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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Fe-S cluster-containing NEET proteins mitoNEET and NAF-1 as chemotherapeutic targets in breast cancer

  • Author(s): Bai, F
  • Morcos, F
  • Sohn, YS
  • Darash-Yahana, M
  • Rezende, CO
  • Lipper, CH
  • Paddock, ML
  • Song, L
  • Luo, Y
  • Holt, SH
  • Tamir, S
  • Theodorakis, EA
  • Jennings, PA
  • Onuchic, JN
  • Mittler, R
  • Nechushtai, R
  • et al.

© 2015, National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Identification of novel drug targets and chemotherapeutic agents is a high priority in the fight against cancer. Here, we report that MAD-28, a designed cluvenone (CLV) derivative, binds to and destabilizes two members of a unique class of mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) 2Fe-2S proteins, mitoNEET (mNT) and nutrient-deprivation autophagy factor-1 (NAF-1), recently implicated in cancer cell proliferation. Docking analysis of MAD-28 to mNT/NAF-1 revealed that in contrast to CLV, which formed a hydrogen bond network that stabilized the 2Fe-2S clusters of these proteins, MAD-28 broke the coordinative bond between the His ligand and the cluster's Fe of mNT/NAF-1. Analysis of MAD-28 performed with control (Michigan Cancer Foundation; MCF-10A) and malignant (M.D. Anderson-metastatic breast; MDA-MB-231 or MCF-7) human epithelial breast cells revealed that MAD-28 had a high specificity in the selective killing of cancer cells, without any apparent effects on normal breast cells. MAD-28 was found to target the mitochondria of cancer cells and displayed a surprising similarity in its effects to the effects of mNT/NAF-1 shRNA suppression in cancer cells, causing a decrease in respiration and mitochondrial membrane potential, as well as an increase in mitochondrial iron content and glycolysis. As expected, if the NEET proteins are targets of MAD-28, cancer cells with suppressed levels of NAF-1 or mNT were less susceptible to the drug. Taken together, our results suggest that NEET proteins are a novel class of drug targets in the chemotherapeutic treatment of breast cancer, and that MAD-28 can now be used as a template for rational drug design for NEET Fe-S cluster-destabilizing anticancer drugs.

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