Research Papers:

Molecular targeting of protein arginine deiminases to suppress colitis and prevent colon cancer

Erin E. Witalison, Xiangli Cui, Corey P. Causey, Paul R. Thompson and Lorne J. Hofseth _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:36053-36062. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5937

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Erin E. Witalison1, Xiangli Cui1,2, Corey P. Causey3, Paul R. Thompson4 and Lorne J. Hofseth1

1 Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences, South Carolina College of Pharmacy, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA

2 Shanxi Medical University, Taiyun, China

3 Department of Chemistry, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL, USA

4 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA

Correspondence to:

Lorne J. Hofseth, email:

Keywords: protein arginine deiminases, colorectal cancer, cancer prevention, microRNA, epigenetics

Received: September 03, 2015 Accepted: September 16, 2015 Published: September 30, 2015


Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease, in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops ulcers leading to abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. The extent of these symptoms depends on disease severity. The protein arginine deiminase (PAD) family of enzymes converts peptidyl-Arginine to peptidyl-Citrulline through citrullination. PADs are dysregulated, with abnormal citrullination in many diseases, including UC and colorectal cancer (CRC). We have developed the small molecule, pan-PAD inhibitor, Chlor-amidine (Cl-amidine), with multiple goals, including treating UC and preventing CRC. Building off our recent results showing that: 1) Cl-amidine suppresses colitis in vivo in a dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) mouse model; and 2) Cl-amidine induces microRNA (miR)-16 in vitro causing cell cycle arrest, we tested the hypothesis that Cl-amidine can prevent tumorigenesis and that miR-16 induction, by Cl-amidine, may be involved in vivo. Consistent with our hypothesis, we present evidence that Cl-amidine, delivered in the drinking water, prevents colon tumorigenesis in our mouse model of colitis-associated CRC where mice are given carcinogenic azoxymethane (AOM), followed by multiple cycles of 2% DSS to induce colitis. To begin identifying mechanisms, we examined the effects of Cl-amidine on miR-16. Results show miR-16 suppression during the colitis-to-cancer sequence in colon epithelial cells, which was rescued by drinking Cl-amidine. Likewise, Ki67 and cellular proliferation targets of miR-16 (Cyclins D1 and E1) were suppressed by Cl-amidine. The decrease in cell proliferation markers and increase in tumor suppressor miRNA expression potentially define a mechanism of how Cl-amidine is suppressing tumorigenesis in vivo.

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