Drug Discovery


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 534 Views Jan 20, 2023

Targeted protein degradation (TPD) facilitates the selective elimination of unwanted and pathological cellular cargoes via the proteasome or the lysosome, ranging from proteins to organelles and pathogens, both within and outside the cell. Currently, there are several in vitro and in vivo protocols that assess the degradative potency of a given degrader towards a myriad of targets, most notably soluble, monomeric oncoproteins. However, there is a clear deficiency of methodologies to assess the degradative potency of heterobifunctional chimeric degraders, especially those in the autophagy space, against pathological, mutant tau species, such as detergent-insoluble oligomers and high-molecular aggregates. The protocol below describes both in vitro and in vivo biochemical assays to induce tau aggregation, as well as to qualitatively and quantitatively measure the degradative potency of a given degrader towards said aggregates, with specific applications of the AUTOTAC (AUTOphagy-TArgeting Chimera) platform provided as an example. A well-defined set of methodologies to assess TPD-mediated degradation of pathological tau species will help expand the scope of the TPD technology to neurodegeneration and other proteinopathies, in both the lab and the clinic.

Graphical abstract

Overview of assays observing elimination of tauP301L aggregates with AUTOTAC. (A) Description of the biological working mechanism of heterobifunctional chimeric AUTOTAC degraders. (B) Schematic illustration of assays described in this paper.

0 Q&A 260 Views Jan 5, 2023

Understanding how genes are differentially expressed across tissues is key to reveal the etiology of human diseases. Genes are never expressed in isolation, but rather co-expressed in a community; thus, they co-act through intricate but well-orchestrated networks. However, existing approaches cannot coalesce the full properties of gene–gene communication and interactions into networks. In particular, the unavailability of dynamic gene expression data might impair the application of existing network models to unleash the complexity of human diseases. To address this limitation, we developed a statistical pipeline named DRDNetPro to visualize and trace how genes dynamically interact with each other across diverse tissues, to ascertain health risk from static expression data. This protocol contains detailed tutorials designed to learn a series of networks, with the illustration example from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project. The proposed toolbox relies on the method developed in our published paper (Chen et al., 2022), coding all genes into bidirectional, signed, weighted, and feedback looped networks, which will provide profound genomic information enabling medical doctors to design precise medicine.

Graphical abstract

Flowchart illustrating the use of DRDNetPro.
The left panel contains the summarized pipeline of DRDNetPro and the right panel contains one pseudo-illustrative example. See the Equipment and Procedure sections for detailed explanations.

0 Q&A 282 Views Dec 20, 2022

Atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by thickening of the arteries due to lipid deposition, is the major contributor to and hallmark of cardiovascular disease. Although great progress has been made in lowering the lipid plaques in patients, the conventional therapies fail to address the needs of those that are intolerant or non-responsive to the treatment. Therefore, additional novel therapeutic approaches are warranted. We have previously shown that increasing the cellular amounts of microRNA-30c (miR-30c) with the aid of viral vectors or liposomes can successfully reduce plasma cholesterol and atherosclerosis in mice. To avoid the use of viruses and liposomes, we have developed new methods to synthesize novel miR-30c analogs with increasing potency and efficacy, including 2’-O-methyl (2’OMe), 2’-fluoro (2’F), pseudouridine (ᴪ), phosphorothioate (PS), and N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc). The discovery of these modifications has profoundly impacted the modern RNA therapeutics, as evidenced by their increased nuclease stability and reduction in immune responses. We show that modifications on the passenger strand of miR-30c not only stabilize the duplex but also aid in a more readily uptake by the cells without the aid of viral vectors or lipid emulsions. After uptake, the analogs with PS linkages and GalNAc-modified ribonucleotides significantly reduce the secretion of apolipoprotein B (ApoB) without affecting apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1) in human hepatoma Huh-7 cells. We envision an enormous potential for these modified miR-30c analogs in therapeutic intervention for treating cardiovascular diseases.

0 Q&A 807 Views Nov 20, 2022

Genome-wide screens using yeast or phage displays are powerful tools for identifying protein–ligand interactions, including drug or vaccine targets, ligand receptors, or protein–protein interactions. However, assembling libraries for genome-wide screens can be challenging and often requires unbiased cloning of 105–107 DNA fragments for a complete representation of a eukaryote genome. A sub-optimal genomic library can miss key genomic sequences and thus result in biased screens. Here, we describe an efficient method to generate genome-wide libraries for yeast surface display using Gibson assembly. The protocol entails genome fragmentation, ligation of adapters, library cloning using Gibson assembly, library transformation, library DNA recovery, and a streamlined Oxford nanopore library sequencing procedure that covers the length of the cloned DNA fragments. We also describe a computational pipeline to analyze the library coverage of the genome and predict the proportion of expressed proteins. The method allows seamless library transfer among multiple vectors and can be easily adapted to any expression system.

0 Q&A 689 Views Nov 20, 2022

Ion homeostasis is a fundamental regulator of cellular processes and depends upon lipid membranes, which function as ion permeability barriers. Ionophores facilitate ion transport across cell membranes and offer a way to manipulate cellular ion composition. Here, we describe a calcein quenching assay based on large unilamellar vesicles that we used to evaluate divalent cation transport of the ionophore 4-Br-A23187. This assay can be used to study metal transport by ionophores and membrane proteins, under well-defined conditions.

