 02139, USA; and Emeryville, CA 94608, USA.

Elucidation of the mutational landscape of human cancer has progressed rapidly and been accompanied by the development of therapeutics targeting mutant oncogenes. However, a comprehensive mapping of cancer dependencies has lagged behind and the discovery of therapeutic targets for counteracting tumor suppressor gene loss is needed. To identify vulnerabilities relevant to specific cancer subtypes, we conducted a large-scale RNAi screen in which viability effects of mRNA knockdown were assessed for 7,837 genes using an average of 20 shRNAs per gene in 398 cancer cell lines. We describe findings of this screen, outlining the classes of cancer dependency genes and their relationships to genetic, expression, and lineage features. In addition, we describe robust gene-interaction networks recapitulating both protein complexes and functional cooperation among complexes and pathways. This dataset along with a web portal is provided to the community to assist in the discovery and translation of new therapeutic approaches for cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.005DOI Listing
July 2017

Functional CRISPR screening identifies the ufmylation pathway as a regulator of SQSTM1/p62.

Elife 2016 06 28;5. Epub 2016 Jun 28.

Developmental and Molecular Pathways, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Basel, Switzerland.

SQSTM1 is an adaptor protein that integrates multiple cellular signaling pathways and whose expression is tightly regulated at the transcriptional and post-translational level. Here, we describe a forward genetic screening paradigm exploiting CRISPR-mediated genome editing coupled to a cell selection step by FACS to identify regulators of SQSTM1. Through systematic comparison of pooled libraries, we show that CRISPR is superior to RNAi in identifying known SQSTM1 modulators. A genome-wide CRISPR screen exposed MTOR signalling and the entire macroautophagy machinery as key regulators of SQSTM1 and identified several novel modulators including HNRNPM, SLC39A14, SRRD, PGK1 and the ufmylation cascade. We show that ufmylation regulates SQSTM1 by eliciting a cell type-specific ER stress response which induces SQSTM1 expression and results in its accumulation in the cytosol. This study validates pooled CRISPR screening as a powerful method to map the repertoire of cellular pathways that regulate the fate of an individual target protein.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.17290DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924995PMC
June 2016

Disordered methionine metabolism in MTAP/CDKN2A-deleted cancers leads to dependence on PRMT5.

Science 2016 Mar 11;351(6278):1208-13. Epub 2016 Feb 11.

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

5-Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP) is a key enzyme in the methionine salvage pathway. The MTAP gene is frequently deleted in human cancers because of its chromosomal proximity to the tumor suppressor gene CDKN2A. By interrogating data from a large-scale short hairpin RNA-mediated screen across 390 cancer cell line models, we found that the viability of MTAP-deficient cancer cells is impaired by depletion of the protein arginine methyltransferase PRMT5. MTAP-deleted cells accumulate the metabolite methylthioadenosine (MTA), which we found to inhibit PRMT5 methyltransferase activity. Deletion of MTAP in MTAP-proficient cells rendered them sensitive to PRMT5 depletion. Conversely, reconstitution of MTAP in an MTAP-deficient cell line rescued PRMT5 dependence. Thus, MTA accumulation in MTAP-deleted cancers creates a hypomorphic PRMT5 state that is selectively sensitized toward further PRMT5 inhibition. Inhibitors of PRMT5 that leverage this dysregulated metabolic state merit further investigation as a potential therapy for MTAP/CDKN2A-deleted tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aad5944DOI Listing
March 2016

SMN2 splice modulators enhance U1-pre-mRNA association and rescue SMA mice.

Nat Chem Biol 2015 Jul 1;11(7):511-7. Epub 2015 Jun 1.

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which results from the loss of expression of the survival of motor neuron-1 (SMN1) gene, represents the most common genetic cause of pediatric mortality. A duplicate copy (SMN2) is inefficiently spliced, producing a truncated and unstable protein. We describe herein a potent, orally active, small-molecule enhancer of SMN2 splicing that elevates full-length SMN protein and extends survival in a severe SMA mouse model. We demonstrate that the molecular mechanism of action is via stabilization of the transient double-strand RNA structure formed by the SMN2 pre-mRNA and U1 small nuclear ribonucleic protein (snRNP) complex. The binding affinity of U1 snRNP to the 5' splice site is increased in a sequence-selective manner, discrete from constitutive recognition. This new mechanism demonstrates the feasibility of small molecule-mediated, sequence-selective splice modulation and the potential for leveraging this strategy in other splicing diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.1837DOI Listing
July 2015

Selective VPS34 inhibitor blocks autophagy and uncovers a role for NCOA4 in ferritin degradation and iron homeostasis in vivo.

