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Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2012;357:179-207. doi: 10.1007/82_2011_177.

Small-molecule inhibitors of ricin and Shiga toxins.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Disease, Wadsworth Center New York State Department of Health, Albany, NY 12208, USA.


This review summarizes the successes and continuing challenges associated with the identification of small-molecule inhibitors of ricin and Shiga toxins, members of the RNA N-glycosidase family of toxins that irreversibly inactivate eukaryotic ribosomes through the depurination of a conserved adenosine residue within the sarcin-ricin loop (SRL) of 28S rRNA. Virtual screening of chemical libraries has led to the identification of at least three broad classes of small molecules that bind in or near the toxin's active sites and thereby interfere with RNA N-glycosidase activity. Rational design is being used to improve the specific activity and solubility of a number of these compounds. High-throughput cell-based assays have also led to the identification of small molecules that partially, or in some cases, completely protect cells from ricin- and Shiga-toxin-induced death. A number of these recently identified compounds act on cellular proteins associated with intracellular trafficking or pro-inflammatory/cell death pathways, and one was reported to be sufficient to protect mice in a ricin challenge model.

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