Multi-kinase inhibitor c1 triggers mitotic catastrophe of glioma stem cells mainly through melk kinase inhibition
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092546.g002
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a highly lethal brain tumor. Due to resistance to current therapies, patient prognosis remains poor and development of novel and effective GBM therapy is crucial. Glioma stem cells (GSCs) have gained attention as a therapeutic target in GBM due to their relative resistance to current therapies and potent tumor-initiating ability. Previously, we identified that the mitotic kinase maternal embryonic leucine-zipper kinase (MELK) is highly expressed in GBM tissues, specifically in GSCs, and its expression is inversely correlated with the post-surgical survival period of GBM patients. In addition, patient-derived GSCs depend on MELK for their survival and growth both in vitro and in vivo. Here, we demonstrate evidence that the role of MELK in the GSC survival is specifically dependent on its kinase activity. With in silico structure-based analysis for protein-compound interaction, we identified the small molecule Compound 1 (C1) is predicted to bind to the kinase-active site of MELK protein. Elimination of MELK kinase activity was confirmed by in vitro kinase assay in nano-molar concentrations. When patient-derived GSCs were treated with C1, they underwent mitotic arrest and subsequent cellular apoptosis in vitro, a phenotype identical to that observed with shRNA-mediated MELK knockdown. In addition, C1 treatment strongly induced tumor cell apoptosis in slice cultures of GBM surgical specimens and attenuated growth of mouse intracranial tumors derived from GSCs in a dose-dependent manner. Lastly, C1 treatment sensitizes GSCs to radiation treatment. Collectively, these data indicate that targeting MELK kinase activity is a promising approach to attenuate GBM growth by eliminating GSCs in tumors. © 2014 Minata et.