Identification of Pax protein inhibitors that suppress target gene expression and cancer cell proliferation

Cell Chem Biol. 2021 Nov 18;S2451-9456(21)00480-3. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2021.11.003. Online ahead of print.


The Pax family of developmental control genes are frequently deregulated in human disease. In the kidney, Pax2 is expressed in developing nephrons but not in adult proximal and distal tubules, whereas polycystic kidney epithelia or renal cell carcinoma continues to express high levels. Pax2 reduction in mice or cell culture can slow proliferation of cystic epithelial cells or renal cancer cells. Thus, inhibition of Pax activity may be a viable, cell-type-specific therapy. We designed an unbiased, cell-based, high-throughput screen that identified triazolo pyrimidine derivatives that attenuate Pax transactivation ability. We show that BG-1 inhibits Pax2-positive cancer cell growth and target gene expression but has little effect on Pax2-negative cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation suggests that these inhibitors prevent Pax protein interactions with the histone H3K4 methylation complex at Pax target genes in renal cells. Thus, these compounds may provide structural scaffolds for kidney-specific inhibitors with therapeutic potential.

Keywords: PKD; PTIP; Pax inhibitors; histone H3K4 methylation; renal cancer.