Identification of a selective DDX3X inhibitor with newly developed quantitative high-throughput RNA helicase assays.

Shoichi Nakao, Masahiro Nogami, Misa Iwatani, Toshihiro Imaeda, Masahiro Ito, Toshio Tanaka, Michiko Tawada, Satoshi Endo, Douglas R Cary, Momoko Ohori, Yasuhiro Imaeda, Tomohiro Kawamoto, Samuel Aparicio, Atsushi Nakanishi, Shinsuke Araki, Biochemical and biophysical research communications 523, 795-801 (2020)


The DEAD-box family of RNA helicases plays essential roles in both transcriptional and translational mRNA degradation; they unwind short double-stranded RNA by breaking the RNA-RNA interactions. Two DEAD-box RNA helicases, eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4A3 (eIF4A3) and DEAD-box helicase 3 (DDX3X), show high homology in the ATP-binding region and are considered key molecules for cancer progression. Several small molecules that target eIF4A3 and DDX3X have been reported to inhibit cancer cell growth; however, more potent compounds are required for cancer therapeutics, and there is a critical need for high-throughput assays to screen for RNA helicase inhibitors. In this study, we developed novel fluorescence resonance energy transfer-based high-throughput RNA helicase assays for eIF4A3 and DDX3X. Using these assays, we identified several eIF4A3 allosteric inhibitors whose inhibitory effect on eIF4A3 ATPase showed a strong correlation with inhibitory effect on helicase activity. From 102 compounds that exhibited eIF4A3 ATPase inhibition, we identified a selective DDX3X inhibitor, C1, which showed stronger inhibition of DDX3X than of eIF4A3. Small-molecule helicase inhibitors can be valuable for clarifying the molecular machinery of DEAD-box RNA helicases. The high-throughput quantitative assays established here should facilitate the evaluation of the helicase inhibitory activity of compounds.