Using Small Molecules to Inhibit an E2A-PBX1:CBP Interaction Involved in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
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E2A-PBX1 is expressed as a consequence of a recurring chromosomal translocation seen in 5% of acute lymphoblastic leukemia cases. We recently reported that substitution of a leucine residue (L20A) within the N-terminal transcriptional activation domain (AD1) of E2A-PBX1 markedly impairs binding to the KIX domain of CBP/p300 and, importantly, leukemia induction in a mouse bone marrow transplantation model. Since both the protein-protein interaction and consequent leukemogenesis rely on a focal contact point and might therefore be susceptible to antagonism by small molecules, we devised a cell-free assay based on fluorescence anisotropy (FA) to detect binding of a fluorescently labeled peptide derived from AD1 of E2A-PBX1 (FITC-E2A) with recombinantly expressed KIX domain. The optimized FA assay reveals a dissociation constant of 2 µM for the wild-type interaction and correctly detects disruption of the complex by naphthol AS-E phosphate, a compound previously shown to antagonize KIX binding. The optimized FA assay was used to screen the Prestwick, Spectrum and Chembridge libraries containing 12400 compounds in total. Of the initial 43 positive hits from the libraries, 10 caused a reproducible decrease in FA. Since intrinsic small molecule fluorescence can produce false positive results in the FA-based screen, intrinsically fluorescent compounds were excluded from further analysis unless they could be shown to bind to KIX. Two hits, L1 and C2, were intrinsically fluorescent but demonstrated KIX interactions and one hit, P9, was not intrinsically fluorescent. These three compounds were tested for their ability to inhibit binding of a larger portion of E2A (residues 1 to 483) to full length CBP in a pull down assay with only compound P9 demonstrating efficacy. Further characterization of P9 by NMR showed no binding to KIX, however evaluation by FA showed binding to FITC-E2A with a 20 µM affinity. A cell-based cytotoxicity assay demonstrated that compound P9 was slightly more toxic on leukemic cells that express E2A-PBX1, compared to leukemic cells lacking E2A-PBX1 expression. Mammalian two-hybrid analysis did not provide details of the effects of P9 on the E2A:KIX interaction. We expect the identification of a novel compound, P9, capable of disrupting the oncogenic E2A-PBX1:CBP interaction, to guide the development of effective, less toxic leukemia drugs and provide new tools for elucidating the molecular mechanisms of leukemia induction by E2A-PBX1.