Bioassays to monitor Taspase1 function for the identification of pharmacogenetic inhibitors.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Threonine Aspartase 1 (Taspase1) mediates cleavage of the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) protein and leukemia provoking MLL-fusions. In contrast to other proteases, the understanding of Taspase1's (patho)biological relevance and function is limited, since neither small molecule inhibitors nor cell based functional assays for Taspase1 are currently available. METHODOLOGY/FINDINGS: Efficient cell-based assays to probe Taspase1 function in vivo are presented here. These are composed of glutathione S-transferase, autofluorescent protein variants, Taspase1 cleavage sites and rational combinations of nuclear import and export signals. The biosensors localize predominantly to the cytoplasm, whereas expression of biologically active Taspase1 but not of inactive Taspase1 mutants or of the protease Caspase3 triggers their proteolytic cleavage and nuclear accumulation. Compared to in vitro assays using recombinant components the in vivo assay was highly efficient. Employing an optimized nuclear translocation algorithm, the triple-color assay could be adapted to a high-throughput microscopy platform (Z'factor?=?0.63). Automated high-content data analysis was used to screen a focused compound library, selected by an in silico pharmacophor screening approach, as well as a collection of fungal extracts. Screening identified two compounds, N-[2-[(4-amino-6-oxo-3H-pyrimidin-2-yl)sulfanyl]ethyl]benzenesulfonamide and 2-benzyltriazole-4,5-dicarboxylic acid, which partially inhibited Taspase1 cleavage in living cells. Additionally, the assay was exploited to probe endogenous Taspase1 in solid tumor cell models and to identify an improved consensus sequence for efficient Taspase1 cleavage. This allowed the in silico identification of novel putative Taspase1 targets. Those include the FERM Domain-Containing Protein 4B, the Tyrosine-Protein Phosphatase Zeta, and DNA Polymerase Zeta. Cleavage site recognition and proteolytic processing of these substrates were verified in the context of the biosensor. CONCLUSIONS: The assay not only allows to genetically probe Taspase1 structure function in vivo, but is also applicable for high-content screening to identify Taspase1 inhibitors. Such tools will provide novel insights into Taspase1's function and its potential therapeutic relevance.
Project description:Taspase1 is a threonine protease responsible for cleaving intracellular substrates. As such, (de)regulated Taspase1 function is expected not only to be vital for ordered development but may also be relevant for disease. However, the full repertoires of Taspase1 targets as well as the exact biochemical requirements for its efficient and substrate-specific cleavage are not yet resolved. Also, no cellular assays for this protease are currently available, hampering the exploitation of the (patho)biological relevance of Taspase1. Here, we developed highly efficient cell-based translocation biosensor assays to probe Taspase1 trans-cleavage in vivo. These modular sensors harbor variations of Taspase1 cleavage sites and localize to the cytoplasm. Expression of Taspase1 but not of inactive Taspase1 mutants or of unrelated proteases triggers proteolytic cleavage and nuclear accumulation of the biosensors. Employing our assay combined with scanning mutagenesis, we identified the sequence and spatial requirements for efficient Taspase1 processing in liquid and solid tumor cell lines. Collectively, our results defined an improved Taspase1 consensus recognition sequence, Q(3)(F/I/L/V)(2)D(1)?G(1)'X(2)'D(3)'D(4)', allowing the first genome-wide bioinformatic identification of the human Taspase1 degradome. Among the 27 most likely Taspase1 targets are cytoplasmic but also nuclear proteins, such as the upstream stimulatory factor 2 (USF2) or the nuclear RNA export factors 2/5 (NXF2/5). Cleavage site recognition and proteolytic processing of selected targets were verified in the context of the biosensor and for the full-length proteins. We provide novel mechanistic insights into the function and bona fide targets of Taspase1 allowing for a focused investigation of the (patho)biological relevance of this type 2 asparaginase.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The chromosomal translocation t(4;11)(q21;q23) is associated with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia of infants. The resulting AF4•MLL oncoprotein becomes activated by Taspase1 hydrolysis and is considered to promote oncogenic transcriptional activation. Hence, Taspase1's proteolytic activity is a critical step in AF4•MLL pathophysiology. The Taspase1 proenzyme is autoproteolytically processed in its subunits and is assumed to assemble into an ????-heterodimer, the active protease. Therefore, we investigated here whether overexpression of catalytically inactive Taspase1 variants are able to interfere with the proteolytic activity of the wild type enzyme in AF4•MLL model systems. METHODOLOGY/FINDINGS: The consequences of overexpressing the catalytically dead Taspase1 mutant, Taspase1(T234V), or the highly attenuated variant, Taspase1(D233A), on Taspase1's processing of AF4•MLL and of other Taspase1 targets was analyzed in living cancer cells employing an optimized cell-based assay. Notably, even a nine-fold overexpression of the respective Taspase1 mutants neither inhibited Taspase1's cis- nor trans-cleavage activity in vivo. Likewise, enforced expression of the ?- or ?-subunits showed no trans-dominant effect against the ectopically or endogenously expressed enzyme. Notably, co-expression of the individual ?- and ?-subunits did not result in their assembly into an enzymatically active protease complex. Probing Taspase1 multimerization in living cells by a translocation-based protein interaction assay as well as by biochemical methods indicated that the inactive Taspase1 failed to assemble into stable heterocomplexes with the wild type enzyme. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, our results demonstrate that inefficient heterodimerization appears to be the mechanism by which inactive Taspase1 variants fail to inhibit wild type Taspase1's activity in trans. Our work favours strategies targeting Taspase1's catalytic activity rather than attempts to block the formation of active Taspase1 dimers to interfere with the pathobiological function of AF4•MLL.
