Laurence Hurley

Laurence Hurley, PhD, embraces an overall objective to design and develop novel antitumor agents that will extend the productive lives of patients who have cancer.  His research program in medicinal chemistry depends upon a structure-based approach to drug design that is intertwined with a clinical oncology program in cancer therapeutics directed by Professor Daniel Von Hoff at TGen at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.  Dr. Hurley directs a research group that consists of a team of graduate and postdoctoral students with expertise in structural and synthetic chemistry working alongside students in biochemistry and molecular biology.  NMR and in vivo evaluations of novel agents are carried out in collaboration with other research groups in the Arizona Cancer Center.

At present, they have a number of different groups of compounds that target a variety of intracellular receptors.  These receptors include: (1) transcriptional regulatory elements, (2) those involved in cell signaling pathways, and (3) protein-DNA complexes, including transcriptional factor-DNA complexes.

In close collaboration with Dr. Gary Flynn in Medicinal Chemistry, he has an ongoing program to target a number of important kinases, including aurora kinases A and B, p38, and B-raf.  These studies involve structure-based approaches as well as virtual screening.  Molecular modeling and synthetic medicinal chemistry are important tools.The protein–DNA complexes involved in transcriptional activation of promoter complexes using secondary DNA structures are also targets for drug design.


Targeting Myc Expression Through G Quadruplexes. Source: Genes & Cancer
June 1st, 2011 PMID: 21113409 Laurence Hurley
In this review, the authors describe a novel mechanism for control of MYC expression that involves a four-stranded DNA structure, termed a G-quadruplex, amenable to small molecule targeting. The DNA element involved in this mechanism, the nuclease hypersensitive element III(1) (NHE III(1)), is just upstream of the P1 promoter and is subjected to dynamic stress (negative superhelicity) resulting from transcription. This is sufficient to convert the duplex DNA to a G-quadruplex on the purine-rich strand and an i-motif of the pyrimidine-rich strand, which displaces the activating transcription factors to silence gene expression. Specific proteins have been identified, NM23-H2 and nucleolin, that resolve and fold the G-quadruplex to activate and silence MYC expression, respectively. Inhibition of the activity of NM23-H2 molecules that bind to the G-quadruplex silences gene expression, and redistribution of nucleolin from the nucleolus to the nucleoplasm is expected to inhibit MYC. The authors also describe the mechanism of action of Quarfloxin, a first-in-class G-quadruplex-interactive compound that involves the redistribution of nucleolin from the nucleolus to the nucleoplasm. G-quadruplexes have been best known as test-tube oddities for more than four decades. However, during the past decade, they have emerged as likely players in a number of important biological processes, including transcriptional control. Only time will tell if these odd DNA structures will assume the role of an established receptor class, but it is clear from the scientific literature that there is a dramatic increase in interest in this little-known area in the past few years.<br><br>
Dna Acting Like Rna. Source: Biochemical Society Transactions
March 24th, 2011 PMID: 21428953 Laurence Hurley
Over the last decade or so, secondary non-B-DNA structures such as G-quadruplexes and i-motifs have come into focus as biologically functioning moieties that are potentially involved in telomeric interactions and the control of gene expression. In the present short review, we first describe the structural and dynamic parallels with complex RNA structures, including the importance of sequence and ions in folding, and then we describe the biological consequences of the folded structures. We conclude that there are considerable parallels between secondary and tertiary structures in RNA and DNA from both the folding and the biological perspectives.<br><br>
The C Terminus Of Nucleolin Promotes The Formation Of The C Myc G Quadruplex And Inhibits C Myc Promoter Activity. Source: Biochemistry
October 21st, 2010 PMID: 20932061 Laurence Hurley
