Targeting protein-protein interactions for therapeutic discovery via FRET-based high-throughput screening in living cells.
ABSTRACT: We have developed a structure-based high-throughput screening (HTS) method, using time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer (TR-FRET) that is sensitive to protein-protein interactions in living cells. The membrane protein complex between the cardiac sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca-ATPase (SERCA2a) and phospholamban (PLB), its Ca-dependent regulator, is a validated therapeutic target for reversing cardiac contractile dysfunction caused by aberrant calcium handling. However, efforts to develop compounds with SERCA2a-PLB specificity have yet to yield an effective drug. We co-expressed GFP-SERCA2a (donor) in the endoplasmic reticulum membrane of HEK293 cells with RFP-PLB (acceptor), and measured FRET using a fluorescence lifetime microplate reader. We screened a small-molecule library and identified 21 compounds (Hits) that changed FRET by >3SD. 10 of these Hits reproducibly alter SERCA2a-PLB structure and function. One compound increases SERCA2a calcium affinity in cardiac membranes but not in skeletal, suggesting that the compound is acting specifically on the SERCA2a-PLB complex, as needed for a drug to mitigate deficient calcium transport in heart failure. The excellent assay quality and correlation between structural and functional assays validate this method for large-scale HTS campaigns. This approach offers a powerful pathway to drug discovery for a wide range of protein-protein interaction targets that were previously considered "undruggable".
Project description:We engineered a concatenated fluorescent biosensor and dual-wavelength fluorescence lifetime (FLT) detection, to perform high-throughput screening (HTS) in living cells for discovery of potential heart-failure drugs. Heart failure is correlated with insufficient activity of the sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca-pump (SERCA2a), often due to excessive inhibition by phospholamban (PLB), a small transmembrane protein. We sought to discover small molecules that restore SERCA2a activity by disrupting this inhibitory interaction between PLB and SERCA2a. Our approach was to fluorescently tag the two proteins and measure fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) to detect changes in binding or structure of the complex. To optimize sensitivity to these changes, we engineered a biosensor that concatenates the two fluorescently labeled proteins on a single polypeptide chain. This SERCA2a-PLB FRET biosensor construct is functionally active and effective for HTS. By implementing 2-wavelength FLT detection at extremely high speed during primary HTS, we culled fluorescent compounds as false-positive Hits. In pilot screens, we identified Hits that alter the SERCA2a-PLB interaction, and a newly developed secondary calcium uptake assay revealed both activators and inhibitors of Ca-transport. We are implementing this approach for large-scale screens to discover new drug-like modulators of SERCA2a-PLB interactions for heart failure therapeutic development.
Project description:A robust high-throughput screening (HTS) strategy has been developed to discover small-molecule effectors targeting the sarco/endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA), based on a fluorescence microplate reader that records both the nanosecond decay waveform (lifetime mode) and the complete emission spectrum (spectral mode), with high precision and speed. This spectral unmixing plate reader (SUPR) was used to screen libraries of small molecules with a fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) biosensor expressed in living cells. Ligand binding was detected by FRET associated with structural rearrangements of green fluorescent protein (GFP, donor) and red fluorescent protein (RFP, acceptor) fused to the cardiac-specific SERCA2a isoform. The results demonstrate accurate quantitation of FRET along with high precision of hit identification. Fluorescence lifetime analysis resolved SERCA's distinct structural states, providing a method to classify small-molecule chemotypes on the basis of their structural effect on the target. The spectral analysis was also applied to flag interference by fluorescent compounds. FRET hits were further evaluated for functional effects on SERCA's ATPase activity via both a coupled-enzyme assay and a FRET-based calcium sensor. Concentration-response curves indicated excellent correlation between FRET and function. These complementary spectral and lifetime FRET detection methods offer an attractive combination of precision, speed, and resolution for HTS.
