Background: Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is essential for tumor growth. The inhibition of angiogenesis is therefore emerging as a promising therapy for cancer. Two natural products, fumagillin and ovalicin, were discovered to be potent inhibitors of angiogenesis due to their inhibition of endothelial cell proliferation. An analog of fumagillin, AGM-1470, is currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of a variety of cancers. The underlying molecular mechanism of the inhibition of angiogenesis by these natural drugs has remained unknown.
Results: Both AGM-1470 and ovalicin bind to a common bifunctional protein, identified by mass spectrometry as the type 2 methionine aminopeptidase (MetAP2). This protein also acts as an inhibitor of eukaryotic initiation factor 2alpha (elF-2alpha) phosphorylation. Both drugs potently inhibit the methionine aminopeptidase activity of MetAP2 without affecting its ability to block elF-2alpha phosphorylation. There are two types of methionine aminopeptidase found in eukaryotes, but only the type 2 enzyme is inhibited by the drugs. A series of analogs of fumagillin and ovalicin were synthesized and their potency for inhibition of endothelial cell proliferation and inhibition of methionine aminopeptidase activity was determined. A significant correlation was found between the two activities.
Conclusions: The protein MetAP2 is a common molecular target for both AGM-1470 and ovalicin. This finding suggests that MetAP2 may play a critical role in the proliferation of endothelial cells and may serve as a promising target for the development of new anti-angiogenic drugs.