A DHODH inhibitor increases p53 synthesis and enhances tumor cell killing by p53 degradation blockage.
ABSTRACT: The development of non-genotoxic therapies that activate wild-type p53 in tumors is of great interest since the discovery of p53 as a tumor suppressor. Here we report the identification of over 100 small-molecules activating p53 in cells. We elucidate the mechanism of action of a chiral tetrahydroindazole (HZ00), and through target deconvolution, we deduce that its active enantiomer (R)-HZ00, inhibits dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH). The chiral specificity of HZ05, a more potent analog, is revealed by the crystal structure of the (R)-HZ05/DHODH complex. Twelve other DHODH inhibitor chemotypes are detailed among the p53 activators, which identifies DHODH as a frequent target for structurally diverse compounds. We observe that HZ compounds accumulate cancer cells in S-phase, increase p53 synthesis, and synergize with an inhibitor of p53 degradation to reduce tumor growth in vivo. We, therefore, propose a strategy to promote cancer cell killing by p53 instead of its reversible cell cycle arresting effect.
Project description:Dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH; EC 22.214.171.124) is a central enzyme of pyrimidine biosynthesis and catalyzes the oxidation of dihydroorotate to orotate. DHODH is an important target for antiparasitic and cytostatic drugs since rapid cell proliferation often depends on the de novo synthesis of pyrimidine nucleotides. We have cloned the pyr4 gene encoding mitochondrial DHODH from the basidiomycetous plant pathogen Ustilago maydis. We were able to show that pyr4 contains a functional mitochondrial targeting signal. The deletion of pyr4 resulted in uracil auxotrophy, enhanced sensitivity to UV irradiation, and a loss of pathogenicity on corn plants. The biochemical characterization of purified U. maydis DHODH overproduced in Escherichia coli revealed that the U. maydis enzyme uses quinone electron acceptor Q6 and is resistant to several commonly used DHODH inhibitors. Here we show that the expression of the human DHODH gene fused to the U. maydis mitochondrial targeting signal is able to complement the auxotrophic phenotype of pyr4 mutants. While U. maydis wild-type cells were resistant to the DHODH inhibitor brequinar, strains expressing the human DHODH gene became sensitive to this cytostatic drug. Such engineered U. maydis strains can be used in sensitive in vivo assays for the development of novel drugs specifically targeted at either human or fungal DHODH.
Project description:Following our discovery of human dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) inhibition by 2-(3-alkoxy-1H-pyrazol-1-yl)pyrimidine derivatives as well as 2-(4-benzyl-3-ethoxy-5-methyl-1H-pyrazol-1-yl)-5-methylpyridine, we describe here the syntheses and evaluation of an array of azine-bearing analogues. As in our previous report, the structure-activity study of this series of human DHODH inhibitors was based on a phenotypic assay measuring measles virus replication. Among other inhibitors, this round of syntheses and biological evaluation iteration led to the highly active 5-cyclopropyl-2-(4-(2,6-difluorophenoxy)-3-isopropoxy-5-methyl-1H-pyrazol-1-yl)-3-fluoropyridine. Inhibition of DHODH by this compound was confirmed in an array of in vitro assays, including enzymatic tests and cell-based assays for viral replication and cellular growth. This molecule was found to be more active than the known inhibitors of DHODH, brequinar and teriflunomide, thus opening perspectives for its use as a tool or for the design of an original series of immunosuppressive agent. Moreover, because other series of inhibitors of human DHODH have been found to also affect Plasmodium falciparum DHODH, all the compounds were assayed for their effect on P. falciparum growth. However, the modest in vitro inhibition solely observed for two compounds did not correlate with their inhibition of P. falciparum DHODH.
Project description:p53-mutated tumors often exhibit increased resistance to standard chemotherapy and enhanced metastatic potential. Here we demonstrate that inhibition of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH), a key enzyme of the de novo pyrimidine synthesis pathway, effectively decreases proliferation of cancer cells via induction of replication and ribosomal stress in a p53- and checkpoint kinase 1 (Chk1)-dependent manner. Mechanistically, a block in replication and ribosomal biogenesis result in p53 activation paralleled by accumulation of replication forks that activate the ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related kinase/Chk1 pathway, both of which lead to cell cycle arrest. Since in the absence of functional p53 the cell cycle arrest fully depends on Chk1, combined DHODH/Chk1 inhibition in p53-dysfunctional cancer cells induces aberrant cell cycle re-entry and erroneous mitosis, resulting in massive cell death. Combined DHODH/Chk1 inhibition effectively suppresses p53-mutated tumors and their metastasis, and therefore presents a promising therapeutic strategy for p53-mutated cancers.
