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Small peptide inhibitor from the sequence of RUNX3 disrupts PAK1–RUNX3 interaction and abrogates its phosphorylation-dependent oncogenic function

Rahul Kanumuri, Aruna Kumar Chelluboyina, Jayashree Biswal, Ravichandran Vignesh, Jaishree Pandian, Akkanapally Venu, B. Vaishnavi, Dj. Leena, Jeyakanthan Jeyaraman, Kumaresan Ganesan,
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Published: 12 July 2021

Abstract: P21 Activated Kinase 1 (PAK1) is an oncogenic serine/threonine kinase known to play a significant role in the regulation of cytoskeleton and cell morphology. Runt-related transcription factor 3 (RUNX3) was initially known for its tumor suppressor function, but recent studies have reported the oncogenic role of RUNX3 in various cancers. Previous findings from our laboratory provided evidence that Threonine 209 phosphorylation of RUNX3 acts as a molecular switch in dictating the tissue-specific dualistic functions of RUNX3 for the first time. Based on these proofs and to explore the translational significance of these findings, we designed a small peptide (RMR) from the protein sequence of RUNX3 flanking the Threonine 209 phosphorylation site. The selection of this specific peptide from multiple possible peptides was based on their binding energies, hydrogen bonding, docking efficiency with the active site of PAK1 and their ability to displace PAK1–RUNX3 interaction in our prediction models. We found that this peptide is stable both in in vitro and in vivo conditions, not toxic to normal cells and inhibits the Threonine 209 phosphorylation in RUNX3 by PAK1. We also tested the efficacy of this peptide to block the RUNX3 Threonine 209 phosphorylation mediated tumorigenic functions in in vitro cell culture models, patient-derived explant (PDE) models and in in vivo tumor xenograft models. These results proved that this peptide has the potential to be developed as an efficient therapeutic molecule for targeting RUNX3 Threonine 209 phosphorylation-dependent tumor phenotypes.
Keywords: Cell growth / Post-translational modifications / Medicine/Public Health / general / Internal Medicine / Cell Biology / Human Genetics / Oncology / Apoptosis

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