Nat Cell Biol 2014 Nov 19;16(11):1069-79. Epub 2014 Oct 19.

Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, 250 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

Cells rely on autophagy to clear misfolded proteins and damaged organelles to maintain cellular homeostasis. In this study we use the new autophagy inhibitor PIK-III to screen for autophagy substrates. PIK-III is a selective inhibitor of VPS34 that binds a unique hydrophobic pocket not present in related kinases such as PI(3)Kα. PIK-III acutely inhibits autophagy and de novo lipidation of LC3, and leads to the stabilization of autophagy substrates. By performing ubiquitin-affinity proteomics on PIK-III-treated cells we identified substrates including NCOA4, which accumulates in ATG7-deficient cells and co-localizes with autolysosomes. NCOA4 directly binds ferritin heavy chain-1 (FTH1) to target the iron-binding ferritin complex with a relative molecular mass of 450,000 to autolysosomes following starvation or iron depletion. Interestingly, Ncoa4(-/-) mice exhibit a profound accumulation of iron in splenic macrophages, which are critical for the reutilization of iron from engulfed red blood cells. Taken together, the results of this study provide a new mechanism for selective autophagy of ferritin and reveal a previously unappreciated role for autophagy and NCOA4 in the control of iron homeostasis in vivo.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncb3053DOI Listing
November 2014

Functional epigenetics approach identifies BRM/SMARCA2 as a critical synthetic lethal target in BRG1-deficient cancers.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014 Feb 11;111(8):3128-33. Epub 2014 Feb 11.

Departments of Developmental and Molecular Pathways and Oncology, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Cambridge, MA 02139.

Defects in epigenetic regulation play a fundamental role in the development of cancer, and epigenetic regulators have recently emerged as promising therapeutic candidates. We therefore set out to systematically interrogate epigenetic cancer dependencies by screening an epigenome-focused deep-coverage design shRNA (DECODER) library across 58 cancer cell lines. This screen identified BRM/SMARCA2, a DNA-dependent ATPase of the mammalian SWI/SNF (mSWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complex, as being essential for the growth of tumor cells that harbor loss of function mutations in BRG1/SMARCA4. Depletion of BRM in BRG1-deficient cancer cells leads to a cell cycle arrest, induction of senescence, and increased levels of global H3K9me3. We further demonstrate the selective dependency of BRG1-mutant tumors on BRM in vivo. Genetic alterations of the mSWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes are the most frequent among chromatin regulators in cancers, with BRG1/SMARCA4 mutations occurring in ∼10-15% of lung adenocarcinomas. Our findings position BRM as an attractive therapeutic target for BRG1 mutated cancers. Because BRG1 and BRM function as mutually exclusive catalytic subunits of the mSWI/SNF complex, we propose that such synthetic lethality may be explained by paralog insufficiency, in which loss of one family member unveils critical dependence on paralogous subunits. This concept of "cancer-selective paralog dependency" may provide a more general strategy for targeting other tumor suppressor lesions/complexes with paralogous subunits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1316793111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939885PMC
February 2014

Inactivating mutations of RNF43 confer Wnt dependency in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013 Jul 11;110(31):12649-54. Epub 2013 Jul 11.

Developmental and Molecular Pathways, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

