Cullin 4A and 4B (CUL4A and 4B) function as oncogenes in colorectal cancer (CRC) cells. Both of them conservatively associate with DNA damage-binding protein 1 (DDB1) and DDB1-CUL4-associated factor 4 (DCAF4) to form Cullin-RING E3 ligases known as CRL4DCAF4, which specifically ubiquitinate and degrade tumor suppressor ST7 (suppression of tumorigenicity 7). Knockdown either CUL4A/4B or DDB1 significantly inhibits tumor cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Thus, targeting these CRL4DCAF4 components and their interactions may be an effective strategy for the therapy of CRC. In this study, we developed an in vitro AlphaScreen assay to identify small molecules targeting the CUL4A-DDB1 interaction. We obtained a compound NSC1892, which strongly disrupted the CUL4A-DDB1 interaction (IC50 = 1.8 μM). Oncogenic phenotype analyses indicated that NSC1892 showed significant cytotoxicity to decrease cell proliferation, colony formation and invasion in CRC cells. Biochemical analyses demonstrated that NSC1892 treatment did not change CUL4A and CUL4B protein levels, but caused the degradation of DDB1, thereby leading to the impaired assembly of CRL4DCAF4 E3 ligases and resulting in the accumulation of ST7. The administration of NSC1892 in mice also significantly inhibited tumor growth through degrading DDB1 and accumulating ST7. Interestingly, NSC1892 also showed promising cytotoxicity to decrease the growth of other CUL4A- or CUL4B-overexpressing tumor cells such as SKOV3 ovarian cells and Saos2 osteosarcoma cells. Our results provide a new avenue for the development of a therapeutic compound targeting tumors through disrupting the CUL4-DDB1 interaction.
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