Identification of inhibitors of ribozyme self-cleavage in mammalian cells via high-throughput screening of chemical libraries

RNA. 2006 May;12(5):797-806. doi: 10.1261/rna.2300406. Epub 2006 Mar 23.


We have recently described an RNA-only gene regulation system for mammalian cells in which inhibition of self-cleavage of an mRNA carrying ribozyme sequences provides the basis for control of gene expression. An important proof of principle for that system was provided by demonstrating the ability of one specific small molecule inhibitor of RNA self-cleavage, toyocamycin, to control gene expression in vitro and vivo. Here, we describe the development of the high-throughput screening (HTS) assay that led to the identification of toyocamycin and other molecules capable of inhibiting RNA self-cleavage in mammalian cells. To identify small molecules that can serve as inhibitors of ribozyme self-cleavage, we established a cell-based assay in which expression of a luciferase (luc) reporter is controlled by ribozyme sequences, and screened 58,076 compounds for their ability to induce luciferase expression. Fifteen compounds able to inhibit ribozyme self-cleavage in cells were identified through this screen. The most potent of the inhibitors identified were toyocamycin and 5-fluorouridine (FUR), nucleoside analogs carrying modifications of the 7-position and 5-position of the purine or pyrimidine bases. Individually, these two compounds were able to induce gene expression of the ribozyme-controlled reporter approximately 365-fold and 110-fold, respectively. Studies of the mechanism of action of the ribozyme inhibitors indicate that the compounds must be incorporated into RNA in order to inhibit RNA self-cleavage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acridine Orange / chemistry
  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adenosine / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cytidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cytidine / chemistry
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Ethidium / chemistry
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Guanine / analogs & derivatives
  • Guanine / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Structure
  • RNA, Catalytic / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Toyocamycin / pharmacology
  • Tubercidin / pharmacology
  • Uridine / analogs & derivatives
  • Uridine / chemistry
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • RNA, Catalytic
  • Cytidine
  • Guanine
  • beta-Galactosidase
  • Ethidium
  • Acridine Orange
  • 7-deazaguanine
  • Adenosine
  • Toyocamycin
  • Tubercidin
  • Fluorouracil
  • Uridine