DNA alkylation-induced damage is one of the most efficacious anticancer therapeutic strategies. Enhanced DNA alkylation and weakened DNA repair capacity in cancer cells are responsible for the effectiveness of DNA-alkylating therapies. 5′-Flap endonuclease 1 (Fen1) is an important enzyme involved in base excision repair (BER), specifically in long-patch BER (LP-BER). Using the site-directed mutagenesis approach, we have identified an important role for amino acid Asp181 of Fen1 in its endonuclease activity. Asp181 is thought to be involved in Mg2+ binding in the active site. Using structure-based molecular docking of Fen1 targeted to its metal binding pocket M2 (Mg 2+ site), we have identified a potent low-molecular weight inhibitor (LMI, NSC-281680) that efficiently blocks LP-BER. In this study, we have demonstrated that the interaction of this LMI with Fen1 blocked its endonuclease activity, thereby blocking LP-BER and enhancing the cytotoxic effect of DNA-alkylating agent Temozolomide (TMZ) in mismatch repair(MMR)-deficient and MMR-proficient colon cancer cells. The results further suggest that blockade of LP-BER by NSC-281680 may bypass other drug resistance mechanisms such as mismatch repair (MMR) defects. Therefore, our findings provide groundwork for the development of highly specific and safer structure-based small molecular inhibitors targeting the BER pathway, which can be used along with existing chemotherapeutic agents, like TMZ, as combination therapy for the treatment of colorectal cancer.
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