We propose a novel approach to identifying new probes and potential anticancer agents based on reducing expression of c-Myc and other oncogenes, MDR1 (multidrug resistance protein 1) and NF-?B by targeting the mRNA binding protein IMP-1/CRD-BP/IGF2BP1. IMP-1 is an oncofetal mRNA binding protein that binds to and stabilizes the mRNAs encoding c-Myc, K-Ras, ERK and other oncogenes, MDR1, and indirectly increases activity of the tumor enabling factor NF-?B. ?-catenin and c-Myc induce IMP-1 and it is a key regulatory target of let-7 microRNA. Reducing IMP-1 levels by RNAi knockdown, or by expression of let-7 miRNA, reduces c- Myc levels, strongly inhibits cell proliferation and reverses resistance to anticancer drugs. Kaplan-Meier plots show that expression of IMP-1 is associated with a poor prognosis and reduced survival in lung, ovarian and colon cancer. Small molecule inhibitors of IMP-1 have not been reported. In preliminary studies, we identified an IMP-1 binding and mRNA stabilizing site in MDR1 mRNA, established a (FAMA) fluorescence anisotropy/polarization microplate assay for analyzing binding of IMP-1 to its c-Myc and MDR1 mRNA targets, developed a robust (Z'factor=0.64) FAMA-based high throughput screen for inhibitors of binding of IMP-1 to a c-Myc mRNA binding site and carried out a successful pilot screen. To filter the primary hits, we established verification assays based on purified protein, luciferase reporters and cell-proliferation.
The Specific Aims are:
Aim 1. To identify small molecules with high potency and specificity that inhibit binding of IMP-1 to its c-Myc mRNA binding site. We will implement a FAMA HTS screen using ~180,000 small molecules and identify compounds that inhibit binding of purified IMP-1 to a fluorescein-labeled (fl) c-Myc mRNA binding site. To reduce the number of false positives, our two-step assay first uses an internal counterscreen to test whether each compound reduces the signal from the fl-Myc probe alone and then tests whether the compound inhibits binding of IMP-1 to the fl-Myc probe. (i) Primary hits will be simultaneously verified using fl-Myc and tested for ability to inhibit bindingof IMP-1 to the fl-MDR1 mRNA binding site (ii) To test for specificity, we will evaluate hits for inhibition of binding of progesterone receptor (PR) to its fl-DNA response element (fl-PRE). (iii) Potency and efficacy of hits will be evaluated in dose-response studies.
Aim 2. To identify lead IMP-1 inhibitors which reduce the growth of cancer cells. Initial cell-based assays are luciferase-based assays for small molecules that inhibit expression of NF-?B-luciferase and our luciferase- MDR1 mRNA chimera and for inhibition of proliferation of IMP-1 positive IGROV-1 and ES-2 ovarian cancer cells with little or no effect on IMP-1 negative PC-3 cells. To approach inhibitor sites of action, lead compounds will be tested for down-regulation of IMP-1 protein and c-Myc and MDR1 mRNA and protein. Microarray studies using IMP-1 negative cells will assess possible off-target effects of the lead inhibitor. Lead structures will be confirmed, leads resynthesized and structural studies of inhibitor bound to IMP-1 will be initiated.

Public Health Relevance

IMP-1 overexpression leads to increased levels of proteins that promote tumor growth and resistance to anticancer drugs and is associated with a poor prognosis and reduced survival in lung, colon and ovarian cancer. We will use our high throughput screen to identify the first small molecule inhibitors of IMP-1. These IMP-1 inhibitors will be important probes for studying the actions of IMP-1 and are candidates for further therapeutic development.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Forry, Suzanne L
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Mahapatra, Lily; Mao, Chengjian; Andruska, Neal et al. (2014) High-throughput fluorescence anisotropy screen for inhibitors of the oncogenic mRNA binding protein, IMP-1. J Biomol Screen 19:427-36