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Anticancer Drug, Apoptosis, Bcl-2 Family Proteins, Drug Discovery, Drug Resistance, ABT-737, Marinopyrrole A, Maritoclax, Mcl-1, Obatoclax

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The anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family of proteins, including Bcl-2, Bcl-XL and Mcl-1, are well-validated drug targets for cancer treatment. Several small molecules have been designed to interfere with Bcl-2 and its fellow pro-survival family members. While ABT-737 and its orally active analog ABT-263 are the most potent and specific inhibitors to date that bind Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL with high affinity but have a much lower affinity for Mcl-1, they are not very effective as single agents in certain cancer types because of elevated levels of Mcl-1. Accordingly, compounds that specifically target Mcl-1 may overcome this resistance. In this study, we identified and characterized the natural product marinopyrrole A as a novel Mcl-1-specific inhibitor and named it maritoclax. We found that maritoclax binds to Mcl-1, but not Bcl-XL, and is able to disrupt the interaction between Bim and Mcl-1. Moreover, maritoclax induces Mcl-1 degradation via the proteasome system, which is associated with the pro-apoptotic activity of maritoclax. Importantly, maritoclax selectively kills Mcl-1-dependent, but not Bcl-2- or Bcl-XL-dependent, leukemia cells and markedly enhances the efficacy of ABT-737 against hematologic malignancies, including K562, Raji, and multidrug-resistant HL60/VCR, by ∼60- to 2000-fold at 1–2 μm. Taken together, these results suggest that maritoclax represents a new class of Mcl-1 inhibitors, which antagonizes Mcl-1 and overcomes ABT-737 resistance by targeting Mcl-1 for degradation.

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Journal of Biological Chemistry, v. 287, issue 12, p. 10224-10235