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J Am Chem Soc. 2013 Aug 7;135(31):11623-33. doi: 10.1021/ja405108p. Epub 2013 Jul 25.

In vivo activation of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway by an engineered cyclotide.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA.


The overexpression of Hdm2 and HdmX is a common mechanism used by many tumor cells to inactive the p53 tumor suppressor pathway promoting cell survival. Targeting Hdm2 and HdmX has emerged as a validated therapeutic strategy for treating cancers with wild-type p53. Small linear peptides mimicking the N-terminal fragment of p53 have been shown to be potent Hdm2/HdmX antagonists. The potential therapeutic use of these peptides, however, is limited by their poor stability and bioavailability. Here, we report the engineering of the cyclotide MCoTI-I to efficiently antagonize intracellular p53 degradation. The resulting cyclotide MCo-PMI was able to bind with low nanomolar affinity to both Hdm2 and HdmX, showed high stability in human serum, and was cytotoxic to wild-type p53 cancer cell lines by activating the p53 tumor suppressor pathway both in vitro and in vivo. These features make the cyclotide MCoTI-I an optimal scaffold for targeting intracellular protein-protein interactions.

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