Many of the gene mutations found in genetic disorders, including cancer, result in premature termination codons (PTC) and the rapid degradation of their mRNAs by nonsense-mediated RNA decay (NMD). We used virtual library screening, targeting a pocket in the SMG7 protein, a key component of the NMD mechanism, to identify compounds that disrupt the SMG7-UPF1 complex and inhibit NMD. Several of these compounds upregulated NMD-targeted mRNAs at nanomolar concentrations, with minimal toxicity in cell-based assays. As expected, pharmacologic NMD inhibition disrupted SMG7-UPF1 interactions. When used in cells with PTC-mutated p53, pharmacologic NMD inhibition combined with a PTC "read-through" drug led to restoration of full-length p53 protein, upregulation of p53 downstream transcripts, and cell death. These studies serve as proof-of-concept that pharmacologic NMD inhibitors can restore mRNA integrity in the presence of PTC and can be used as part of a strategy to restore full-length protein in a variety of genetic diseases.
©2014 American Association for Cancer Research.