Matthews, James H., Liang, Xiao, Paul, Valerie J., and Luesch, Hendrik. 2018. "A Complementary Chemical and Genomic Screening Approach for Druggable Targets in the Nrf2 Pathway and Small Molecule Inhibitors to Overcome Cancer Cell Drug Resistance." ACS chemical biology 13 (5):1189-1199. https://doi.org/10.1021/acschembio.7b01025
Resistance to chemotherapy is a major obstacle in the treatment of a wide array of different types of cancer. Chemotherapeutic drug resistance is achieved by cancer cells by a variety of different mechanisms, which can be either compound specific or general. An emerging mechanism for nonspecific chemotherapeutic drug resistance relies on hyperactivity of the transcription factor Nrf2. Normally Nrf2 levels are tightly regulated by the ubiquitin-proteasome system; however, mutations in genes responsible for this regulation are common in many cancer types, resulting in increased expression of Nrf2, activation of its downstream target genes, and resistance to a variety of chemotherapeutic agents. For this reason, there has been considerable interest in the discovery of small molecule inhibitors of Nrf2 capable of attenuating this resistance mechanism. To this end, we have screened two commercially available libraries of known biologically active small molecules to identify potential Nrf2 inhibitors. To increase the breadth of this screen we have also screened an RNAi library that targets the majority of the druggable genome to also identify Nrf2-inhibitor targets that are not currently targeted by small molecules. To complement the commercial chemical and genomic library screening, we screened a small collection of proprietary natural products isolated from marine cyanobacteria, which included actin targeting and uncharacterized but biologically active compounds. Through these efforts, we have identified three classes of compounds: cardiac glycosides, Stat3 inhibitors, and actin disrupting agents as Nrf2 inhibitors that are able to attenuate Nrf2 activity and synergize with chemotherapeutic agents in the non-small-cell lung cancer cell line A549. In addition, we found that grassypeptolide A exerts Nrf2 modulatory activity via a thus far uncharacterized mechanism. Moreover, we have identified a set of putative Nrf2 targets comprising the transcription factors TWIST1 and ELF4, the protein kinase NEK8, the TAK1 kinase regulator TAB1, and the dual specific phosphatase DUSP4. This study broadens the range of mechanisms through which inhibition of Nrf2 activity can be achieved, which will facilitate the characterization of novel Nrf2 inhibitors and allow the design of target specific screening procedures with which to identify more.