Nucleolin, the most abundant nucleolar phosphoprotein of eukaryotic cells, is known primarily for its role in ribosome biogenesis and cell proliferation. It is, however, a multifunctional protein that, depending on the cellular context, can drive either cell proliferation or apoptosis. Our laboratory recently demonstrated that nucleolin can function as a repressor of c-MYC transcription by binding to and stabilizing the formation of a G-quadruplex structure in a region of the c-MYC promoter responsible for controlling 85-90% of c-MYC's transcriptional activity. In this study, we investigate the structural elements of nucleolin that are required for c-MYC repression. The effect of nucleolin deletion mutants on the formation and stability of the c-MYC G-quadruplex, as well as c-MYC transcriptional activity, was assessed by circular dichroism spectropolarimetry, thermal stability, and in vitro transcription. Here we report that nucleolin's RNA binding domains 3 and 4, as well as the arginine-glycine-glycine (RGG) domain, are required to repress c-MYC transcription.<br><br>
I Motif Structures Formed In The Human C Myc Promoter Are Highly Dynamic Insights Into Sequence Redundancy And I Motif Stability. Source: Plo S One
July 19th, 2010 PMID: 20657837 Laurence Hurley
The GC-rich nuclease hypersensitivity element III1 (NHE III1) of the c-MYC promoter largely controls the transcriptional activity of the c-MYC oncogene. The C-rich strand in this region can form I-motif DNA secondary structures. We determined the folding pattern of the major I-motif formed in the NHE III1, which can be formed at near-neutral pH. While we find that the I-motif formed in the four 3' consecutive runs of cytosines appears to be the most favored, our results demonstrate that the C-rich strand of the c-MYC NHE III1 exhibits a high degree of dynamic equilibration. Using a trisubstituted oligomer of this region, we determined the formation of two equilibrating loop isomers, one of which contains a flipped-out cytosine. Our results indicate that the intercalative cytosine+-cytosine base pairs are not always necessary for an intramolecular I-motif. The dynamic character of the c-MYC I-motif is intrinsic to the NHE III1 sequence and appears to provide stability to the c-MYC I-motif.<br><br>
The Design, Synthesis, And Evaluation Of 8 Hybrid Dfg Out Allosteric Kinase Inhibitors: A Structural Analysis Of The Binding Interactions Of Gleevec, Nexavar, And Birb 796. Source: Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry
June 4th, 2010 PMID: 20621496 Laurence Hurley
The majority of kinase inhibitors developed to date are competitive inhibitors that target the ATP binding site; however, recent crystal structures of Gleevec (imatinib mesylate, STI571, PDB: 1IEP), Nexavar (Sorafenib tosylate, BAY 43-9006, PDB: 1UWJ), and BIRB-796 (PDB: 1KV2) have revealed a secondary binding site adjacent to the ATP binding site known as the DFG-out allosteric binding site. The recent successes of Gleevec and Nexavar for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia and renal cell carcinoma has generated great interest in the development of other kinase inhibitors that target this secondary binding site. Here, we present a structural comparison of the important and similar interactions necessary for Gleevec(R), Nexavar, and BIRB-796 to bind to their respective DFG-out allosteric binding pockets and the selectivity of each with respect to c-Abl, B-Raf, and p38alpha. A structural analysis of their selectivity profiles has been generated from the synthesis and evaluation of 8 additional DFG-out allosteric inhibitors that were developed directly from fragments of these successful scaffolds.<br><br>
Molecular Cloning Of The Human Platelet Derived Growth Factor Receptor Beta (Pdgfr Beta) Promoter And Drug Targeting Of The G Quadruplex Forming Region To Repress Pdgfr Beta Expression. Source: Biochemistry
May 11th, 2010 PMID: 20377208 Laurence Hurley