A growing number of agents targeting ligand-induced Wnt/β-catenin signaling are being developed for cancer therapy. However, clinical development of these molecules is challenging because of the lack of a genetic strategy to identify human tumors dependent on ligand-induced Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Ubiquitin E3 ligase ring finger 43 (RNF43) has been suggested as a negative regulator of Wnt signaling, and mutations of RNF43 have been identified in various tumors, including cystic pancreatic tumors. However, loss of function study of RNF43 in cell culture has not been conducted, and the functional significance of RNF43 mutations in cancer is unknown. Here, we show that RNF43 inhibits Wnt/β-catenin signaling by reducing the membrane level of Frizzled in pancreatic cancer cells, serving as a negative feedback mechanism. Inhibition of endogenous Wnt/β-catenin signaling increased the cell surface level of Frizzled. A panel of 39 pancreatic cancer cell lines was tested for Wnt dependency using LGK974, a selective Porcupine inhibitor being examined in a phase 1 clinical trial. Strikingly, all LGK974-sensitive lines carried inactivating mutations of RNF43. Inhibition of Wnt secretion, depletion of β-catenin, or expression of wild-type RNF43 blocked proliferation of RNF43 mutant but not RNF43-wild-type pancreatic cancer cells. LGK974 inhibited proliferation and induced differentiation of RNF43-mutant pancreatic adenocarcinoma xenograft models. Our data suggest that mutational inactivation of RNF43 in pancreatic adenocarcinoma confers Wnt dependency, and the presence of RNF43 mutations could be used as a predictive biomarker for patient selection supporting the clinical development of Wnt inhibitors in subtypes of cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1307218110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3732970PMC
July 2013

ZNRF3 promotes Wnt receptor turnover in an R-spondin-sensitive manner.

Nature 2012 Apr 29;485(7397):195-200. Epub 2012 Apr 29.

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, 250 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

R-spondin proteins strongly potentiate Wnt signalling and function as stem-cell growth factors. Despite the biological and therapeutic significance, the molecular mechanism of R-spondin action remains unclear. Here we show that the cell-surface transmembrane E3 ubiquitin ligase zinc and ring finger 3 (ZNRF3) and its homologue ring finger 43 (RNF43) are negative feedback regulators of Wnt signalling. ZNRF3 is associated with the Wnt receptor complex, and inhibits Wnt signalling by promoting the turnover of frizzled and LRP6. Inhibition of ZNRF3 enhances Wnt/β-catenin signalling and disrupts Wnt/planar cell polarity signalling in vivo. Notably, R-spondin mimics ZNRF3 inhibition by increasing the membrane level of Wnt receptors. Mechanistically, R-spondin interacts with the extracellular domain of ZNRF3 and induces the association between ZNRF3 and LGR4, which results in membrane clearance of ZNRF3. These data suggest that R-spondin enhances Wnt signalling by inhibiting ZNRF3. Our study provides new mechanistic insights into the regulation of Wnt receptor turnover, and reveals ZNRF3 as a tractable target for therapeutic exploration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11019DOI Listing
April 2012

RNF146 is a poly(ADP-ribose)-directed E3 ligase that regulates axin degradation and Wnt signalling.

Nat Cell Biol 2011 May 10;13(5):623-9. Epub 2011 Apr 10.

Developmental and Molecular Pathways, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

The Wnt/β-catenin signalling pathway plays essential roles in embryonic development and adult tissue homeostasis, and deregulation of this pathway has been linked to cancer. Axin is a concentration-limiting component of the β-catenin destruction complex, and its stability is regulated by tankyrase. However, the molecular mechanism by which tankyrase-dependent poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation (PARsylation) is coupled to ubiquitylation and degradation of axin remains undefined. Here, we identify RNF146, a RING-domain E3 ubiquitin ligase, as a positive regulator of Wnt signalling. RNF146 promotes Wnt signalling by mediating tankyrase-dependent degradation of axin. Mechanistically, RNF146 directly interacts with poly(ADP-ribose) through its WWE domain, and promotes degradation of PARsylated proteins. Using proteomics approaches, we have identified BLZF1 and CASC3 as further substrates targeted by tankyrase and RNF146 for degradation. Thus, identification of RNF146 as a PARsylation-directed E3 ligase establishes a molecular paradigm that links tankyrase-dependent PARsylation to ubiquitylation. RNF146-dependent protein degradation may emerge as a major mechanism by which tankyrase exerts its function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncb2222DOI Listing
May 2011

Inhibition of tumorigenesis driven by different Wnt proteins requires blockade of distinct ligand-binding regions by LRP6 antibodies.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2010 Aug 16;107(35):15473-8. Epub 2010 Aug 16.

