HSP90 is a cellular chaperone that stabilizes several signal transduction networks important to cancer cells. Several years ago, we discovered that members of the benzoquinone ansamycin class of antibiotics, including herbimycin A and geldanamycin (GA) bound to HSP90 and disrupted its function. Multiple signal transduction proteins interact with these chaperones, including the kinases src, erbB2, c-raf-1, Akt, Kit, Met, Bcr-Abl, the transcription factor HIF-1alpha, and mutated (but not wild type) p53. A general consequence of pharmacologic disruption of the chaperone/signal protein complex is the resultant marked instability and incorrect subcellular localization of the signaling protein. The instability is due to stimulation of targeted degradation of the signaling protein by the 26S proteasome proteolytic complex following chaperone dissociation. We have observed that geldanamycin reverses beta-catenin tyrosine phosphorylation in melanoma cells, probably due to the rapid loss of erbB2 from these cells. In untreated cells, erbB2 and beta-catenin can be readily co-precipitated. Loss of beta-catenin tyrosine phosphorylation leads to an increased association with E-cadherin and decreased cell motility in vitro. This is the first indication that modulation of the tyrosine phosphorylation status of beta catenin in melanoma cells is associated with decreased motility. The fact that beta-catenin tyrosine phosphorylation seems to be mediated, in 3/3 melanoma cell lines examined, by erbB2 - a geldanamycin-sensitive tyrosine kinase - suggests that geldanamycin treatment may be anti-metastatic. This hypothesis is currently being tested in an in vivo metastasis model. In collaboration with Brian Blagg of the Univ. of Kansas, we have identified a series of novobiocin derivatives that demonstrate improved binding affinity and anti-Hsp90 activity compared to the parental compound, and we have demonstrated the ability of several of these derivatives to deplete Hsp90 client proteins in tumor cells. The ErbB family of receptor tyrosine kinases contains four members. We have found that ErbB2, the only ligandless member of the family, is one of the most sensitive geldanamycin substrates. In contrast, mature ErbB1 is much less sensitive to geldanamycin than ErbB2. However, ErbB1 mutants found in NSCLC are highly dependent on Hsp90 and sensitive to its pharmacologic inhibition. In collaboration with Yong Lee of the Center for Information Technology, NIH, we have identified a short loop in the kinase domain of ErbB2 whose hydrophobicity and charge determine Hsp90 binding. We have shown that Hsp90 client kinases and non-client kinases differ in the charge distribution and hydrophobicity of this small region of the kinase domain. We recently identified the novel E3 ubiquitin ligase Chip as being recruited to ErbB2-associated chaperone complexes in the presence of geldanamycin. Chip mediates geldanamycin induced ErbB2 ubiquitination, which is necessary for, and precedes, its degradation by the proteasome. We have recently identified the site within the kinase domain of ErbB2 at which Hsp90 binds and we have proposed a model to explain remodeling of ErbB2-associated chaperone complexes in the presence of geldanamycin and other Hsp90 inhibitors. We have demonstrated that combination of low doses of geldanamycin and a proteasome inhibitor currently in clinical trial increases the toxicity toward tumor cells compared to that observed with each agent alone. We showed that this property was unique to tumor cells, in that the combination was not toxic to non-transformed cells at the concentrations tested. Further, we proposed a model to explain these results that invokes proteasome overload and deposition in the cell of insoluble proteins, leading to initiation of apoptosis. These data have led to initiation of a phase I combination clinical trial of an Hsp90 inhibitor and a proteasome inhibitor, in collaboration with investigators at the Mayo Clinic. We demonstrated that the trans-membrane endoplasmic reticulum signaling proteins, IRE1 and PERK, are Hsp90 client proteins and are thus sensitive to Hsp90 inhibitors. These data were the first to link Hsp90 to proper function of the unfolded protein response. The data further underline the crucial role of Hsp90 in allowing cells to survive stressful stimuli. We recently demonstrated that HIF-1alpha, a transcription factor whose expression is upregulated by hypoxia and loss of VHL, is an Hsp90 client protein and is sensitive to Hsp90 inhibition. These data were the first to identify an oxygen- and VHL-independent pathway regulating HIF stability and they identify a pathway that is amenable to pharmacologic manipulation using Hsp90 inhibitors. These data have led to initiation, in the Urologic Oncology Branch, of a phase II clinical trial of benzoquinone ansamycins in clear cell kidney cancer (lacking VHL and expressing HIF-1alpha at constitutively high