To understand the mechanisms controlling platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta (PDGFR-beta) expression in malignancies, we have cloned and characterized the first functional promoter of the human PDGFR-beta gene, which has been confirmed by luciferase reporter gene assays. The transcription initiation sites were mapped by primer extension. Promoter deletion experiments demonstrate that the proximal, highly GC-rich region (positions -165 to -139) of the human PDGFR-beta promoter is crucial for basal promoter activity. This region is sensitive to S1 nuclease and likely to assume a non-B-form DNA secondary structure within the supercoiled plasmid. The G-rich strand in this region contains a series of runs of three or more guanines that can form multiple different G-quadruplex structures, which have been subsequently assessed by circular dichroism. A Taq polymerase stop assay has shown that three different G-quadruplex-interactive drugs can each selectively stabilize different G-quadruplex structures of the human PDGFR-beta promoter. However, in transfection experiments, only telomestatin significantly reduced the human PDGFR-beta basal promoter activity relative to the control. Furthermore, the PDGFR-beta mRNA level in Daoy cells was significantly decreased after treatment with 1 muM telomestatin for 24 h. Therefore, we propose that ligand-mediated stabilization of specific G-quadruplex structures in the human PDGFR-beta promoter can modulate its transcription.<br><br>
The C Myc Nhe Iii(1): Function And Regulation. Source: Annual Review Of Pharmacology And Toxicology
January 8th, 2010 PMID: 19922264 Laurence Hurley
c-MYC is an important regulator of a wide array of cellular processes necessary for normal cell growth and differentiation, and its dysregulation is one of the hallmarks of many cancers. Consequently, understanding c-MYC transcriptional activation is critical for understanding developmental and cancer biology, as well as for the development of new anticancer drugs. The nuclease hypersensitive element (NHE) III(1) region of the c-MYC promoter has been shown to be particularly important in regulating c-MYC expression. Specifically, the formation of a G-quadruplex structure appears to promote repression of c-MYC transcription. This review focuses on what is known about the formation of a G-quadruplex in the NHE III(1) region of the c-MYC promoter, as well as on those factors that are known to modulate its formation. Last, we discuss the development of small molecules that stabilize or induce the formation of G-quadruplex structures and could potentially be used as anticancer agents.<br><br>
Biochemical Techniques For The Characterization Of G Quadruplex Structures: Emsa, Dms Footprinting, And Dna Polymerase Stop Assay. Source: Methods In Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.)
December 16th, 2009 PMID: 20012416 Laurence Hurley Daekyu Sun
The proximal promoter region of many human growth-related genes contains a polypurine/polypyrimidine tract that serves as multiple binding sites for Sp1 or other transcription factors. These tracts often contain a guanine-rich sequence consisting of four runs of three or more contiguous guanines separated by one or more bases, corresponding to a general motif known for the formation of an intramolecular G-quadruplex. Recent results provide strong evidence that specific G-quadruplex structures form naturally within these polypurine/polypyrimidine tracts in many human promoter regions, raising the possibility that the transcriptional control of these genes can be modulated by G-quadruplex-interactive agents. In this chapter, we describe three general biochemical methodologies, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), dimethylsulfate (DMS) footprinting, and the DNA polymerase stop assay, which can be useful for initial characterization of G-quadruplex structures formed by G-rich sequences.<br><br>
The I Motif In The Bcl 2 P1 Promoter Forms An Unexpectedly Stable Structure With A Unique 8:5:7 Loop Folding Pattern. Source: Journal Of The American Chemical Society
December 2nd, 2009 PMID: 19908860 Laurence Hurley
Transcriptional regulation of the bcl-2 proto-oncogene is highly complex, with the majority of transcription driven by the P1 promoter site and the interaction of multiple regulatory proteins. A guanine- and cytosine-rich (GC-rich) region directly upstream of the P1 site has been shown to be integral to bcl-2 promoter activity, as deletion or mutation of this region significantly increases transcription. This GC-rich element consists of six contiguous runs of guanines and cytosines that have the potential to adopt DNA secondary structures, the G-quadruplex and i-motif, respectively. Our laboratory has previously demonstrated that the polypurine-rich strand of the bcl-2 promoter can form a mixture of three different G-quadruplex structures. In this current study, we demonstrate that the complementary polypyrimidine-rich strand is capable of forming one major intramolecular i-motif DNA secondary structure with a transition pH of 6.6. Characterization of the i-motif