Our goal is to evaluate benzodifuran-based scaffolds for biomedical applications.
The Ru-based prodrug AziRu efficiently binds to proteins, but the mechanism of its release is still disputed. Herein, in order to test the hypothesis of a reduction-mediated Ru release from proteins, a Raman-assisted crystallographic study on AziRu binding to a model protein (hen egg white lysozyme), in two different oxidation states, Ru and Ru, was carried out. Our results indicate Ru reduction, but the Ru release upon reduction is dependent on the reducing agent. To better understand this process, a pH-dependent, spectroelectrochemical surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) study was performed also on AziRu-functionalized Au electrodes as a surrogate and simplest model system of Ru- and Ru-based drugs. This SERS study provided a p K of 6.0 ± 0.4 for aquated AziRu in the Ru state, which falls in the watershed range of pH values separating most cancer environments from their physiological counterparts. These experiments also indicate a dramatic shift of the redox potential E by >600 mV of aquated AziRu toward more positive potentials upon acidification, suggesting a selective AziRu reduction in cancer lumen but not in healthy ones. It is expected that the nature of the ligands (e.g., pyridine vs imidazole, present in well-known Ru complex NAMI-A) will modulate the p K and E, without affecting the underlying reaction mechanism.
A focused library of analogs of a lead-like G-quadruplex (G4) targeting compound (4), sharing a furobenzoxazine naphthoquinone core and differing for the pendant groups on the N-atom of the oxazine ring, has been here analyzed with the aim of developing more potent and selective ligands. These molecules have been tested vs. topologically different G4s by the G4-CPG assay, an affinity chromatography-based method for screening putative G4 ligands. The obtained results showed that all these compounds were able to bind several G4 structures, both telomeric and extra-telomeric, thus behaving as multi-target ligands, and two of them fully discriminated G4 vs. duplex DNA. Biological assays proved that almost all the compounds produced effective DNA damage, showing marked antiproliferative effects on tumor cells in the low μM range. Combined analysis of the G4-CPG binding assays and biological data led us to focus on compound S4-5, proved to be less cytotoxic than the parent compound 4 on normal cells. An in-depth biophysical characterization of the binding of S4-5 to different G4s showed that the here identified ligand has higher affinity for the G4s and higher ability to discriminate G4 vs. duplex DNA than 4. Molecular docking studies, in agreement with the NMR data, suggest that S4-5 interacts with the accessible grooves of the target G4 structures, giving clues for its increased G4 vs. duplex selectivity.
Target selectivity is one of the main challenges in the search for small molecules able to act as effective and non-toxic anticancer and/or antiviral drugs. To achieve this goal, handy, rapid and reliable High Throughput Screening methodologies are needed. We here describe a novel functionalization for the solid phase synthesis of oligonucleotides on Controlled Pore Glass, including a flexible hexaethylene glycol spacer linking the first nucleoside through the nucleobase via a covalent bond stable to the final deprotection step. This allowed us preparing fully deprotected oligonucleotides still covalently attached to their supports. In detail, on this support we performed both the on-line synthesis of different secondary structure-forming oligonucleotides and the affinity chromatography-based screenings of conformation-selective G-quadruplex ligands. By using a fluorescent core-extended naphthalene diimide with different emitting response upon binding to sequences folding into G-quadruplexes of different topologies, we have been able to discriminate not only G-quadruplex vs. duplex DNA structures, but also different G-quadruplex conformations on the glass beads by confocal microscopy.
AS1411 is a nucleolin-binding aptamer which attracted great interest as active targeting ligand for the selective delivery of therapeutic agents to tumour cells. In this work we selected three AS1411 derivatives 5'-conjugated with lipophilic tails and studied their properties in view of their application in liposomial formulations and/or lipid coated-nanoparticles for targeted therapies. The conformational behaviour of these AS1411 analogs has been investigated in comparison with the unmodified aptamer by CD, UV, PAGE, SEC-HPLC, DLS and thioflavin T (ThT) fluorescence assays to get insight in their secondary structure and aggregation properties. This study has been performed in pseudo-physiological buffers mimicking the extra- and intracellular environments, and at different concentrations in the μM range, paying special attention to the effects of the lipophilic tail on the overall aptamer conformation. The 5'-lipidated AS1411 derivatives proved to fold into stable, parallel unimolecular G-quadruplex structures, forming large aggregates, mainly micelles, at conc. >10 μM. Preliminary bioscreenings on selected cancer cells showed that these derivatives are less cytotoxic than AS1411, but maintain a similar biological behaviour. This study demonstrated that lipophilic tails dramatically favour the formation of AS1411 aggregates, however not impairing the formation and thermal stability of its peculiar G4 motifs.
