A cell competition-based small molecule screen identifies a novel compound that induces dual c-Myc depletion and p53 activation
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Biological Chemistry. 2020, 296, 100179. 10.1074/jbc.RA120.015285
Breakpoint Cluster Region-Abelson kinase (BCR–Abl) is a driver oncogene that causes chronic myeloid leukemia and a subset of acute lymphoid leukemias. Although tyrosine kinase inhibitors provide an effective treatment for these diseases, they generally do not kill leukemic stem cells (LSCs), the cancer-initiating cells that compete with normal hematopoietic stem cells for the bone marrow niche. New strategies to target cancers driven by BCR–Abl are therefore urgently needed. We performed a small molecule screen based on competition between isogenic untransformed cells and BCR–Abl-transformed cells and identified several compounds that selectively impair the fitness of BCR–Abl-transformed cells. Interestingly, systems-level analysis of one of these novel compounds, DJ34, revealed that it induced depletion of c-Myc and activation of p53. DJ34-mediated c-Myc depletion occurred in a wide range of tumor cell types, including lymphoma, lung, glioblastoma, breast cancer, and several forms of leukemia, with primary LSCs being particularly sensitive to DJ34. Further analyses revealed that DJ34 interferes with c-Myc synthesis at the level of transcription, and we provide data showing that DJ34 is a DNA intercalator and topoisomerase II inhibitor. Physiologically, DJ34 induced apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, and cell differentiation. Taken together, we have identified a novel compound that dually targets c-Myc and p53 in a wide variety of cancers, and with particularly strong activity against LSCs.