Vimentin is a cytoskeletal intermediate filament protein that is expressed in mesenchymal cells and cancer cells during the epithelial-mesenchymal transition. The goal of this study was to identify vimentin-targeting small molecules by using the Tocriscreen library of 1120 biochemically active compounds. We monitored vimentin filament reorganization and bundling in adrenal carcinoma SW13 vimentin-positive (SW13-vim+) cells via indirect immunofluorescence. The screen identified 18 pharmacologically diverse hits that included 2 statins-simvastatin and mevastatin. Simvastatin induced vimentin reorganization within 15-30 min and significant perinuclear bundling within 60 min (IC50 = 6.7 nM). Early filament reorganization coincided with increased vimentin solubility. Mevastatin produced similar effects at >1 µM, whereas the structurally related pravastatin and lovastatin did not affect vimentin. In vitro vimentin filament assembly assays revealed a direct targeting mechanism, as determined biochemically and by electron microscopy. In SW13-vim+ cells, simvastatin, but not pravastatin, reduced total cell numbers (IC50 = 48.1 nM) and promoted apoptosis after 24 h. In contrast, SW13-vim- cell viability was unaffected by simvastatin, unless vimentin was ectopically expressed. Simvastatin similarly targeted vimentin filaments and induced cell death in MDA-MB-231 (vim+), but lacked effect in MCF7 (vim-) breast cancer cells. In conclusion, this study identified vimentin as a direct molecular target that mediates simvastatin-induced cell death in 2 different cancer cell lines.-Trogden, K. P., Battaglia, R. A., Kabiraj, P., Madden, V. J., Herrmann, H., Snider, N. T. An image-based small-molecule screen identifies vimentin as a pharmacologically relevant target of simvastatin in cancer cells.
Keywords: cytoskeleton; drug screen; intermediate filaments; statin.