levels). We identified kinase-mutated KIT protein to be sensitive to Hsp90 inhibition. Kinase-mutated KIT is resistant to imatinib and other KIT inhibitors currently in the clinic. Kinase-mutated KIT is characteristic of mastocytosis and mast cell leukemia. Based on our findings, a phase II study of an Hsp90 inhibitor to treat mastocytosis has been initiated as an NCI/NIAID/Mayo Clinic collaborative trial. We demonstrated that MET and mutated MET kinases, characteristic of papillary renal cell cancer, are sensitive to Hsp90 inhibition, and that Hsp90 inhibitors restore kinase inhibitor sensitivity to previously resistant mutated MET proteins. Based on these findings, a phase II clinical trial of an Hsp90 inhibitor in papillary renal cell cancer is being developed in the Urologic Oncology Branch. We identified Hsp90 on the surface of metastatic fibrosarcoma cells and demonstrated that specific inhibition of surface Hsp90 (using cell impermeable geldanamycin derivatives) significantly inhibits cell invasiveness. Further, we showed that inhibition of surface of Hsp90 prevented the maturation of MMP2, a metalloproteinase that has been implicated in fostering invasion and metastasis. We are currently evaluating whether surface Hsp90 may be a specific target in metastatic cancer cells. We have gone on to show, in a bladder cancer model system, that cell-impermeable Hsp90 inhibitors have dramatic inhibitory effects on cell migration and invasiveness, while having minimal growth inhibitory activity. We have extended these studies to include bladder, breast, prostate, and melanoma cancer cell lines with similar results. We have also shown that combination of Hsp90 inhibition with proteasome inhibition is especially toxic to highly secretory tumor cells (while sparing normal cells). We have provided evidence that this drug combination disrupts the endoplasmic reticulum and therefore we hypothesize that the endoplasmic reticulum is a viable target in cancer cells. We have also shown that Hsp90 inhibition is a potent radiosensitizer, in a cervical cancer model, both in vitro and in vivo. We have provided evidence that geldanamycin cannot bind to Hsp90 without first being isomerized by the chaperone. This may provide binding specificity for activated forms of Hsp90, the state of the chaperone which is characteristic of cancer cells, but not normal cells. We speculate, therefore, that making use of this property may permit us to synthesize more potent, tumor Hsp90-prefering inhibitors. We have initial evidence that not all Hsp90 inhibitors recognize/trap the same conformation of the chaperone and not all Hsp90 molecules in cells interacts efficiently with these drugs. We identified a novel lead compound that interferes with Hsp90/FKBP52-dependent chaperoning of the androgen receptor. This compound acts via a mechanism that is unique compared to other androgen receptor antagonists.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Investigator-Initiated Intramural Research Projects (ZIA)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
National Cancer Institute Division of Clinical Sciences
Zip Code
Mollapour, Mehdi; Bourboulia, Dimitra; Beebe, Kristin et al. (2014) Asymmetric Hsp90 N domain SUMOylation recruits Aha1 and ATP-competitive inhibitors. Mol Cell 53:317-29
Wang, Yuanzhong; Xu, Wanping; Zhou, Dujin et al. (2014) Coordinated regulation of serum- and glucocorticoid-inducible kinase 3 by a C-terminal hydrophobic motif and Hsp90-Cdc37 chaperone complex. J Biol Chem 289:4815-26
Khiati, Salim; Dalla Rosa, Ilaria; Sourbier, Carole et al. (2014) Mitochondrial topoisomerase I (top1mt) is a novel limiting factor of doxorubicin cardiotoxicity. Clin Cancer Res 20:4873-81
Rasola, Andrea; Neckers, Len; Picard, Didier (2014) Mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation TRAP(1)ped in tumor cells. Trends Cell Biol 24:455-63
Giubellino, Alessio; Sourbier, Carole; Lee, Min-Jung et al. (2013) Targeting heat shock protein 90 for the treatment of malignant pheochromocytoma. PLoS One 8:e56083
Bourboulia, Dimitra; Han, HuiYing; Jensen-Taubman, Sandra et al. (2013) TIMP-2 modulates cancer cell transcriptional profile and enhances E-cadherin/beta-catenin complex expression in A549 lung cancer cells. Oncotarget 4:166-76
Miyata, Yoshihiko; Nakamoto, Hitoshi; Neckers, Len (2013) The therapeutic target Hsp90 and cancer hallmarks. Curr Pharm Des 19:347-65
Yoshida, Soichiro; Tsutsumi, Shinji; Muhlebach, Guillaume et al. (2013) Molecular chaperone TRAP1 regulates a metabolic switch between mitochondrial respiration and aerobic glycolysis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:E1604-12
Neckers, Len; Workman, Paul (2012) Hsp90 molecular chaperone inhibitors: are we there yet? Clin Cancer Res 18:64-76
Tsutsumi, Shinji; Beebe, Kristin; Neckers, Len (2009) Impact of heat-shock protein 90 on cancer metastasis. Future Oncol 5:679-88

Showing the most recent 10 out of 26 publications