Project description:Chromosomal translocations of the Mixed-lineage leukemia 1 (MLL1) gene generate MLL chimeras that drive the pathogenesis of acute myeloid and lymphoid leukemia. The untranslocated MLL1 is a substrate for proteolytic cleavage by the endopeptidase threonine aspartase 1 (taspase1); however, the biological significance of MLL1 cleavage by this endopeptidase remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that taspase1-dependent cleavage of MLL1 results in the destabilization of MLL. Upon loss of taspase1, MLL1 association with chromatin is markedly increased due to the stabilization of its unprocessed version, and this stabilization of the uncleaved MLL1 can result in the displacement of MLL chimeras from chromatin in leukemic cells. Casein kinase II (CKII) phosphorylates MLL1 proximal to the taspase1 cleavage site, facilitating its cleavage, and pharmacological inhibition of CKII blocks taspase1-dependent MLL1 processing, increases MLL1 stability, and results in the displacement of the MLL chimeras from chromatin. Accordingly, inhibition of CKII in a MLL-AF9 mouse model of leukemia delayed leukemic progression in vivo. This study provides insights into the direct regulation of the stability of MLL1 through its cleavage by taspase1, which can be harnessed for targeted therapeutic approaches for the treatment of aggressive leukemia as the result of MLL translocations.
Project description:Taspase1, a highly conserved threonine protease, cleaves nuclear transcriptional regulators mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL, MLL1), MLL2, TFIIA, and ALF to orchestrate a wide variety of biological processes. In vitro studies thus far demonstrated that Taspase1 plays important roles in the proliferation of various cancer cell lines, including HER2-positive breast cancer cells. To investigate the role of Taspase1 in breast tumorigenesis in vivo, we deleted Taspase1 from mouse mammary glands by generating MMTV-neu;MMTV-cre;Tasp1(F/-) mice. We demonstrate that initiation of MMTV-neu- but not MMTV-wnt-driven breast cancer is blocked in the absence of Taspase1. Importantly, Taspase1 loss alone neither impacts normal development nor pregnancy physiology of the mammary gland. In mammary glands Taspase1 deficiency abrogates MMTV-neu-induced cyclins E and A expression, thereby preventing tumorigenesis. The mechanisms were explored in HER2-positive breast cancer cell line BT474 and HER2-transformed MCF10A cells and validated using knockdown-resistant Taspase1. As Taspase1 was shown to cleave MLL which forms complexes with E2F transcription factors to regulate Cyclins E, A, and B expression in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), we investigated whether the cleavage of MLL by Taspase1 constitutes an essential in vivo axis for HER2/neu-induced mammary tumorigenesis. To this end, we generated MMTV-neu;MLL(nc/nc) transgenic mice that carry homozygous non-cleavable MLL alleles. Remarkably, these mice are also protected from HER2/neu-driven breast tumorigenesis. Hence, MLL is the primary Taspase1 substrate whose cleavage is required for MMTV-neu-induced tumor formation. As Taspase1 plays critical roles in breast cancer pathology, it may serve as a therapeutic target for HER2-positive human breast cancer.
