Identification of a small GTPase inhibitor using a high-throughput flow cytometry bead-based multiplex assay.
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Small GTPases are key regulators of cellular activity and represent novel targets for the treatment of human diseases using small-molecule inhibitors. The authors describe a multiplex, flow cytometry bead-based assay for the identification and characterization of inhibitors or activators of small GTPases. Six different glutathione-S-transferase (GST)-tagged small GTPases were bound to glutathione beads, each labeled with a different red fluorescence intensity. Subsequently, beads bearing different GTPase were mixed and dispensed into 384-well plates with test compounds, and fluorescent-guanosine triphosphate (GTP) binding was used as the readout. This novel multiplex assay allowed the authors to screen a library of almost 200,000 compounds and identify more than 1200 positive compounds, which were further verified by dose-response analyses, using 6- to 8-plex assays. After the elimination of false-positive and false-negative compounds, several small-molecule families with opposing effects on GTP binding activity were identified. The authors detail the characterization of MLS000532223, a general inhibitor that prevents GTP binding to several GTPases in a dose-dependent manner and is active in biochemical and cell-based secondary assays. Live-cell imaging and confocal microscopy studies revealed the inhibitor-induced actin reorganization and cell morphology changes, characteristic of Rho GTPases inhibition. Thus, high-throughput screening via flow cytometry provides a strategy for identifying novel compounds that are active against small GTPases.