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.
An amphiphilic derivative of guanosine, carrying a myristoyl group at the 5'-position and two methoxy(triethylene glycol) appendages at the 2' and 3'-positions (1), endowed with high ionophoric activity, has been here studied in its interaction mode with a model lipid membrane along with its 5'-spin-labelled analogue 2, bearing the 5-doxyl-stearic in lieu of the myristic residue. Electron spin resonance spectra, carried out on the spin-labelled nucleolipid 2 in mixture with a DOPC/DOPG phospholipid bilayer, on one side, and on spin-labelled lipids mixed with 1, on the other, integrated with dynamic light scattering and neutron reflectivity measurements, allowed getting an in-depth picture of the effect of the ionophores on membrane structure, relevant to clarify the ion transport mechanism through lipid bilayers. Particularly, dehydration of lipid headgroups and lowering of both the local polarity and acyl chains order across the bilayer, due to the insertion of the oligo(ethylene glycol) chains in the bilayer hydrophobic core, have been found to be the main effects of the amphiphilic guanosines interaction with the membrane. These results furnish directions to rationally implement future ionophores design.
Looking for new metal-based anticancer treatments, in recent years many ruthenium complexes have been proposed as effective and safe potential drugs. In this context we have recently developed a novel approach for the in vivo delivery of Ru(III) complexes, preparing stable ruthenium-based nucleolipidic nanoaggregates endowed with significant antiproliferative activity. Herein we describe the cellular response to our ruthenium-containing formulations in selected models of human breast cancer. By in vitro bioscreens in the context of preclinical studies, we have focused on their ability to inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation by the activation of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway, possibly via mitochondrial perturbations involving Bcl-2 family members and predisposing to programmed cell death. In addition, the most efficient ruthenium-containing cationic nanoaggregates we have hitherto developed are able to elicit both extrinsic and intrinsic apoptosis, as well as autophagy. To limit chemoresistance and counteract uncontrolled proliferation, multiple cell death pathways activation by metal-based chemotherapeutics is a challenging, yet very promising strategy for targeted therapy development in aggressive cancer diseases, such as triple-negative breast cancer with limited treatment options. These outcomes provide valuable, original knowledge on ruthenium-based candidate drugs and new insights for future optimized cancer treatment protocols.
G-quadruplex (G4) structures are key elements in the regulation of cancer cell proliferation and their targeting is deemed to be a promising strategy in anticancer therapy.
Nucleic acid aptamers are single-stranded DNA or RNA molecules identified to recognize with high affinity specific targets including proteins, small molecules, ions, whole cells and even entire organisms, such as viruses or bacteria. They can be identified from combinatorial libraries of DNA or RNA oligonucleotides by SELEX technology, an in vitro iterative selection procedure consisting of binding (capture), partitioning and amplification steps. Remarkably, many of the aptamers selected against biologically relevant protein targets are G-rich sequences that can fold into stable G-quadruplex (G4) structures. Aiming at disseminating novel inspiring ideas within the scientific community in the field of G4-structures, the emphasis of this review is placed on: 1) recent advancements in SELEX technology for the efficient and rapid identification of new candidate aptamers (introduction of microfluidic systems and next generation sequencing); 2) recurrence of G4 structures in aptamers selected by SELEX against biologically relevant protein targets; 3) discovery of several G4-forming motifs in important regulatory regions of the human or viral genome bound by endogenous proteins, which per se can result into potential aptamers; 4) an updated overview of G4-based aptamers with therapeutic potential and 5) a discussion on the most attractive G4-based aptamers for diagnostic applications. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "G-quadruplex" Guest Editor: Dr. Concetta Giancola and Dr. Daniela Montesarchio.
In the search for novel platinum-based anticancer therapeutic agents, we have recently established a structural motif of (O,S) bidentate ligands bound to a Pt(II) metal center which is effective against various cancer cell lines. Aiming at further enhancing the cytotoxicity of metal-based drugs, the identification of potential biological targets and elucidation of the mode of action of selected lead compounds is of utmost importance. Here we report our studies on the DNA interaction of three representative Pt(II) complexes of the investigated series, using various model systems and analytical techniques. In detail, CD spectroscopy as well as ESI-MS and MS(2) techniques were applied to gain an overall picture of the binding properties of this class of (O,S) bidentate Pt(II) compounds with defined oligonucleotide sequences in single strand, duplex or G-quadruplex form, as well as with the nucleobase 9-methylguanine. On the whole, it was demonstrated that the tested compounds interact with DNA and produce conformational changes of different extents depending on the sequence and structure of the examined oligonucleotide. Guanine was established as the preferential target within the DNA sequence, but in the absence or unavailability of guanines, alternative binding sites can be addressed. The implications of these results are thoroughly discussed.