Background: Several pathways that control cell survival under stress, namely RNF8-dependent DNA damage recognition and repair, PCNA-dependent DNA damage tolerance and activation of NF-kappaB by extrinsic signals, are regulated by the tagging of key proteins with lysine 63-based polyubiquitylated chains, catalyzed by the conserved ubiquitin conjugating heterodimeric enzyme Ubc13-Uev.
Methodology/principal findings: By applying a selection based on in vivo protein-protein interaction assays of compounds from a combinatorial chemical library followed by virtual screening, we have developed small molecules that efficiently antagonize the Ubc13-Uev1 protein-protein interaction, inhibiting the enzymatic activity of the heterodimer. In mammalian cells, they inhibit lysine 63-type polyubiquitylation of PCNA, inhibit activation of NF-kappaB by TNF-alpha and sensitize tumor cells to chemotherapeutic agents. One of these compounds significantly inhibited invasiveness, clonogenicity and tumor growth of prostate cancer cells.
Conclusions/significance: This is the first development of pharmacological inhibitors of non-canonical polyubiquitylation that show that these compounds produce selective biological effects with potential therapeutic applications.