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0 Q&A 645 Views Nov 5, 2022

Mature B-cell lymphomas are highly dependent upon the protective lymphoid organ microenvironment for their growth and survival. Targeting integrin-mediated homing and retention of the malignant B cells in the lymphoid organs, using the Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor ibrutinib, is a highly efficacious FDA-approved therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), and Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM). Unfortunately, a significant subset of patients is intrinsically resistant to ibrutinib or will develop resistance upon prolonged treatment. Here, we describe an unbiased functional genomic CRISPR-Cas9 screening method to identify novel proteins involved in B-cell receptor–controlled integrin-mediated adhesion, which provides novel therapeutic targets to overcome ibrutinib resistance. This screening method is highly flexible and can be easily adapted to identify cell adhesion–regulatory proteins and signaling pathways for other stimuli, adhesion molecules, and cell types.

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0 Q&A 731 Views Oct 20, 2022

Single-molecule measurements provide statistical distributions of molecular properties, in addition to the ensemble averages. Evanescent detection approaches have been widely used for single-molecule detection because the evanescent field can significantly enhance the light-analyte interaction and reduce the background noise. However, current evanescent single-molecule detection systems mostly require specially designed sensing components. Here, we show that single proteins can be imaged on a plain cover glass surface by detecting the evanescent waves scattered by the target molecules. This allows us to quantify the protein–antibody interactions at the single-molecule level. This protocol describes a label-free single-molecule imaging approach with conventional consumables and may pave the road for detecting single molecules with commercial optical microscopy.

0 Q&A 703 Views Oct 5, 2022

Few models exist that allow for rapid and effective screening of anti-metastasis drugs. Here, we present a drug screening protocol utilizing gastrulation of zebrafish embryos for identification of anti-metastasis drugs. Based on the evidence that metastasis proceeds through utilizing the molecular mechanisms of gastrulation, we hypothesized that chemicals interrupting zebrafish gastrulation might suppress the metastasis of cancer cells. Thus, we developed a phenotype-based chemical screen that uses epiboly, the first morphogenetic movement in gastrulation, as a marker. The screen only needs zebrafish embryos and enables hundreds of chemicals to be tested in five hours by observing the epiboly progression of chemical-treated embryos. In the screen, embryos at the two-cell stage are firstly corrected and then developed to the sphere stage. The embryos are treated with a test chemical and incubated in the presence of the chemical until vehicle-treated embryos develop to the 90% epiboly stage. Finally, positive ‘hit’ chemicals that interrupt epiboly progression are selected by comparing epiboly progression of the chemical-treated and vehicle-treated embryos under a stereoscopic microscope. A previous study subjected 1,280 FDA-approved drugs to the screen and identified adrenosterone and pizotifen as epiboly-interrupting drugs. These were validated to suppress metastasis of breast cancer cells in mice models of metastasis. Furthermore, 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11β1) and serotonin receptor 2C (HTR2C), the primary targets of adrenosterone and pizotifen, respectively, promoted metastasis through induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Therefore, this screen could be converted into a chemical genetic screening platform for identification of metastasis-promoting genes.

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0 Q&A 605 Views Oct 5, 2022

Here, we present the first quantitative method for the activity analysis of protealysin-like protease (PLP) inhibitors. This approach is based on a previously developed method for protealysin activity determination by hydrolysis of internally quenched fluorescent peptide substrate 2-aminobenzoyl-L-arginyl-L-seryl-L-valyl-L-isoleucyl-L-(ϵ-2,4-dinitrophenyl)lysine. In this protocol, we significantly reduced enzyme concentration and introduced some minor modifications to decrease variation between replicates. The protocol was validated using emfourin, a novel proteinaceous metalloprotease inhibitor. Data obtained demonstrates that the developed assay method is an affordable approach for characterizing and screening various PLP inhibitors.

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0 Q&A 956 Views Oct 5, 2022

Bispecific antibodies (BsAbs) are typically monoclonal antibody (mAb)–derived molecular entities engineered to bind to two distinct targets, including two antigens or two epitopes on the same antigen. When compared to parental monoclonal antibodies or combinational therapies, the generated BsAbs have the ability to bridge the two targets and thus may offer additional clinical benefits. Characterizing BsAbs’ ability to bind to both targets simultaneously is critical for their biotherapeutic development. A range of bi-functional quantitative bridging assays to enable target-specific capture and detection of binding properties include enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), surface plasmon resonance (SPR), and cell-based flow cytometry. Developing suitable and robust cell-based bioassays is more challenging than non-cell-based binding assays because cell-based assays with complex matrices can be inherently variable and often lack precision. Compared to SPR, ELISA has a rapid setup and readily available method, being widely and extensively applied in almost every laboratory. Here, we describe a dual-target bridging ELISA assay that characterizes the ability of a HER2(human epidermal growth factor receptor 2)/PD-L1(programmed cell death ligand 1) BsAb in binding to both HER2 and PD-L1 simultaneously, a prerequisite for its envisioned mode of action.

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