Research Papers:

Targeting the apoptotic Mcl-1-PUMA interface with a dual-acting compound

Jiyuan Liu, Zhen Tian, Nan Zhou, Xueying Liu, Chenyi Liao, Beilei Lei, Jianing Li, Shengyong Zhang and Hui Chen _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:54236-54242. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17294

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Jiyuan Liu1,3,*, Zhen Tian3,*, Nan Zhou1,*, Xueying Liu1, Chenyi Liao2, Beilei Lei3, Jianing Li2, Shengyong Zhang1,3 and Hui Chen1

1Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an 710032, Shaanxi, China

2Department of Chemistry, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA

3Northwest A&F University, Yangling, 712100, Shaanxi, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Hui Chen, email: [email protected]

Jianing Li, email: [email protected]

Shengyong Zhang, email: [email protected]

Keywords: protein-protein interaction, Mcl-1 inhibitor, PUMA modulator, drug development, pharmacophore modelling

Received: January 05, 2017     Accepted: April 11, 2017     Published: April 20, 2017


Despite intensive efforts in the search for small molecules with anti-cancer activity, it remains challenging to achieve both high effectiveness and safety, since many agents lack the selectivity to only act on cancer cells. The interface of two apoptotic proteins, myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mcl-1) and p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis (PUMA), has been recently affirmed as a target for treating cancers, as the disruption of Mcl-1-PUMA binding can reduce cancer cell survival and protect normal cells from apoptosis. However, therapeutic agents that target this interface are yet to be found. In this work, we combined pharmacophore modelling and biological tests to seek small molecules which target the Mcl-1-PUMA interface. For the first time, a small-molecule compound was identified. Its dual activity has been validated to reduce PUMA-dependent apoptosis while deactivating Mcl-1-mediated anti-apoptosis in cancer cells. Our results would provide a new avenue for the development of effective and safe anti-cancer agents.

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