Mutations in the proteolipid subunits of the vacuolar H+-ATPase provide resistance to indolotryptoline natural products.

PMID 25319670


Indolotryptoline natural products represent a small family of structurally unique chromopyrrolic acid-derived antiproliferative agents. Like many prospective anticancer agents before them, the exploration of their potential clinical utility has been hindered by the limited information known about their mechanism of action. To study the mode of action of two closely related indolotryptolines (BE-54017, cladoniamide A), we selected for drug resistant mutants using a multidrug resistance-suppressed (MDR-sup) Schizosaccharomyces pombe strain. As fission yeast maintains many of the basic cancer-relevant cellular processes present in human cells, it represents an appealing model to use in determining the potential molecular target of antiproliferative natural products through resistant mutant screening. Full genome sequencing of resistant mutants identified mutations in the c and c' subunits of the proteolipid substructure of the vacuolar H(+)-ATPase complex (V-ATPase). This collection of resistance-conferring mutations maps to a site that is distant from the nucleotide-binding sites of V-ATPase and distinct from sites found to confer resistance to known V-ATPase inhibitors. Acid vacuole staining, cross-resistance studies, and direct c/c' subunit mutagenesis all suggest that indolotryptolines are likely a structurally novel class of V-ATPase inhibitors. This work demonstrates the general utility of resistant mutant selection using MDR-sup S. pombe as a rapid and potentially systematic approach for studying the modes of action of cytotoxic natural products.