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

Disregulated Wnt/beta-catenin signaling has been linked to various human diseases, including cancers. Inhibitors of oncogenic Wnt signaling are likely to have a therapeutic effect in cancers. LRP5 and LRP6 are closely related membrane coreceptors for Wnt proteins. Using a phage-display library, we identified anti-LRP6 antibodies that either inhibit or enhance Wnt signaling. Two classes of LRP6 antagonistic antibodies were discovered: one class specifically inhibits Wnt proteins represented by Wnt1, whereas the second class specifically inhibits Wnt proteins represented by Wnt3a. Epitope-mapping experiments indicated that Wnt1 class-specific antibodies bind to the first propeller and Wnt3a class-specific antibodies bind to the third propeller of LRP6, suggesting that Wnt1- and Wnt3a-class proteins interact with distinct LRP6 propeller domains. This conclusion is further supported by the structural functional analysis of LRP5/6 and the finding that the Wnt antagonist Sclerostin interacts with the first propeller of LRP5/6 and preferentially inhibits the Wnt1-class proteins. We also show that Wnt1 or Wnt3a class-specific anti-LRP6 antibodies specifically block growth of MMTV-Wnt1 or MMTV-Wnt3 xenografts in vivo. Therapeutic application of these antibodies could be limited without knowing the type of Wnt proteins expressed in cancers. This is further complicated by our finding that bivalent LRP6 antibodies sensitize cells to the nonblocked class of Wnt proteins. The generation of a biparatopic LRP6 antibody blocks both Wnt1- and Wnt3a-mediated signaling without showing agonistic activity. Our studies provide insights into Wnt-induced LRP5/6 activation and show the potential utility of LRP6 antibodies in Wnt-driven cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1007428107DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2932603PMC
August 2010

Tankyrase inhibition stabilizes axin and antagonizes Wnt signalling.

Nature 2009 Oct 16;461(7264):614-20. Epub 2009 Sep 16.

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, 250 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

The stability of the Wnt pathway transcription factor beta-catenin is tightly regulated by the multi-subunit destruction complex. Deregulated Wnt pathway activity has been implicated in many cancers, making this pathway an attractive target for anticancer therapies. However, the development of targeted Wnt pathway inhibitors has been hampered by the limited number of pathway components that are amenable to small molecule inhibition. Here, we used a chemical genetic screen to identify a small molecule, XAV939, which selectively inhibits beta-catenin-mediated transcription. XAV939 stimulates beta-catenin degradation by stabilizing axin, the concentration-limiting component of the destruction complex. Using a quantitative chemical proteomic approach, we discovered that XAV939 stabilizes axin by inhibiting the poly-ADP-ribosylating enzymes tankyrase 1 and tankyrase 2. Both tankyrase isoforms interact with a highly conserved domain of axin and stimulate its degradation through the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. Thus, our study provides new mechanistic insights into the regulation of axin protein homeostasis and presents new avenues for targeted Wnt pathway therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature08356DOI Listing
October 2009

Sonic hedgehog myocardial gene therapy: tissue repair through transient reconstitution of embryonic signaling.

Nat Med 2005 Nov 23;11(11):1197-204. Epub 2005 Oct 23.

Division of Cardiovascular Research, St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02135, USA.

Sonic hedgehog (Shh) is a crucial regulator of organ development during embryogenesis. We investigated whether intramyocardial gene transfer of naked DNA encoding human Shh (phShh) could promote a favorable effect on recovery from acute and chronic myocardial ischemia in adult animals, not only by promoting neovascularization, but by broader effects, consistent with the role of this morphogen in embryogenesis. After Shh gene transfer, the hedgehog pathway was upregulated in mammalian fibroblasts and cardiomyocytes. This resulted in preservation of left ventricular function in both acute and chronic myocardial ischemia by enhanced neovascularization, and reduced fibrosis and cardiac apoptosis. Shh gene transfer also enhanced the contribution of bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells to myocardial neovascularization. These data suggest that Shh gene therapy may have considerable therapeutic potential in individuals with acute and chronic myocardial ischemia by triggering expression of multiple trophic factors and engendering tissue repair in the adult heart.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm1313DOI Listing
November 2005

Pharmaceuticals: a new grammar for drug discovery.

Nature 2005 Sep;437(7058):491-3

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/437491aDOI Listing
September 2005

Sonic hedgehog is required for progenitor cell maintenance in telencephalic stem cell niches.

Neuron 2003 Sep;39(6):937-50

Developmental Genetics Program and Department of Cell Biology, The Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University Medical Center, 540 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA.