Project description:As a key enzyme in de novo pyrimidine biosynthesis, the expression level of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) has been reported to be elevated in various types of malignant tumors and its tumor-promoting effect was considered to relate to its pyrimidine synthesis function. Here, we revealed one intriguing potential mechanism that DHODH modulated ?-catenin signaling in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). We demonstrated that DHODH directly bound to the NH2 terminal of ?-catenin, thereby, interrupting the interaction of GSK3? with ?-catenin and leading to the abrogation of ?-catenin degradation and accumulation of ?-catenin in the nucleus, which in turn, resulted in the activation of ?-catenin downstream genes, including CCND1, E2F3, Nanog, and OCT4. We further demonstrated that the regulation of ?-catenin by DHODH was independent of DHODH catalyzing activity. Univariate and multivariate analyses suggested that DHODH expression might be an independent prognostic factor for ESCC patients. Collectively, our study highlights the pivotal role of DHODH mediated ?-catenin signaling and indicates that DHODH may act as a multi-functional switcher from catalyzing pyrimidine metabolism to regulating tumor-related signaling pathways in ESCC.
Project description:Homeobox transcription factor A9 (HoxA9) is overexpressed in 70% of patients diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), whereas only a small subset of AML patients respond to current differentiation therapies. A cell line overexpressing HoxA9 was derived from the bone marrow of a lysozyme-GFP mouse. In this fashion, GFP served as an endogenous reporter of differentiation, permitting a high-throughput phenotypic screen against the MLPCN library. Two chemical scaffolds were optimized for activity yielding compound ML390, and genetic resistance and sequencing efforts identified dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) as the target enzyme. The DHODH inhibitor brequinar works against these leukemic cells as well. The X-ray crystal structure of ML390 bound to DHODH elucidates ML390s binding interactions.
Project description:Malignant melanoma (MM) is one of the most malignant tumors and has a very poor prognosis. However, there are no effective drugs to treat this disease. As a kind of iron flavin dependent enzyme, dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH, EC 126.96.36.199) is the fourth and a key enzyme in the de novo biosynthesis of pyrimidines. Herein, we found that DHODH inactivation/deficiency inhibited melanoma cell proliferation, induced cell cycle arrest at S phase and lead to autophagy in human melanoma cells. Meanwhile, leflunomide treatment induced cell apoptosis and deficiency of DHODH sensitized cells to drug-induced apoptosis in BCL-2 deficient melanoma cells, while not in BCL-2 abundant melanoma cells. Then we found that BCL-2 could rescue apoptosis induced by DHODH inactivation/deficiency. Moreover, BCL-2 also showed to promote cell cycle arrest and to inhibit autophagy induced by leflunomide. To explore the mechanisms underlying autophagy induced by DHODH inhibition, we found that AMPK-Ulk1 axis was activated in this process. Besides, JNK was phosphorylated and activated to phosphorylate BCL-2, which abrogated the interaction between BCL-2 and Beclin1 and then abolished autophagy. Our findings provided evidences for the potential of DHODH used as a drug target for melanoma treatment.
Project description:Melanoma is a tumour of transformed melanocytes, which are originally derived from the embryonic neural crest. It is unknown to what extent the programs that regulate neural crest development interact with mutations in the BRAF oncogene, which is the most commonly mutated gene in human melanoma. We have used zebrafish embryos to identify the initiating transcriptional events that occur on activation of human BRAF(V600E) (which encodes an amino acid substitution mutant of BRAF) in the neural crest lineage. Zebrafish embryos that are transgenic for mitfa:BRAF(V600E) and lack p53 (also known as tp53) have a gene signature that is enriched for markers of multipotent neural crest cells, and neural crest progenitors from these embryos fail to terminally differentiate. To determine whether these early transcriptional events are important for melanoma pathogenesis, we performed a chemical genetic screen to identify small-molecule suppressors of the neural crest lineage, which were then tested for their effects on melanoma. One class of compound, inhibitors of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH), for example leflunomide, led to an almost complete abrogation of neural crest development in zebrafish and to a reduction in the self-renewal of mammalian neural crest stem cells. Leflunomide exerts these effects by inhibiting the transcriptional elongation of genes that are required for neural crest development and melanoma growth. When used alone or in combination with a specific inhibitor of the BRAF(V600E) oncogene, DHODH inhibition led to a marked decrease in melanoma growth both in vitro and in mouse xenograft studies. Taken together, these studies highlight developmental pathways in neural crest cells that have a direct bearing on melanoma formation.
