Ultra-high-throughput screening of natural product extracts to identify proapoptotic inhibitors of Bcl-2 family proteins

Christian A. Hassig, Fu Yue Zeng, Paul Kung, Mehrak Kiankarimi, Sylvia Kim, Paul W. Diaz, Dayong Zhai, Kate Welsh, Shana Morshedian, Ying Su, Barry O'Keefe, David J. Newman, Yudi Rusman, Harneet Kaur, Christine E. Salomon, Susan G. Brown, Beeraiah Baire, Andrew R. Michel, Thomas R. Hoye, Subhashree FrancisGunda I. Georg, Michael A. Walters, Daniela B. Divlianska, Gregory P. Roth, Amy E. Wright, John C. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins are validated cancer targets composed of six related proteins. From a drug discovery perspective, these are challenging targets that exert their cellular functions through protein-protein interactions (PPIs). Although several isoform-selective inhibitors have been developed using structure-based design or high-throughput screening (HTS) of synthetic chemical libraries, no large-scale screen of natural product collections has been reported. A competitive displacement fluorescence polarization (FP) screen of nearly 150,000 natural product extracts was conducted against all six antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins using fluorochrome-conjugated peptide ligands that mimic functionally relevant PPIs. The screens were conducted in 1536-well format and displayed satisfactory overall HTS statistics, with Z′-factor values ranging from 0.72 to 0.83 and a hit confirmation rate between 16% and 64%. Confirmed active extracts were orthogonally tested in a luminescent assay for caspase-3/7 activation in tumor cells. Active extracts were resupplied, and effort toward the isolation of pure active components was initiated through iterative bioassay-guided fractionation. Several previously described altertoxins were isolated from a microbial source, and the pure compounds demonstrate activity in both Bcl-2 FP and caspase cellular assays. The studies demonstrate the feasibility of ultra-high- throughput screening using natural product sources and highlight some of the challenges associated with this approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1201-1211
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomolecular Screening
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This project has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Cancer Institute NExT Program, National Institutes of Health, under contract No. HHSN261200800001E. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.


  • Bcl-2 family
  • apoptosis
  • bioassay-guided fractionation
  • fluorescence polarization
  • natural product extracts
  • ultra-high-throughput screening


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