Mechanistic insights into cancer cell killing through interaction of phosphodiesterase 3A and schlafen family member 12

J Biol Chem. 2020 Mar 13;295(11):3431-3446. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.011191. Epub 2020 Jan 31.


Cytotoxic molecules can kill cancer cells by disrupting critical cellular processes or by inducing novel activities. 6-(4-(Diethylamino)-3-nitrophenyl)-5-methyl-4,5-dihydropyridazin-3(2H)-one (DNMDP) is a small molecule that kills cancer cells by generation of novel activity. DNMDP induces complex formation between phosphodiesterase 3A (PDE3A) and schlafen family member 12 (SLFN12) and specifically kills cancer cells expressing elevated levels of these two proteins. Here, we examined the characteristics and covariates of the cancer cell response to DNMDP. On average, the sensitivity of human cancer cell lines to DNMDP is correlated with PDE3A expression levels. However, DNMDP could also bind the related protein, PDE3B, and PDE3B supported DNMDP sensitivity in the absence of PDE3A expression. Although inhibition of PDE3A catalytic activity did not account for DNMDP sensitivity, we found that expression of the catalytic domain of PDE3A in cancer cells lacking PDE3A is sufficient to confer sensitivity to DNMDP, and substitutions in the PDE3A active site abolish compound binding. Moreover, a genome-wide CRISPR screen identified the aryl hydrocarbon receptor-interacting protein (AIP), a co-chaperone protein, as required for response to DNMDP. We determined that AIP is also required for PDE3A-SLFN12 complex formation. Our results provide mechanistic insights into how DNMDP induces PDE3A-SLFN12 complex formation, thereby killing cancer cells with high levels of PDE3A and SLFN12 expression.

Keywords: AIP; DNMDP; PDE3A; PDE3B; SLFN12; biomarker; cancer biology; cancer therapy; cell death; chaperone; phosphodiesterases; protein-protein interaction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 3 / chemistry
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 3 / metabolism*
  • Frameshift Mutation / genetics
  • Genome
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Pyridazines / pharmacology


  • 6-(4-(diethylamino)-3-nitrophenyl)-5-methyl-4,5-dihydropyridazin-3(2H)-one
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Pyridazines
  • SLFN12 protein, human
  • aryl hydrocarbon receptor-interacting protein
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 3