To directly test the requirement for hedgehog signaling in the telencephalon from early neurogenesis, we examined conditional null alleles of both the Sonic hedgehog and Smoothened genes. While the removal of Shh signaling in these animals resulted in only minor patterning abnormalities, the number of neural progenitors in both the postnatal subventricular zone and hippocampus was dramatically reduced. In the subventricular zone, this was partially attributable to a marked increase in programmed cell death. Consistent with Hedgehog signaling being required for the maintenance of stem cell niches in the adult brain, progenitors from the subventricular zone of floxed Smo animals formed significantly fewer neurospheres. The loss of hedgehog signaling also resulted in abnormalities in the dentate gyrus and olfactory bulb. Furthermore, stimulation of the hedgehog pathway in the mature brain resulted in elevated proliferation in telencephalic progenitors. These results suggest that hedgehog signaling is required to maintain progenitor cells in the postnatal telencephalon.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0896-6273(03)00561-0DOI Listing
September 2003

Identification of a small molecule inhibitor of the hedgehog signaling pathway: effects on basal cell carcinoma-like lesions.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2003 Apr 4;100(8):4616-21. Epub 2003 Apr 4.

Curis Incorporated, 61 Moulton Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

The link between basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and aberrant activation of the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway has been well established in humans and in mouse models. Here we report the development of assays, including two novel in vitro BCC models, which allowed us to screen for Hh inhibitors and test their validity as potential treatments for BCC. We identified a novel small molecule Hh inhibitor (CUR61414) that can block elevated Hh signaling activity resulting from oncogenic mutations in Patched-1. Moreover, CUR61414 can suppress proliferation and induce apoptosis of basaloid nests in the BCC model systems, whereas having no effect on normal skin cells. These findings directly demonstrate that the use of Hh inhibitors could be a valid therapeutic approach for treating BCC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0732813100DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC153604PMC
April 2003

Small-molecule modulators of Hedgehog signaling: identification and characterization of Smoothened agonists and antagonists.

J Biol 2002 Nov 6;1(2):10. Epub 2002 Nov 6.

Curis, Inc., 61 Moulton Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Background: The Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway is vital to animal development as it mediates the differentiation of multiple cell types during embryogenesis. In adults, Hh signaling can be activated to facilitate tissue maintenance and repair. Moreover, stimulation of the Hh pathway has shown therapeutic efficacy in models of neuropathy. The underlying mechanisms of Hh signal transduction remain obscure, however: little is known about the communication between the pathway suppressor Patched (Ptc), a multipass transmembrane protein that directly binds Hh, and the pathway activator Smoothened (Smo), a protein that is related to G-protein-coupled receptors and is capable of constitutive activation in the absence of Ptc.

Results: We have identified and characterized a synthetic non-peptidyl small molecule, Hh-Ag, that acts as an agonist of the Hh pathway. This Hh agonist promotes cell-type-specific proliferation and concentration-dependent differentiation in vitro, while in utero it rescues aspects of the Hh-signaling defect in Sonic hedgehog-null, but not Smo-null, mouse embryos. Biochemical studies with Hh-Ag, the Hh-signaling antagonist cyclopamine, and a novel Hh-signaling inhibitor Cur61414, reveal that the action of all these compounds is independent of Hh-protein ligand and of the Hh receptor Ptc, as each binds directly to Smo.

Conclusions: Smo can have its activity modulated directly by synthetic small molecules. These studies raise the possibility that Hh signaling may be regulated by endogenous small molecules in vivo and provide potent compounds with which to test the therapeutic value of activating the Hh-signaling pathway in the treatment of traumatic and chronic degenerative conditions.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC137065PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1475-4924-1-10DOI Listing
November 2002

Directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells into motor neurons.

Cell 2002 Aug;110(3):385-97

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.

Inductive signals and transcription factors involved in motor neuron generation have been identified, raising the question of whether these developmental insights can be used to direct stem cells to a motor neuron fate. We show that developmentally relevant signaling factors can induce mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells to differentiate into spinal progenitor cells, and subsequently into motor neurons, through a pathway recapitulating that used in vivo. ES cell-derived motor neurons can populate the embryonic spinal cord, extend axons, and form synapses with target muscles. Thus, inductive signals involved in normal pathways of neurogenesis can direct ES cells to form specific classes of CNS neurons.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0092-8674(02)00835-8DOI Listing
August 2002