Aberrant activation of monomeric G-protein signaling pathways drives some of the most aggressive cancers. Suppressing these hyperactivities has been the focus of efforts to obtain targeted therapies. Polyisoprenylated methylated protein methyl esterase (PMPMEase) is overexpressed in various cancers. Its inhibition induces the death of cancer cells that harbor the constitutively active K-Ras proteins. Furthermore, the viability of cancer cells driven by factors upstream of K-Ras, such as overexpressed growth factors and their receptors or the mutationally-activated receptors, is also susceptible to PMPMEase inhibition. Polyisoprenylated cysteinyl amide inhibitors (PCAIs) were thus designed to target cancers with hyperactive signaling pathways involving the G-proteins. The PCAIs were, however, poor inhibitors of PMPMEase, with Ki values ranging from 3.7 to 20 μM. On the other hand, they inhibited cell viability, proliferation, colony formation, induced apoptosis in cells with mutant K-Ras and inhibited cell migration and invasion with EC50 values of 1 to 3 μM. HUVEC tube formation was inhibited at submicromolar concentrations through their disruption of actin filament organization. At the molecular level, the PCAIs at 2 to 5 μM depleted monomeric G-proteins such as K-Ras, RhoA, Cdc42 and Rac1. The PCAIs also deplete vinculin and fascin that are involved in actin organization and function while disrupting vinculin punctates in the process. These demonstrate a polyisoprenylation-dependent mechanism that explains the observed PCAIs’ inhibition of the proliferative, invasive and angiogenic processes that promote both tumor growth and metastasis.
Keywords: Polyisoprenylated Cysteinyl Amide Inhibitors (PCAIs), K-Ras, Polyisoprenylated methylated protein methyl esterase (PMPMEase), isoprenylation, polyisoprenylation, G-proteins, fascin, vinculin, RhoA.