Targeting Inducible Heat Shock Protein 70 in Cancer and Dengue Virus Pathogenesis with a Novel Small Molecule Inhibitor

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Howe, Matthew K.


Haystead, Timothy AJ

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Inducible Heat shock protein (Hsp70i) is a protein chaperone that is utilized during tumorigenesis and viral infections for efficient propagation. Overexpression of Hsp70i is observed in a wide spectrum of human tumors, and this overexpression correlates with metastasis, poor outcomes, and resistance to chemotherapy in patients. Hsp70i aids in cancer cell propagation through regulation of anti-apoptotic and cell survival pathways. Furthermore, Hsp70i is induced following infection for several viruses and aids viral propagation, in part through regulation of anti-apoptotic pathways as well as promoting the folding of newly synthesized proteins. Due to the parallel role of Hsp70i in both cancer and viral pathogenesis, identification of small-molecule inhibitors selective for Hsp70i could provide tools for the development of novel therapeutics and further elucidate the role of Hsp70i in both cancer and viral infections.

To date, few Hsp70 inhibitors have been identified and characterized, and their efficacy in clinical settings is unknown. Through the fluorescence-linked enzyme chemoproteomic strategy (FLECS) screen, an allosteric inhibitor selective for Hsp70i was identified, called HS-72. We show that HS-72 is highly selective for Hsp70i, over the broader purinome and other Hsp70 family members, in particular the closely related constitutively active Hsp70 family member, Hsc70. Additionally, HS-72 acts as an allosteric inhibitor to induce a conformational change and inhibit Hsp70i activity. HS-72 displays hallmarks of Hsp70i inhibition in vitro by promoting Hsp70i substrate protein degradation, protein aggregation, and selective growth inhibition of cancer cells. In wild type mice HS-72 is well tolerated and a limited PK study shows HS-72 is bioavailable. Furthermore, in a MMTV-neu breast cancer mouse model, HS-72 shows efficacy to inhibit tumor growth and promote survival.

Due to the similar utilization of Hsp70i in cancer and viral pathogenesis, this suggests the potential for HS-72 as an antiviral agent. Dengue virus (DENV) is of great public health importance due to estimates of up to 400 million infections per year, coupled with the geographic distribution of the virus, which is now endemic in over 100 countries worldwide. There is also a pressing need for DENV interventions, owing to the lack of approved vaccines or antiviral therapies. DENV is reliant on host factors throughout the viral life cycle and Hsp70i has been implicated as a host factor in DENV pathogenesis. Additionally, the complete role of Hsp70i in DENV pathogenesis remains to be elucidated, highlighting a unique opportunity to use HS-72 as a tool to specifically probe Hsp70i function. In monocytes, Hsp70i is expressed at low levels preceding DENV infection, but Hsp70i expression is induced upon DENV infection. Furthermore, inducing Hsp70i expression prior to infection, correlates with an increase in DENV infection. Targeting Hsp70i with HS-72, results in a dose dependent reduction in DENV infected monocytes, while cell viability was maintained, through inhibiting the entry stage of the viral life cycle. Following infection, Hsp70i localizes to the cell surface and interacts with the DENV receptor complex to mediate viral entry. While, HS-72 treatment results in a disruption of the interaction of Hsp70i with the DENV receptor complex, yielding a reduction in infected cells.

Collectively this work further supports Hsp70i as an anticancer and anti-dengue virus target, and identifies HS-72, a chemical scaffold that is amenable to resynthesis and iteration, as an ideal starting point for a new generation of therapeutics targeting Hsp70i.






Howe, Matthew K. (2015). Targeting Inducible Heat Shock Protein 70 in Cancer and Dengue Virus Pathogenesis with a Novel Small Molecule Inhibitor. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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