Small-Molecule Mechanism of Action Studies in Caenorhabditis elegans

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Abstract

A general protocol for exogenous small-molecule pull-down experiments with Caenorhabditis elegans is described; it provides a link between small-molecule screens in worms and existing mutant and RNAi technologies, thereby enabling organismal mechanism of action studies for the natural product clovanemagnolol. Forward chemical genetic screens followed by mechanism of action studies with C. elegans, when coupled with genetic validation of identified targets to reproduce the small molecule's phenotypic effects, provide a unique platform for discovering the biological targets of compounds that affect multicellular processes. First, the use of an immobilized FK506 derivative and soluble competition experiments with optimally prepared soluble C. elegans proteome successfully identified interactions with FK506 binding proteins 1 to 6. This approach was used to determine an unknown mechanism of action for clovanemagnolol, a small molecule that promotes axonal branching in both primary neuronal cultures and in vivo in C. elegans. Following the synthesis of an appropriately functionalized solid-phase reagent bearing a clovanemagnolol analogue pull-down experiments employing soluble competition identified kinesin light chain-1 (KLC-1), a protein involved in axonal cargo transport, as a putative target. This was corroborated through the use of mutant worms lacking klc-1 and possessing GFP neuronal labeling, reproducing the axonal branching phenotype induced by the small molecule clovanemagnolol.

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