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J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Feb 14;140(6):2301-2308. doi: 10.1021/jacs.7b12368. Epub 2018 Feb 6.

Enzymatic Self-Assembly Confers Exceptionally Strong Synergism with NF-κB Targeting for Selective Necroptosis of Cancer Cells.

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Department of Chemistry, Brandeis University , 415 South Street, Waltham, Massachusetts 02453, United States.


As a promising molecular process for selectively inhibiting cancer cells without inducing acquired drug resistance, enzyme-instructed self-assembly (EISA) usually requires relatively high dosages. Despite its discovery 30 years ago, the translation of the knowledge about NF-κB signaling into clinic remains complicated due to the broad roles of NF-κB in cellular regulation. Here we show that integrating EISA and NF-κB targeting boosts the efficacy of EISA over an order of magnitude without compromising selectivity against cancer cells. That is, in situ enzymatic self-assembly of a tetrapeptide results in nanofibers, which hardly affect cell viability, but lead to inductive expression of tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2) and decreased expression of three key proteins at the upstream of NF-κB pathway in the cancer cells. Adding the inhibitors targeting NF-κB further decreases the expressions of those upstream proteins, which turns the otherwise innocuous nanofibers to being lethal to the cancer cells, likely causing necroptosis. As the first case of using supramolecular processes to enable synthetic lethality, this work illustrates a versatile approach to translate key regulatory circuits into promising therapeutic targets.

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