Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Genetics

First Advisor

Grossman, Steven R.


Cancer involves the dysregulated proliferation and growth of cells throughout the body. C-terminal binding proteins (CtBP) 1 and 2 are transcriptional co-regulators upregulated in several cancers, including breast, colorectal, and ovarian tumors. CtBPs drive oncogenic properties, including migration, invasion, proliferation, and survival, in part through repression of tumor suppressor genes. CtBPs encode an intrinsic dehydrogenase activity, utilizing intracellular NADH concentrations and the substrate 4-methylthio-2-oxobutyric acid (MTOB), to regulate the recruitment of transcriptional regulatory complexes. High levels of MTOB inhibit CtBP dehydrogenase function and induce cytotoxicity among cancer cells in a CtBP-dependent manner. While encouraging, a good therapeutic would utilize >100-fold lower concentrations. Therefore, we endeavored to design better CtBP-specific therapeutics. The best of these drugs, 3-Cl and 4-Cl HIPP, exhibit nanomolar enzymatic inhibition and micromolar cytotoxicity and showed that CtBP enzymatic function is subject to allosteric interactions. Additionally, the function of the substrate-binding domain has yet to be examined in context of CtBP’s oncogenic activity. To this end, we created several point mutations in the CtBP substrate-binding pocket and determined key residues for CtBP’s enzymatic activity. We found that a conserved tryptophan in the catalytic domain is imperative for function and unique to CtBPs among dehydrogenases. Knowledge of this and other residues allows the directed synthesis of drugs with increased potency and higher CtBP specificity. Early work interrogated the importance of these residues in cell migration. Taken together, this work addresses the utility of the CtBP substrate-binding domain as a target for cancer therapeutics.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission