Design and Synthesis of Type-IV Inhibitors of BRAF Kinase That Block Dimerization and Overcome Paradoxical MEK/ERK Activation.
ABSTRACT: Despite the clinical success of BRAF inhibitors like vemurafenib in treating metastatic melanoma, resistance has emerged through "paradoxical MEK/ERK signaling" where transactivation of one protomer occurs as a result of drug inhibition of the other partner in the activated dimer. The importance of the dimerization interface in the signaling potential of wild-type BRAF in cells expressing oncogenic Ras has recently been demonstrated and proposed as a site of therapeutic intervention in targeting cancers resistant to adenosine triphosphate competitive drugs. The proof of concept for a structure-guided approach targeting the dimerization interface is described through the design and synthesis of macrocyclic peptides that bind with high affinity to BRAF and that block paradoxical signaling in malignant melanoma cells occurring through this drug target. The lead compounds identified are type-IV kinase inhibitors and represent an ideal framework for conversion into next-generation BRAF inhibitors through macrocyclic drug discovery.
Project description:Oncogenic BRAF mutations initiate tumor formation by unleashing the autoinhibited kinase conformation and promoting RAS-decoupled proliferative RAF-MEK-ERK signaling. We have engineered luciferase-based biosensors to systematically track full-length BRAF conformations and interactions affected by tumorigenic kinase mutations and GTP loading of RAS. Binding of structurally diverse ?C-helix-OUT BRAF inhibitors (BRAFi) showed differences in specificity and efficacy by shifting patient mutation-containing BRAF reporters from the definitive opened to more closed conformations. Unexpectedly, BRAFi engagement with the catalytic pocket of V600E-mutated BRAF stabilized an intermediate and inactive kinase conformation that enhanced binary RAS:RAF interactions, also independently of RAF dimerization in melanoma cells. We present evidence that the interference with RAS interactions and nanoclustering antagonizes the sequential formation of drug-induced RAS:RAF tetramers. This suggests a previously unappreciated allosteric effect of anticancer drug-driven intramolecular communication between the kinase and RAS-binding domains of mutated BRAF, which may further promote paradoxical kinase activation and drug resistance mechanisms.
Project description:BRAF and MEK inhibitors are effective in BRAF mutant melanoma, but most patients eventually relapse with acquired resistance, and others present intrinsic resistance to these drugs. Resistance is often mediated by pathway reactivation through receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK)/SRC-family kinase (SFK) signaling or mutant NRAS, which drive paradoxical reactivation of the pathway. We describe pan-RAF inhibitors (CCT196969, CCT241161) that also inhibit SFKs. These compounds do not drive paradoxical pathway activation and inhibit MEK/ERK in BRAF and NRAS mutant melanoma. They inhibit melanoma cells and patient-derived xenografts that are resistant to BRAF and BRAF/MEK inhibitors. Thus, paradox-breaking pan-RAF inhibitors that also inhibit SFKs could provide first-line treatment for BRAF and NRAS mutant melanomas and second-line treatment for patients who develop resistance.
Project description:Vemurafenib, a selective RAF inhibitor, extends survival among patients with BRAF V600E-mutant melanoma. Vemurafenib inhibits ERK signaling in BRAF V600E-mutant cells but activates ERK signaling in BRAF wild-type cells. This paradoxical activation of ERK signaling is the mechanistic basis for the development of RAS-mutant squamous-cell skin cancers in patients treated with RAF inhibitors. We report the accelerated growth of a previously unsuspected RAS-mutant leukemia in a patient with melanoma who was receiving vemurafenib. Exposure to vemurafenib induced hyperactivation of ERK signaling and proliferation of the leukemic cell population, an effect that was reversed on drug withdrawal.
Project description:BRAF fusions are detected in numerous neoplasms, but their clinical management remains unresolved. We identified six melanoma lines harboring BRAF fusions representative of the clinical cases reported in the literature. Their unexpected heterogeneous responses to RAF and MEK inhibitors could be categorized upon specific features of the fusion kinases. Higher expression level correlated with resistance, and fusion partners containing a dimerization domain promoted paradoxical activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and hyperproliferation in response to first- and second-generation RAF inhibitors. By contrast, next-generation ?C-IN/DFG-OUT RAF inhibitors blunted paradoxical activation across all lines and had their therapeutic efficacy further increased in vitro and in vivo by combination with MEK inhibitors, opening perspectives in the clinical management of tumors harboring BRAF fusions.
Project description:BRAFV600E is the most common activating mutation in melanoma and patients treated with BRAFV600E inhibitors all develop resistance within one year. A significant resistance pathway is paradoxical activation (transactivation) involving BRAF dimers, whereby an inhibitor bound protein subunit allosterically activates the other subunit. We recently reported on dimeric BRAFV600E -selective vemurafenib inhibitors that stabilize an inactive ?C-out/?C-out homodimeric conformation with improved inhibitor potency and selectivity in vitro. We set out to extend this strategy to target RAF homo- and heterodimers with the pan-RAF inhibitor TAK632 in dimeric configuration. Surprisingly, we find that monomeric TAK632 induces an active ?C-in/?C-in BRAF dimer conformation, while dimeric TAK inhibitors cannot promote BRAF dimers and have significantly compromised potency in vitro. These studies uncover the intimate connection between BRAF dimerization and TAK632 mode of inhibition and highlight the importance of understanding the impact of BRAF inhibitors on kinase dimerization.
Project description:The current study defines a fibroblast-derived niche that facilitates the therapeutic escape of melanoma cells from BRAF inhibition. Vemurafenib treatment led to the release of transforming growth factor-? (TGF-?) from the melanoma cells that increased the differentiation state of the fibroblasts, an affect associated with fibronectin deposition, increase in ?-smooth muscle actin expression, and the release of neuregulin (NRG). At the same time, vemurafenib directly activated the fibroblasts through paradoxical stimulation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, causing them to secrete hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Treatment with the BRAF/MEK inhibitor combination reversed the release of HGF. Adhesion of melanoma cells to fibronectin was critical in amplifying the fibroblast-derived NRG- and HGF-mediated PI3K/AKT (phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase/AKT) survival signaling in the melanoma cells following BRAF inhibition. In coculture studies, combination treatment with inhibitors of BRAF/MET/HER kinase was ineffective at reversing the fibroblast-mediated therapeutic escape from BRAF inhibition. Instead, it was noted that combined BRAF/PI3K inhibition overcame fibroblast-mediated drug resistance in vitro and was associated with enhanced antitumor effects in an in vivo xenograft model. Thus, we show that melanoma cells and fibroblasts remodel their microenvironment in response to BRAF inhibition and that these adaptations allow tumor cells to evade therapy through increased PI3K/AKT survival signaling.
Project description:Vemurafenib and dabrafenib block MEK-ERK1/2 signaling and cause tumor regression in the majority of advanced-stage BRAF(V600E) melanoma patients; however, acquired resistance and paradoxical signaling have driven efforts for more potent and selective RAF inhibitors. Next-generation RAF inhibitors, such as PLX7904 (PB04), effectively inhibit RAF signaling in BRAF(V600E) melanoma cells without paradoxical effects in wild-type cells. Furthermore, PLX7904 blocks the growth of vemurafenib-resistant BRAF(V600E) cells that express mutant NRAS. Acquired resistance to vemurafenib and dabrafenib is also frequently driven by expression of mutation BRAF splice variants; thus, we tested the effects of PLX7904 and its clinical analog, PLX8394 (PB03), in BRAF(V600E) splice variant-mediated vemurafenib-resistant cells. We show that paradox-breaker RAF inhibitors potently block MEK-ERK1/2 signaling, G1/S cell cycle events, survival and growth of vemurafenib/PLX4720-resistant cells harboring distinct BRAF(V600E) splice variants. These data support the further investigation of paradox-breaker RAF inhibitors as a second-line treatment option for patients failing on vemurafenib or dabrafenib.
Project description:Here, we applied optoRAF, an optogenetic tool for light-controlled clustering and activation of RAF proteins that mimics the natural occurring RAS-mediated dimerization. This versatile tool allows studying the effect on BRAF and CRAF homodimer- as well as heterodimer-induced RAF signaling. Vemurafenib and dabrafenib are two clinically approved inhibitors for BRAF that efficiently suppress the kinase activity of oncogenic BRAF (V600E). However in wild-type BRAF expressing cells, BRAF inhibitors can exert paradoxical activation of wild-type CRAF. Using optoRAF, vemurafenib was identified as paradoxical activator of BRAF and CRAF homo- and heterodimers. Dabrafenib enhanced activity of light-stimulated CRAF at low dose and inhibited CRAF signaling at high dose. Moreover, dabrafenib increased the protein level of CRAF proteins but not of BRAF proteins. Increased CRAF levels correlate with elevated RAF signaling in a dabrafenib-dependent manner, independent of light activation.
Project description:The recent studies have revealed that most BRAF inhibitors can paradoxically induce kinase activation by promoting dimerization and enzyme transactivation. Despite rapidly growing number of structural and functional studies about the BRAF dimer complexes, the molecular basis of paradoxical activation phenomenon is poorly understood and remains largely hypothetical. In this work, we have explored the relationships between inhibitor binding, protein dynamics and allosteric signaling in the BRAF dimers using a network-centric approach. Using this theoretical framework, we have combined molecular dynamics simulations with coevolutionary analysis and modeling of the residue interaction networks to determine molecular determinants of paradoxical activation. We have investigated functional effects produced by paradox inducer inhibitors PLX4720, Dabrafenib, Vemurafenib and a paradox breaker inhibitor PLX7904. Functional dynamics and binding free energy analyses of the BRAF dimer complexes have suggested that negative cooperativity effect and dimer-promoting potential of the inhibitors could be important drivers of paradoxical activation. We have introduced a protein structure network model in which coevolutionary residue dependencies and dynamic maps of residue correlations are integrated in the construction and analysis of the residue interaction networks. The results have shown that coevolutionary residues in the BRAF structures could assemble into independent structural modules and form a global interaction network that may promote dimerization. We have also found that BRAF inhibitors could modulate centrality and communication propensities of global mediating centers in the residue interaction networks. By simulating allosteric communication pathways in the BRAF structures, we have determined that paradox inducer and breaker inhibitors may activate specific signaling routes that correlate with the extent of paradoxical activation. While paradox inducer inhibitors may facilitate a rapid and efficient communication via an optimal single pathway, the paradox breaker may induce a broader ensemble of suboptimal and less efficient communication routes. The central finding of our study is that paradox breaker PLX7904 could mimic structural, dynamic and network features of the inactive BRAF-WT monomer that may be required for evading paradoxical activation. The results of this study rationalize the existing structure-functional experiments by offering a network-centric rationale of the paradoxical activation phenomenon. We argue that BRAF inhibitors that amplify dynamic features of the inactive BRAF-WT monomer and intervene with the allosteric interaction networks may serve as effective paradox breakers in cellular environment.
Project description:The therapeutic landscape of melanoma is improving rapidly. Targeted inhibitors show promising results, but drug resistance often limits durable clinical responses. There is a need for in vivo systems that allow for mechanistic drug resistance studies and (combinatorial) treatment optimization. Therefore, we established a large collection of patient-derived xenografts (PDXs), derived from BRAF(V600E), NRAS(Q61), or BRAF(WT)/NRAS(WT) melanoma metastases prior to treatment with BRAF inhibitor and after resistance had occurred. Taking advantage of PDXs as a limitless source, we screened tumor lysates for resistance mechanisms. We identified a BRAF(V600E) protein harboring a kinase domain duplication (BRAF(V600E/DK)) in ?10% of the cases, both in PDXs and in an independent patient cohort. While BRAF(V600E/DK) depletion restored sensitivity to BRAF inhibition, a pan-RAF dimerization inhibitor effectively eliminated BRAF(V600E/DK)-expressing cells. These results illustrate the utility of this PDX platform and warrant clinical validation of BRAF dimerization inhibitors for this group of melanoma patients.