Characterization and optimization of a novel protein-protein interaction biosensor high-content screening assay to identify disruptors of the interactions between p53 and hDM2

Assay Drug Dev Technol. 2010 Aug;8(4):437-58. doi: 10.1089/adt.2010.0281.


We present here the characterization and optimization of a novel imaging-based positional biosensor high-content screening (HCS) assay to identify disruptors of p53-hDM2 protein-protein interactions (PPIs). The chimeric proteins of the biosensor incorporated the N-terminal PPI domains of p53 and hDM2, protein targeting sequences (nuclear localization and nuclear export sequence), and fluorescent reporters, which when expressed in cells could be used to monitor p53-hDM2 PPIs through changes in the subcellular localization of the hDM2 component of the biosensor. Coinfection with the recombinant adenovirus biosensors was used to express the NH-terminal domains of p53 and hDM2, fused to green fluorescent protein and red fluorescent protein, respectively, in U-2 OS cells. We validated the p53-hDM2 PPI biosensor (PPIB) HCS assay with Nutlin-3, a compound that occupies the hydrophobic pocket on the surface of the N-terminus of hDM2 and blocks the binding interactions with the N-terminus of p53. Nutlin-3 disrupted the p53-hDM2 PPIB in a concentration-dependent manner and provided a robust, reproducible, and stable assay signal window that was compatible with HCS. The p53-hDM2 PPIB assay was readily implemented in HCS and we identified four (4) compounds in the 1,280-compound Library of Pharmacologically Active Compounds that activated the p53 signaling pathway and elicited biosensor signals that were clearly distinct from the responses of inactive compounds. Anthracycline (topoisomerase II inhibitors such as mitoxantrone and ellipticine) and camptothecin (topoisomerase I inhibitor) derivatives including topotecan induce DNA double strand breaks, which activate the p53 pathway through the ataxia telangiectasia mutated-checkpoint kinase 2 (ATM-CHK2) DNA damage response pathway. Although mitoxantrone, ellipticine, camptothecin, and topotecan all exhibited concentration-dependent disruption of the p53-hDM2 PPIB, they were much less potent than Nutlin-3. Further, their corresponding cellular images and quantitative HCS data did not completely match the Nutlin-3 phenotypic profile.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Camptothecin / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Checkpoint Kinase 2
  • Ellipticines / pharmacology
  • Genes, p53
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays*
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / pharmacology
  • Mitoxantrone / pharmacology
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Mapping*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Topotecan / pharmacology
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Ellipticines
  • Imidazoles
  • Piperazines
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • ellipticine
  • nutlin 3
  • Topotecan
  • Mitoxantrone
  • MDM2 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2
  • Checkpoint Kinase 2
  • CHEK2 protein, human
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Camptothecin