Promoter G-quadruplexes and their Interactions with Ligands and Proteins
KeywordsDNA Secondary Structures
DNA-small Molecule Interactionss
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 26-Sep-2017
AbstractG-quadruplex secondary structures are four-stranded globular nucleic acid structures that form in specific DNA and RNA G-rich sequences with biological significance, such as those found in human telomeres, oncogene promoter regions, replication initiation sites, and 5’- and 3’-untranslated (UTR) regions, which have been identified as novel drug targets. The non-canonical G-quadruplex secondary structures readily form under physiologically relevant ionic conditions, and exhibit great diversity in their topologies and loop conformations depending on the DNA or RNA sequences at hand. The structural diversity of these unique secondary structures is essential to their specific recognition by different regulatory proteins or small molecule compounds. A significant amount of research has been done in this field that provides compelling evidence for the existence, biological significance, and potential druggability of G-quadruplexes. In this dissertation, I explore G-quadruplex formation in the promoters of BCL2, PDGFR-β and c-Myc oncogenes and their interactions with small molecule compounds or proteins. Firstly, I investigated a newly-identified G-quadruplex (P1G4) forming immediately upstream of the human BCL2 gene, which has been found to be overexpressed in several human tumors. In this research, I have found that P1G4 acts as a transcription repressor, and that its inhibitory effect can be enriched by the G-quadruplex-interactive compound, TMPyP4. Both P1G4 and the previously reported Pu39 G-quadruplexes form independently in adjacent regions within the BCL2 P1 promoter, but P1G4 appears to play a more dominant role in repressing transcriptional activity. NMR and CD studies have shown that the P1G4 G-quadruplex appears to comprise a novel dynamic equilibrium of two parallel structures, one regular, with two 1-nt loops and a 12-nt middle loop, and another broken-stranded, with three 1-nt loops and an 11-nt middle loop; both structures adopt a novel hairpin (stem-loop duplex) conformation in the long central loop. This dynamic equilibrium of two closely-related G-quadruplex structures with a unique hairpin loop conformation may provide a specific target for small molecules to modulate BCL2 gene transcription. I also explored the 3’ end G-quadruplex that forms within the core promoter of PDGFR-β, which has also been observed to be present at abnormal levels in a variety of clinical pathologies, including malignancies. The 3′-end G-quadruplex formed in the PDGFR-β promoter NHE appears to be selectively stabilized by an ellipticine analog, GSA1129, which can shift the dynamic equilibrium in the full-length sequence to favor the 3′-end G-quadruplex, and can repress PDGFR-β activity in cancer cell lines. NMR studies in combination with biophysical experiments have shown that in the wild-type extended 3ʼ-end NHE sequences, two novel intramolecular G-quadruplexes can be formed in a potassium solution, one with a 3’-flanking distant guanine inserted into the 3’-external tetrad (3’-insertion G-quadruplex), and another with a 5’-flanking distant guanine inserted into the 5’-external tetrad (5’-insertion G-quadruplex). Further investigation of the elongated PDGFR-β 3′-end sequence containing both the 5’- and 3’- flanking guanine sequences showed the formation of a combination of the two G-quadruplexes existing in equilibrium. Importantly, it was observed that GSA1129 can bind to and increase the stability of each of the end-insertion G-quadruplexes, raising their Tₘ by 25 degrees. This study highlights the dynamic nature of the 3′-end NHE sequence and the importance of identifying the proper sequence for the formation of biologically relevant G-quadruplex structures. Significantly, the dynamic nature of the 3′-end G-quadruplex suggests that it may be an attractive target for drug regulation. I then analyzed two proteins, Nucleolin and NM23-H2, which interact with the c-Myc G-quadruplex structure that forms in the proximal promoter region of the c-Myc gene; this is one of the most commonly deregulated genes in the human neoplasm. Nucleolin is known to be a transcriptional repressor for c-Myc, binding to and stabilizing the c-Myc G-quadruplex, whereas NM23-H2 is known to be a transcriptional activator that unwinds and destabilizes the c-Myc G-quadruplex. An investigation of the molecular mechanisms of the interaction between the c-Myc G-quadruplex and nucleolin showed that the minimal binding domains required for a tight binding of the protein to the c-Myc G-quadruplex are the four RNA binding domains (RBDs) of nucleolin, referred to as Nuc1234, and that the RGG domain is unnecessary for c-Myc G-quadruplex binding. The stable G-quadruplex formed within Pu27 using G-tract runs I, II, IV and V was determined to be the best substrate (Myc1245T) for nucleolin binding, showing the highest affinity. 3D NMR experiments performed on the free protein Nuc1234 and its complex with the Myc1245T G-quadruplex have shown that upon complex formation, only the disordered linker regions of the protein display significant chemical shift changes, whereas most other residues show chemical shift values similar to those of the free protein. The c-Myc G-quadruplex has three loops that flip outward in a solvent containing K⁺, according to its structure. The hypothesis for this association is that nucleolin wraps around the G-quadruplex and interacts specifically with the flipped-outward loop regions of the c-Myc G-quadruplex via its own inter-RBD linker regions, with little structural change in the RBDs themselves. A definitive determination of the 3D molecular structure of nucleolin and its complex with Myc1245T is currently in development. Biophysical and structural studies were then conducted to investigate the interactions of the protein NM23-H2/NDP kinase B with the c-Myc G-quadruplex. NM23-H2 binds to single-stranded guanine- and cytosine-rich sequences, but not to double-stranded DNA in the NHE III₁ region; the binding therefore appears structure-specific, rather than sequence-specific. Moreover, increasing concentrations of the strong G-quadruplex-interactive compound TMPyP4, a porphyrin-based drug, inhibits the binding of NM23-H2 to the NHE III₁ region; this suggests that the stabilization of the G-quadruplex hinders the recognition and remodeling function of the NM23-H2. By conducting Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) assays in combination with Circular Dichroism (CD) studies, I demonstrated that NM23-H2 can actively resolve the c-Myc G-quadruplex. Taken together, these results show that the use of small molecules to prevent NM23-H2 from binding to and resolving the NHE III₁ region G-quadruplex may have the potential to inhibit c-Myc transcription for cancer therapeutic purposes. This underlines the importance of understanding the mechanism of function operating between NM23-H2 and the c-Myc G-quadruplex. Understanding molecular mechanism between NM23-H2 and c-Myc is under investigation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College