Project description:We review the recent development of novel biochemical and spectroscopic methods to determine the site-specific phosphorylation, expression, mutation, and structural dynamics of phospholamban (PLB), in relation to its function (inhibition of the cardiac calcium pump, SERCA2a), with specific focus on cardiac physiology, pathology, and therapy. In the cardiomyocyte, SERCA2a actively transports Ca2+ into the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) during relaxation (diastole) to create the concentration gradient that drives the passive efflux of Ca2+ required for cardiac contraction (systole). Unphosphorylated PLB (U-PLB) inhibits SERCA2a, but phosphorylation at S16 and/or T17 (producing P-PLB) changes the structure of PLB to relieve SERCA2a inhibition. Because insufficient SERCA2a activity is a hallmark of heart failure, SERCA2a activation, by gene therapy (Andino et al. 2008; Fish et al. 2013; Hoshijima et al. 2002; Jessup et al. 2011) or drug therapy (Ferrandi et al. 2013; Huang 2013; Khan et al. 2009; Rocchetti et al. 2008; Zhang et al. 2012), is a widely sought goal for treatment of heart failure. This review describes rational approaches to this goal. Novel biophysical assays, using site-directed labeling and high-resolution spectroscopy, have been developed to resolve the structural states of SERCA2a-PLB complexes in vitro and in living cells. Novel biochemical assays, using synthetic standards and multidimensional immunofluorescence, have been developed to quantitate PLB expression and phosphorylation states in cells and human tissues. The biochemical and biophysical properties of U-PLB, P-PLB, and mutant PLB will ultimately resolve the mechanisms of loss of inhibition and gain of inhibition to guide therapeutic development. These assays will be powerful tools for investigating human tissue samples from the Sydney Heart Bank, for the purpose of analyzing and diagnosing specific disorders.
Project description:The cardiac sarco/endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) establishes the intracellular calcium gradient across the sarcoplasmic reticulum membrane. It has been proposed that SERCA forms homooligomers that increase the catalytic rate of calcium transport. We investigated SERCA dimerization in rabbit left ventricular myocytes using a photoactivatable cross-linker. Western blotting of cross-linked SERCA revealed higher-molecular-weight species consistent with SERCA oligomerization. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer measurements in cells transiently transfected with fluorescently labeled SERCA2a revealed that SERCA readily forms homodimers. These dimers formed in the absence or presence of the SERCA regulatory partner, phospholamban (PLB) and were unaltered by PLB phosphorylation or changes in calcium or ATP. Fluorescence lifetime data are compatible with a model in which PLB interacts with a SERCA homodimer in a stoichiometry of 1:2. Together, these results suggest that SERCA forms constitutive homodimers in live cells and that dimer formation is not modulated by SERCA conformational poise, PLB binding, or PLB phosphorylation.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Calcium handling is known to be deranged in heart failure. Interventions aimed at improving cell Ca(2) (+) cycling may represent a promising approach to heart failure therapy. Istaroxime is a new luso-inotropic compound that stimulates cardiac contractility and relaxation in healthy and failing animal models and in patients with acute heart failure (AHF) syndrome. Istaroxime is a Na-K ATPase inhibitor with the unique property of increasing sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) SERCA2a activity as shown in heart microsomes from humans and guinea pigs. The present study addressed the molecular mechanism by which istaroxime increases SERCA2a activity. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: To study the effect of istaroxime on SERCA2a-phospholamban (PLB) complex, we applied different methodologies in native dog healthy and failing heart preparations and heterologous canine SERCA2a/PLB co-expressed in Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf21) insect cells. KEY RESULTS: We showed that istaroxime enhances SERCA2a activity, Ca(2) (+) uptake and the Ca(2) (+) -dependent charge movements into dog healthy and failing cardiac SR vesicles. Although not directly demonstrated, the most probable explanation of these activities is the displacement of PLB from SERCA2a.E2 conformation, independently from cAMP/PKA. We propose that this displacement may favour the SERCA2a conformational transition from E2 to E1, thus resulting in the acceleration of Ca(2) (+) cycling. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Istaroxime represents the first example of a small molecule that exerts a luso-inotropic effect in the failing human heart through the stimulation of SERCA2a ATPase activity and the enhancement of Ca(2) (+) uptake into the SR by relieving the PLB inhibitory effect on SERCA2a in a cAMP/PKA independent way.
