Screening of Focused Compound Library Targeting Liver X Receptors in Pancreatic Cancer Identified Ligands with Inverse Agonist and Degrader Activity

Husna Karaboga, Wentao Huang, Shivangi Srivastava, Scott Widmann, Sridevi Addanki, Kasuni Thawalama Gamage, Zahra Mazhar, Jerry O Ebalunode, James M Briggs, Jan-Åke Gustafsson, Carly S Filgueira, Scott R Gilbertson, Chin-Yo Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the predominant form of pancreatic cancer. PDACs harbor oncogenic mutations in the KRAS gene, and ongoing efforts to directly target its mutant protein product to inhibit tumor growth are a priority not only in pancreatic cancer but in other malignancies such as lung and colorectal cancers where KRAS is also commonly mutated. An alternative strategy to directly targeting KRAS is to identify and target druggable receptors involved in dysregulated cancer hallmarks downstream of KRAS dysregulation. Liver X receptors (LXRs) are members of the nuclear receptor family of ligand-modulated transcription factors and are involved in the regulation of genes which function in key cancer-related processes, including cholesterol transport, lipid and glucose metabolism, and inflammatory and immune responses. Modulation of LXRs via small molecule ligands has emerged as a promising approach for directly targeting tumor cells or the stromal and immune cells within the tumor microenvironment. We have previously shown that only one of the two LXR subtypes (LXRβ) is expressed in pancreatic cancer cells, and targeting LXR with available synthetic ligands blocked the proliferation of PDAC cells and tumor formation. In a screen of a focused library of drug-like small molecules predicted to dock in the ligand-binding pocket of LXRβ, we identified two novel LXR ligands with more potent antitumor activity than current LXR agonists used in our published studies. Characterization of the two lead compounds (GAC0001E5 and GAC0003A4) indicates that they function as LXR inverse agonists which inhibit their transcriptional activity. Prolonged treatments with novel ligands further revealed their function as LXR "degraders" which significantly reduced LXR protein levels in all three PDAC cell lines tested. These findings support the utility of these novel inhibitors in basic research on ligand design, allosteric mechanisms, and LXR functions and their potential application as treatments for advanced pancreatic cancer and other recalcitrant malignancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Chemical Biology
StateE-pub ahead of print - Oct 19 2020


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