Project description:Chromosomal translocations of the Mixed-lineage leukemia 1 (MLL1) gene generate MLL-chimeras that drive pathogenesis of acute myeloid and lymphoid leukemia. The untranslocated MLL1 is a substrate for proteolytic cleavage by the endopeptidase, taspase1, however, the biological significance of MLL1 cleavage by this endopeptidase remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that taspase1-dependent cleavage of MLL1 results in the destabilization of full-length MLL. Upon loss of taspase1, MLL1 association with chromatin is markedly increased due to the stabilization of its unprocessed version and this stabilization of the uncleaved MLL1 can result in the displacement of MLL-chimeras from chromatin in leukemic cells. Casein kinase II (CKII) phosphorylates MLL1 proximal to the taspase1 cleavage site, facilitating its cleavage, and pharmacological inhibition of CKII blocks taspase1-dependent MLL1 processing, increases MLL1 stability, and results in the displacement of the MLL-chimeras from chromatin. Furthermore, inhibition of CKII in MLL-AF9 mouse model of leukemia delayed leukemic progression in vivo. This study provides insights into the direct regulation of the stability of MLL1, which can be harnessed for targeted therapeutic approaches for the treatment of aggressive MLL leukemia. Overall design: To characterize the functions of MLL1 cleavage by taspase1 using taspase1 knockout human cancer cell lines
Project description:We have recently demonstrated that Taspase1-mediated cleavage of the AF4-MLL oncoprotein results in the formation of a stable multiprotein complex which forms the key event for the onset of acute proB leukemia in mice. Therefore, Taspase1 represents a conditional oncoprotein in the context of t(4;11) leukemia. In this report, we used site-directed mutagenesis to unravel the molecular events by which Taspase1 becomes sequentially activated. Monomeric pro-enzymes form dimers which are autocatalytically processed into the enzymatically active form of Taspase1 (????). The active enzyme cleaves only very few target proteins, e.g., MLL, MLL4 and TFIIA at their corresponding consensus cleavage sites (CSTasp1) as well as AF4-MLL in the case of leukemogenic translocation. This knowledge was translated into the design of a dominant-negative mutant of Taspase1 (dnTASP1). As expected, simultaneous expression of the leukemogenic AF4-MLL and dnTASP1 causes the disappearance of the leukemogenic oncoprotein, because the uncleaved AF4-MLL protein (328 kDa) is subject to proteasomal degradation, while the cleaved AF4-MLL forms a stable oncogenic multi-protein complex with a very long half-life. Moreover, coexpression of dnTASP1 with a BFP-CSTasp1-GFP FRET biosensor effectively inhibits cleavage. The impact of our findings on future drug development and potential treatment options for t(4;11) leukemia will be discussed.
Project description:Head and neck cancer (HNC) is the seventh most common malignancy in the world and its prevailing form, the head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), is characterized as aggressive and invasive cancer type. The transcription factor II A (TFIIA), initially described as general regulator of RNA polymerase II-dependent transcription, is part of complex transcriptional networks also controlling mammalian head morphogenesis. Posttranslational cleavage of the TFIIA precursor by the oncologically relevant protease Taspase1 is crucial in this process. In contrast, the relevance of Taspase1-mediated TFIIA cleavage during oncogenesis of HNSCC is not characterized yet. Here, we performed genome-wide expression profiling of HNSCC which revealed significant downregulation of the TFIIA downstream target CDKN2A. To identify potential regulatory mechanisms of TFIIA on cellular level, we characterized nuclear-cytoplasmic transport and Taspase1-mediated cleavage of TFIIA variants. Unexpectedly, we identified an evolutionary conserved nuclear export signal (NES) counteracting nuclear localization and thus, transcriptional activity of TFIIA. Notably, proteolytic processing of TFIIA by Taspase1 was found to mask the NES, thereby promoting nuclear localization and transcriptional activation of TFIIA target genes, such as CDKN2A. Collectively, we here describe a hitherto unknown mechanism how cellular localization and Taspase1 cleavage fine-tunes transcriptional activity of TFIIA in HNSCC.
Project description:Taspase1 is a threonine protease responsible for cleaving MLL (Mixed-Lineage Leukemia) to achieve proper HOX gene expression. Subsequent studies identified additional Taspase1 substrates including Transcription Factor IIA (TFIIA) and Drosophila HCF. Taspase1 is essential for cell proliferation and is overexpressed in many cancer cell lines. Currently no small molecule inhibitors of this enzyme have been described. Here, we report the synthesis and evaluation of vinyl sulfone, vinyl ketone, epoxy ketone, and boronic acid inhibitors designed based on the preferred Taspase1 cleavage site (Ac-Ile-Ser-Gln-Leu-Asp). Specifically, we evaluated compounds in which the reactive warhead is positioned in place of the P1 aspartic acid side chain as well as at the C-terminus of the peptide. Interestingly, both classes of inhibitors were effective and vinyl ketones and vinyl sulfones showed the greatest potency for the target protease. These results suggest that Taspase1 has unique substrate recognition properties that could potentially be exploited in the design of potent and selective inhibitors of this enzyme.
Project description:The threonine endopeptidase Taspase1 has a critical role in cancer cell proliferation and apoptosis. In this study, we developed and evaluated small molecule inhibitors of Taspase1 as a new candidate class of therapeutic modalities. Genetic deletion of Taspase1 in the mouse produced no overt deficiencies, suggesting the possibility of a wide therapeutic index for use of Taspase1 inhibitors in cancers. We defined the peptidyl motifs recognized by Taspase1 and conducted a cell-based dual-fluorescent proteolytic screen of the National Cancer Institute diversity library to identify Taspase1 inhibitors (TASPIN). On the basis of secondary and tertiary screens the 4-[(4-arsonophenyl)methyl]phenyl] arsonic acid NSC48300 was determined to be the most specific active compound. Structure-activity relationship studies indicated a crucial role for the arsenic acid moiety in mediating Taspase1 inhibition. Additional fluorescence resonance energy transfer-based kinetic analysis characterized NSC48300 as a reversible, noncompetitive inhibitor of Taspase1 (K(i) = 4.22 ?mol/L). In the MMTV-neu mouse model of breast cancer and the U251 xenograft model of brain cancer, NSC48300 produced effective tumor growth inhibition. Our results offer an initial preclinical proof-of-concept to develop TASPINs for cancer therapy.