Spirocyclic dimer SpiD7 activates the unfolded protein response to selectively inhibit growth and induce apoptosis of cancer cells

Smit Kour, Sandeep Rana, Sydney P. Kubica, Smitha Kizhake, Mudassier Ahmad, Catalina Muñoz-Trujillo, David L Klinkebiel, Sarbjit Singh, Jayapal Reddy Mallareddy, Surabhi Chandra, Nicholas T. Woods, Adam R. Karpf, Amarnath Natarajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The unfolded protein response (UPR) is an adaptation mechanism activated to resolve transient accumulation of unfolded/misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum. Failure to resolve the transient accumulation of such proteins results in UPR-mediated programmed cell death. Loss of tumor suppressor gene or oncogene addiction in cancer cells can result in sustained higher basal UPR levels; however, it is not clear if these higher basal UPR levels in cancer cells can be exploited as a therapeutic strategy. We hypothesized that covalent modification of surface-exposed cysteine (SEC) residues could simulate unfolded/misfolded proteins to activate the UPR, and that higher basal UPR levels in cancer cells would provide the necessary therapeutic window. To test this hypothesis, here we synthesized analogs that can covalently modify multiple SEC residues and evaluated them as UPR activators. We identified a spirocyclic dimer, SpiD7, and evaluated its effects on UPR activation signals, that is, XBP1 splicing, phosphorylation of eIF2α, and a decrease in ATF 6 levels, in normal and cancer cells, which were further confirmed by RNA-Seq analyses. We found that SpiD7 selectively induced caspase-mediated apoptosis in cancer cells, whereas normal cells exhibited robust XBP1 splicing, indicating adaptation to stress. Furthermore, SpiD7 inhibited the growth of high-grade serous carcinoma cell lines ~3-15-fold more potently than immortalized fallopian tube epithelial (paired normal control) cells and reduced clonogenic growth of high-grade serous carcinoma cell lines. Our results suggest that induction of the UPR by covalent modification of SEC residues represents a cancer cell vulnerability and can be exploited to discover novel therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101890
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume298
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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