Project description:The sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) undergoes conformational changes while transporting calcium, but the details of the domain motions are still unclear. The objective of the present study was to measure distances between the cytoplasmic domains of SERCA2a in order to reveal the magnitude and direction of conformational changes. Using fluorescence microscopy of live cells, we measured intramolecular fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) from a donor fluorescent protein fused to the SERCA N-terminus to an acceptor fluorescent protein fused to either the N-, P-, or transmembrane domain. The "2-color" SERCA constructs were catalytically active as indicated by ATPase activity in vitro and Ca uptake in live cells. All constructs exhibited dynamic FRET changes in response to the pump ligands calcium and thapsigargin (Tg). These FRET changes were quantified as an index of SERCA conformational changes. Intramolecular FRET decreased with Tg for the two N-domain fusion sites (at residue 509 or 576), while the P- (residue 661) and TM-domain (C-terminus) fusions showed increased FRET with Tg. The magnitude of the Tg-dependent conformational change was not decreased by coexpression of phospholamban (PLB), nor did PLB slow the kinetics of Tg binding. FRET in ionophore-permeabilized cells was lower in EGTA than in saturating calcium for all constructs, indicating a decrease in domain separation distance with the structural transition from E2 (Ca-free) to E1 (Ca-bound). The data suggest closure of the cytoplasmic headpiece with Ca-binding. The present results provide insight into the structural dynamics of the Ca-ATPase. In addition, the 2-color SERCA constructs developed for this study may be useful for evaluating candidate small molecule regulators of Ca uptake activity.
Project description:In failing rat hearts, post-transcriptonal inhibition of phospholamban (PLB) expression by AAV9 vector-mediated cardiac delivery of short hairpin RNAs directed against PLB (shPLBr) improves both impaired SERCA2a controlled Ca2+ cycling and contractile dysfunction. Cardiac delivery of shPLB, however, was reported to cause cardiac toxicity in canines. Thus we developed a new AAV vector, scAAV6-amiR155-PLBr, expressing a novel engineered artificial microRNA (amiR155-PLBr) directed against PLB under control of a heart-specific hybrid promoter. Its PLB silencing efficiency and safety were compared with those of an AAV vector expressing shPLBr (scAAV6-shPLBr) from an ubiquitously active U6 promoter. Investigations were carried out in cultured neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (CM) over a period of 14 days. Compared to shPLBr, amiR155-PLBr was expressed at a significantly lower level, resulting in delayed and less pronounced PLB silencing. Despite decreased knockdown efficiency of scAAV6-amiR155-PLBr, a similar increase of the SERCA2a-catalyzed Ca2+ uptake into sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) vesicles was observed for both the shPLBr and amiR155-PLBr vectors. Proteomic analysis confirmed PLB silencing of both therapeutic vectors and revealed that shPLBr, but not the amiR155-PLBr vector, increased the proinflammatory proteins STAT3, STAT1 and activated STAT1 phosphorylation at the key amino acid residue Tyr701. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis detected alterations in the expression of several cardiac microRNAs after treatment of CM with scAAV6-shPLBr and scAAV6-amiR155-PLBr, as well as after treatment with its related amiR155- and shRNAs-expressing control AAV vectors. The results demonstrate that scAAV6-amiR155-PLBr is capable of enhancing the Ca2+ transport function of the cardiac SR PLB/SERCA2a system as efficiently as scAAV6-shPLBr while offering a superior safety profile.