By combining the ability of short G-rich oligodeoxyribonucleotides (ODNs) containing the sequence 5'CGGA3' to form higher order G-quadruplex (G4) complexes with the tetra-end-linked (TEL) concept to produce aptamers targeting the HIV envelope glycoprotein 120 (gp120), three new TEL-ODNs (1-3) having the sequence 5'CGGAGG3' were synthesized with the aim of studying the effect of G4 dimerization on their anti-HIV activity. Furthermore, in order to investigate the effect of the groups at the 5' position, the 5' ends of 1-3 were left uncapped (1) or capped with either the lipophilic dimethoxytrityl (DMT) (2) or the hydrophilic glucosyl-4-phosphate (3) moieties. The here reported results demonstrate that only the DMT-substituted TEL-ODN 2 is effective in protecting human MT-4 cell cultures from HIV infection (76% max protection), notwithstanding all the three new aptamers proved to be capable of forming stable higher order dimeric G4s when annealed in K+-containing buffer, thus suggesting that the recognition of a hydrophobic pocket on the target glycoprotein by the aptamers represents a main structural feature for triggering their anti-HIV activity.
Huntington's disease is a dreadful, incurable disorder. It springs from the autosomal dominant mutation in the first exon of the HTT gene, which encodes for the huntingtin protein (HTT) and results in progressive neurodegeneration. Thus far, all the attempted approaches to tackle the mutant HTT-induced toxicity causing this disease have failed. The mutant protein comes with the aberrantly expanded poly-glutamine tract. It is primarily to blame for the build-up of β-amyloid-like HTT aggregates, deleterious once broadened beyond the critical ∼35-37 repeats threshold. Recent experimental findings have provided valuable information on the molecular basis underlying this HTT-driven neurodegeneration. These findings indicate that the poly-glutamine siding regions and many post-translation modifications either abet or counter the poly-glutamine tract. This review provides an overall, up-to-date insight into HTT biophysics and structural biology, particularly discussing novel pharmacological options to specifically target the mutated protein and thus inhibit its functions and toxicity.
Among the various advantages of aptamers over antibodies, remarkable is their ability to tolerate a large number of chemical modifications within their backbone or at the termini without losing significant activity. Indeed, aptamers can be easily equipped with a wide variety of reporter groups or coupled to different carriers, nanoparticles, or other biomolecules, thus producing valuable molecular recognition tools effective for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. This review reports an updated overview on fluorescent DNA aptamers, designed to recognize significant cancer biomarkers both in soluble or membrane-bound form. In many examples, the aptamer secondary structure switches induced by target recognition are suitably translated in a detectable fluorescent signal using either fluorescently-labelled or label-free aptamers. The fluorescence emission changes, producing an enhancement ("signal-on") or a quenching ("signal-off") effect, directly reflect the extent of the binding, thereby allowing for quantitative determination of the target in bioanalytical assays. Furthermore, several aptamers conjugated to fluorescent probes proved to be effective for applications in tumour diagnosis and intraoperative surgery, producing tumour-type specific, non-invasive in vivo imaging tools for cancer pre- and post-treatment assessment.
trans-Resveratrol (tRES) is a polyphenolic stilbene found in plant products which has attracted great attention because of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
Progress in understanding and treatment of thrombotic diseases requires new effective methods for the easy, rapid, and reversible control of coagulation processes. In this framework, the use of aptamers, and particularly of the thrombin binding aptamer (TBA), has aroused strong interest, due to its enormous therapeutic potential, associated with a large number of possible applications in biotechnological and bioanalytical fields. Here, we describe a new TBA analogue (named tris-mTBA), carrying three different pendant groups: a dansyl residue at the 3'- and a β-cyclodextrin moiety at the 5'-end-providing a host-guest system which exhibits a marked fluorescence enhancement upon TBA G-quadruplex folding-and a biotin tag, allowing the attachment of the aptamer onto biocompatible streptavidin-coated silica nanoparticles (NPs) of 50 nm hydrodynamic diameter (Sicastar). The use of nanoparticles for the in vivo delivery of TBA, expected to induce per se increased nuclease resistance and improved pharmacokinetic properties of this oligonucleotide, offers as an additional advantage the possibility to exploit multivalency effects, due to the presence of multiple copies of TBA on a single scaffold. In addition, the selected fluorescent system allows monitoring both the presence of TBA on the functionalized NPs and its correct folding upon immobilization, also conferring enhanced enzymatic resistance and bioactivity. The anticoagulant activity of the new tris-mTBA, free or conjugated to Sicastar NPs, was evaluated by dynamic light scattering experiments. Highly effective and reversible inhibition of thrombin activity toward fibrinogen was found for the free tris-mTBA and especially for the tris-mTBA-conjugated NPs, demonstrating great potential for the biomedical control of blood clotting.