Increased expression or dysregulation of protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5) activity is associated with poor prognosis in many cancers. Through increased methylation of epigenetic and non-epigenetic targets, the aberrant activity of PRMT5 has been associated with many pro-tumourigenic cellular changes such as, increased levels of protein synthesis, dysregulation of cell cycle, cellular adaptation to hypoxic conditions, and suppression of normal cell death pathways. Genetic studies suggest that suppression of PRMT5 activity can reverse many of these pro-tumourigenic effects making PRMT5 an attractive drug discovery target.

We screened a library of 350,000 lead-like compounds with a biochemical assay measuring the methylation of a histone H4 peptide by the recombinant human PRMT5/MEP50 complex. Biochemical and biophysical profiling of the inhibitory compounds indicated that several distinct binding modes were exhibited by the different chemical scaffolds. Inhibitors displayed competitive, noncompetitive or uncompetitive interactions with respect to S-adenosyl methionine and the peptide substrate. Medicinal chemistry developed several classes of potent, highly selective inhibitors of PRMT5 methyltransferase activity from the hit set.

The optimised tool compound, CTx-034, is a potent inhibitor of PRMT5 methyl transferase activity (KD = 2 nM), which is highly selective (>100-fold) versus a panel of 18 methyltransferases (including 6 PRMT family members), 11 lysine demethylases, and 15 safety related targets (GPCRs, ion channels, enzymes). Treatment of cancer cell lines with CTx-034 reduces cellular levels of symmetrically dimethylated H4 Arginine 3 (H4R3me2s), in a dose dependent manner (IC50 = 4 nM) to levels undetectable by Western blot. Furthermore, within this chemical series the ability of compounds to reduce cellular levels of H4R3me2s closely correlates with PRMT5 inhibitory activity supporting PRMT5 as the cellular target of these compounds, and suggesting that PRMT5 is the major writer of this histone mark in many cancer cell lines. CTx-034 also inhibits the symmetric dimethylation of arginine on other histone and non-histone cellular substrates of PRMT5, including H3R2me2s and SmD1. Conversely, CTx-034 treatment does not reduce levels of H4R3 asymmetric dimethylation, a histone mark catalysed by PRMT1.

Finally, CTx-034 has good oral bioavailability and pharmacokinetic properties in rodents and twice-daily dosing (10 - 100 mg/kg) over 10-14 days produces a dose dependent reduction of the H4R3me2s mark in bone marrow cells and peripheral white blood cells. This treatment is well tolerated by the mice, with no significant reduction in body weight or changes in haematological parameters observed.

CTx-034 provides an excellent tool compound for cellular and in vivo proof of concept studies.

Citation Format: Hendrik Falk, Richard C. Foitzik, Elizabeth Allan, Melanie deSilva, Hong Yang, Ylva E. Bozikis, Marica Nikac, Scott R. Walker, Michelle A. Camerino, Ben J. Morrow, Alexandra E. Stupple, Rachel Lagiakos, Jo-Anne Pinson, Romina Lessene, Wilhelmus JA Kersten, Danny G. Ganame, Ian P. Holmes, Gill E. Lunniss, Matthew Chung, Stefan J. Hermans, Michael W. Parker, Alison Thistlethwaite, Karen White, Susan A. Charman, Brendon J. Monahan, Patricia Pilling, Julian Grusovin, Thomas S. Peat, Stefan Sonderegger, Emma Toulmin, Stephen M. Jane, David J. Curtis, Paul A. Stupple, Ian P. Street. PRMT5 inhibitors as novel treatment for cancers. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2015 Apr 18-22; Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2015;75(15 Suppl):Abstract nr 5371. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2015-5371