Project description:The leading cause of cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas (cSCCs) is exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV). Unlike most other cancers, the incidence rates of cSCCs are still on the rise and the treatment options currently available are limited. We have recently found that dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH), which is the rate-limiting enzyme in the de novo pyrimidine synthesis pathway, plays a critical role in UVB-induced energy metabolism reprogramming. Using a multistage model of UVB radiation-induced skin cancer, we show that UVB-induced DHODH upregulation is mainly regulated transcriptionally by STAT3. Our results indicate that chronic inhibition of DHODH by leflunomide (LFN) blocks UVB-induced tumor initiation. Human tumor xenograft studies showed that LFN treatment reduces growth of established tumors when used in combination with a genotoxic agent, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). Our data suggest that DHODH is a promising target for chemoprevention and combination therapy of UVB-induced cSCCs.
Project description:Dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) catalyzes a rate-limiting step in de novo pyrimidine nucleotide synthesis. DHODH inhibition has recently been recognized as a potential new approach for treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by inducing differentiation. We investigated the efficacy of PTC299, a novel DHODH inhibitor, for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). PTC299 inhibited the proliferation of MDS cell lines, and this was rescued by exogenous uridine, which bypasses de novo pyrimidine synthesis. In contrast to AML cells, PTC299 was inefficient at inhibiting growth and inducing the differentiation of MDS cells, but synergized with hypomethylating agents, such as decitabine, to inhibit the growth of MDS cells. This synergistic effect was confirmed in primary MDS samples. As a single agent, PTC299 prolonged the survival of mice in xenograft models using MDS cell lines, and was more potent in combination with decitabine. Mechanistically, a treatment with PTC299 induced intra-S-phase arrest followed by apoptotic cell death. Of interest, PTC299 enhanced the incorporation of decitabine, an analog of cytidine, into DNA by inhibiting pyrimidine production, thereby enhancing the cytotoxic effects of decitabine. RNA-seq data revealed the marked downregulation of MYC target gene sets with PTC299 exposure. Transfection of MDS cell lines with MYC largely attenuated the growth inhibitory effects of PTC299, suggesting MYC as one of the major targets of PTC299. Our results indicate that the DHODH inhibitor PTC299 suppresses the growth of MDS cells and acts in a synergistic manner with decitabine. This combination therapy may be a new therapeutic option for the treatment of MDS.
Project description:Dihydroorotate Dehydrogenase (DHODH) is a key enzyme of the <i>de novo</i> pyrimidine biosynthesis, whose inhibition can induce differentiation and apoptosis in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). DHODH inhibitors had shown promising in vitro and in vivo activity on solid tumors, but their effectiveness was not confirmed in clinical trials, probably because cancer cells exploited the pyrimidine salvage pathway to survive. Here, we investigated the antileukemic activity of MEDS433, the DHODH inhibitor developed by our group, against AML. Learning from previous failures, we mimicked human conditions (performing experiments in the presence of physiological uridine plasma levels) and looked for synergic combinations to boost apoptosis, including classical antileukemic drugs and dipyridamole, a blocker of the pyrimidine salvage pathway. MEDS433 induced apoptosis in multiple AML cell lines, not only as a consequence of differentiation, but also directly. Its combination with antileukemic agents further increased the apoptotic rate, but when experiments were performed in the presence of physiological uridine concentrations, results were less impressive. Conversely, the combination of MEDS433 with dipyridamole induced metabolic lethality and differentiation in all AML cell lines; this extraordinary synergism was confirmed on AML primary cells with different genetic backgrounds and was unaffected by physiological uridine concentrations, predicting <i>in human</i> activity.