Project description:Neointimal growth in the injured vasculature is largely facilitated by the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC), which associates with reduced sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA2a) activity. The gene transfer-mediated restoration of the SERCA2a level thus attenuates neointimal growth and VSMC proliferation. We previously reported that a peptide targeted to protein phosphatase 1, ?PLB-SE, normalizes SERCA2a activity in cardiomyocytes. In this study, we found that ?PLB-SE attenuated neointimal growth in balloon-injured rat carotid arteries, and the proliferation and migration of VSMC cultured in high-serum media (synthetic conditions). In parallel, ?PLB-SE inhibited the degradation of SERCA2a in the injured carotid arteries and VSMC under synthetic conditions. The calpain inhibitor MDL28170 also attenuated SERCA2a degradation and VSMC proliferation under synthetic conditions, indicating that calpain degrades SERCA2a. The Ca2+ ionophore A23187 induced SERCA2a degradation in VSMC, which was blocked by either ?PLB-SE or MDL28170. Additionally, ?PLB-SE normalized the cytosolic Ca2+ level in VSMC that was increased by either A23187 or synthetic stimulation. Collectively, these data indicate that ?PLB-SE corrects the abnormal Ca2+ handling by activating SERCA2a, which further protects SERCA2a from calpain-dependent degradation in VSMC. We conclude that ?PLB-SE may form the basis of a therapeutic strategy for vascular proliferative disorders.
Project description:Phospholamban (PLB) oligomerization, quaternary structure, and sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) binding were quantified by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) in an intact cellular environment. FRET between cyan fluorescent protein-PLB and yellow fluorescent protein-PLB in AAV-293 cells showed hyperbolic dependence on protein concentration, with a maximum efficiency of 45.1 +/- 1.3%. The observed FRET corresponds to a probe separation distance of 58.7 +/- 0.5A(,) according to a computational model of intrapentameric FRET. This is consistent with models of the PLB pentamer in which cytoplasmic domains fan out from the central bundle of transmembrane helices. An I40A mutation of PLB did not alter pentamer conformation but increased the concentration of half-maximal FRET (K(D)) by >4-fold. This is consistent with the previous observation that this putatively monomeric mutant still oligomerizes in intact membranes but forms more dynamic pentamers than wild type PLB. PLB association with SERCA, measured by FRET between cyan fluorescent protein-SERCA and yellow fluorescent protein-PLB, was increased by the I40A mutation without any detectable change in probe separation distance. The data indicate that the regulatory complex conformation is not altered by the I40A mutation. A naturally occurring human mutation (L39Stop) greatly reduced PLB oligomerization and SERCA binding and caused mislocalization of PLB to the cytoplasm and nucleus. Overall, the data suggest that the PLB pentamer adopts a "pinwheel" shape in cell membranes, as opposed to a more compact "bellflower" conformation. I40A mutation decreases oligomerization and increases PLB binding to SERCA. Truncation of the transmembrane domain by L39Stop mutation prevents anchoring of the protein in the membrane, greatly reducing PLB binding to itself or its regulatory target, SERCA.
Project description:Derangements in calcium cycling have been described in failing hearts, and preclinical studies have suggested that therapies aimed at correcting this defect can lead to improvements in cardiac function and survival. One strategy to improve calcium cycling would be to inhibit phospholamban (PLB), the negative regulator of SERCA2a that is upregulated in failing hearts. The goal of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of using adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated cardiac gene transfer of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) to knock down expression of PLB. Six dogs were treated with self-complementary AAV serotype 6 (scAAV6) expressing shRNA against PLB. Three control dogs were treated with empty AAV6 capsid, and two control dogs were treated with scAAV6 expressing dominant negative PLB. Vector was delivered via a percutaneously inserted cardiac injection catheter. PLB mRNA and protein expression were analyzed in three of six shRNA dogs between days 16 and 26. The other three shRNA dogs and five control dogs were monitored long-term to assess cardiac safety. PLB mRNA was reduced 16-fold, and PLB protein was reduced 5-fold, with treatment. Serum troponin elevation and depressed cardiac function were observed in the shRNA group only at 4 weeks. An enzyme-linked immunospot assay failed to detect any T cells reactive to AAV6 capsid in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, heart, or spleen. Microarray analysis revealed alterations in cardiac expression of several microRNAs with shRNA treatment. AAV6-mediated cardiac gene transfer of shRNA effectively knocks down PLB expression but is associated with severe cardiac toxicity. Toxicity may result from dysregulation of endogenous microRNA pathways.