GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

Celia A. Schiffer, Ph.D.


Transcriptional Regulatory Elements, DNA-Binding Proteins, Interferon Regulatory Factors


Dissertations, UMMS; Regulatory Elements, Transcriptional; DNA-Binding Proteins; Interferon Regulatory Factors


Transcriptional regulatory complexes control gene expression patterns and permit cellular responses to stimuli. Deregulation of complex components upsets target gene expression and can lead to disease. This dissertation examines proteins involved in two distinct regulatory complexes: C-terminal binding protein (CtBP) 1 and 2, and Interferon Regulatory Factors (IRF) 3 and 5. Although critical in developmental processes and injury response, CtBP transcriptional repression of cell adhesion proteins, pro-apoptotic factors, and tumor suppressors has been linked to the pathogenesis of multiple forms of cancer. IRFs function in the immune system and have been implicated in autoimmune disorders.

Understanding IRF activation is critical to treating pathogens that target IRF function or for future autoimmune disease therapies. We attempted to determine crystal structures that would provide the details of IRF activation, allowing insight into mechanisms of pathogen immune evasion and autoimmune disorders. Although no new structures were solved, we have optimized expression of C-terminal IRF-3 / co-activator complexes, as well as full-length IRF3 and IRF5 constructs. Modifying the constructs coupled with new crystal screening will soon result in structures which detail IRF activation, advancing understanding of the roles of IRF family members in disease.

Through structural and biochemical characterization we sought to identify and develop inhibitors of CtBP transcriptional regulatory functions. High concentrations of CtBP substrate, 4-Methylthio 2-oxobutyric acid (MTOB), have been shown in different cancer models to interfere with CtBP transcriptional regulation. We began the process of structure based drug design by solving crystal structures of both CtBP family members bound to MTOB. The resulting models identified critical ligand contacts and unique active site features, which were utilized in inhibitor design. Potential CtBP inhibitors were identified and co-crystallized with CtBP1. One such compound binds to CtBP more than 1000 times more tightly than does MTOB, as a result of our structure-based inclusion of a phenyl ring and a novel pattern of hydrogen bonding. This molecule provides a starting point for the development of compounds that will both bind more tightly and interfere with transcriptional signaling as we progress towards pharmacologically targeting CtBP as a therapy for specific cancers.



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