folding pattern using mutational studies coupled with circular dichroic spectra and thermal stability analyses revealed an 8:5:7 loop conformation as the predominant structure at pH 6.1. The folding pattern was further supported by chemical footprinting with bromine. In addition, a novel assay involving the sequential incorporation of a fluorescent thymine analog at each thymine position provided evidence of a capping structure within the top loop region of the i-motif. The potential of the GC-rich element within the bcl-2 promoter region to form DNA secondary structures suggests that the transition from the B-DNA to non-B-DNA conformation may play an important role in bcl-2 transcriptional regulation. Furthermore, the two adjacent large lateral loops in the i-motif structure provide an unexpected opportunity for protein and small molecule recognition.<br><br>
The Role Of Supercoiling In Transcriptional Control Of Myc And Its Importance In Molecular Therapeutics. Source: Nature Reviews. Cancer
November 12th, 2009 PMID: 19907434 Laurence Hurley
MYC is deregulated in most tumour types, but an effective means to selectively target its aberrant expression is not yet available. Supercoiling that is induced by transcription has been demonstrated to have dynamic effects on DNA in the MYC promoter element: it converts duplex DNA to non-duplex DNA structures, even at considerable distances from the transcriptional start site. These non-duplex DNA structures, which control both turning on and off of transcription and the rate of transcription firing, are amenable to small-molecule targeting. This dynamic system provides a unique opportunity for the treatment of tumours in which MYC is an important oncogene.<br><br>
Application Of A Novel [3+2] Cycloaddition Reaction To Prepare Substituted Imidazoles And Their Use In The Design Of Potent Dfg Out Allosteric B Raf Inhibitors. Source: Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry
November 11th, 2009 PMID: 19962319 Laurence Hurley
B-Raf protein kinase, which is a key signaling molecule in the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK signaling pathway, plays an important role in many cancers. The B-Raf V600E mutation represents the most frequent oncogenic kinase mutation known and is responsible for increased kinase activity in approximately 7% of all human cancers, establishing B-Raf as an important therapeutic target for inhibition. Through the use of an iterative program that utilized a chemocentric approach and a rational structure based design, we have developed novel, potent, and specific DFG-out allosteric inhibitors of B-Raf kinase. Here, we present efficient and versatile chemistry that utilizes a key one pot, [3+2] cycloaddition reaction to obtain highly substituted imidazoles and their application in the design of allosteric B-Raf inhibitors. Inhibitors based on this scaffold display subnanomolar potency and a favorable kinase profile.<br><br>
Modulating The Functional Contributions Of C Myc To The Human Endothelial Cell Cyclic Strain Response. Source: Journal Of Vascular Research
September 3rd, 2009 PMID: 19729955 Laurence Hurley
This study addresses whether pathological levels of cyclic strain activate the c-Myc promoter, leading to c-Myc transcription and downstream gene induction in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) or human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC). mRNA and protein expression of c-Myc under physiological (6-10%) and pathological cyclic strain conditions (20%) were studied. Both c-Myc mRNA and protein expression increased 2-3-fold in HUVEC cyclically strained at 20%. c-Myc protein increased 4-fold in HAEC. In HUVEC, expression of mRNA peaked at 1.5-2 h. Subsequently, the effect of modulating c-Myc on potential downstream gene targets was determined. A small molecular weight compound that binds to and stabilizes the silencer element in the c-Myc promoter attenuates cyclic strain-induced c-Myc transcription by about 50%. This compound also modulates c-Myc downstream gene targets that may be instrumental in induction of vascular disease. Cyclic strain-induced gene expression of vascular endothelial growth factor, proliferating cell nuclear antigen and heat shock protein 60 are attenuated by this compound. These results offer a possible mechanism and promising clinical treatment for vascular diseases initiated by increased cyclic strain.<br><br>
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