Identification of Novel Small Organic Compounds with Diverse Structures for the Induction of Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) Lytic Cycle in EBV-Positive Epithelial Malignancies
Phorbol esters, which are protein kinase C (PKC) activators, and histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, which cause enhanced acetylation of cellular proteins, are the main classes of chemical inducers of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) lytic cycle in latently EBV-infected cells acting through the PKC pathway. Chemical inducers which induce EBV lytic cycle through alternative cellular pathways may aid in defining the mechanisms leading to lytic cycle reactivation and improve cells’ responsiveness towards lytic induction. We performed a phenotypic screening on a chemical library of 50,240 novel small organic compounds to identify novel class(es) of strong inducer(s) of EBV lytic cycle in gastric carcinoma (GC) and nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells. Five hit compounds were selected after three successive rounds of increasingly stringent screening. All five compounds are structurally diverse from each other and distinct from phorbol esters or HDAC inhibitors. They neither cause hyperacetylation of histone proteins nor significant PKC activation at their working concentrations, suggesting that their biological mode of action are distinct from that of the known chemical inducers. Two of the five compounds with rapid lytic-inducing action were further studied for their mechanisms of induction of EBV lytic cycle. Unlike HDAC inhibitors, lytic induction by both compounds was not inhibited by rottlerin, a specific inhibitor of PKCδ. Interestingly, both compounds could cooperate with HDAC inhibitors to enhance EBV lytic cycle induction in EBV-positive epithelial cancer cells, paving way for the development of strategies to increase cells’ responsiveness towards lytic reactivation. One of the two compounds bears structural resemblance to iron chelators and the other strongly activates the MAPK pathways. These structurally diverse novel organic compounds may represent potential new classes of chemicals that can be used to investigate any alternative mechanism(s) leading to EBV lytic cycle reactivation from latency.