Partitioning of cancer therapeutics in nuclear condensates

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Science  19 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6497, pp. 1386-1392
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz4427

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Drug partitioning in nuclear condensates

There is increasing interest in the function of phase-separated biomolecular condensates in cells because of their distinct properties and expanding roles in important biological processes. Klein et al. considered the fate of small-molecule therapeutics in the context of nuclear condensates (see the Perspective by Viny and Levine). They show that certain antineoplastic drugs have physicochemical properties that cause them to concentrate preferentially in condensates, both in vitro and in cancer cells. This property influences drug activity, and protein mutations that alter condensate formation can lead to drug resistance. Optimizing condensate partitioning may be valuable in developing improved therapeutics.

Science, this issue p. 1386; see also p. 1314


The nucleus contains diverse phase-separated condensates that compartmentalize and concentrate biomolecules with distinct physicochemical properties. Here, we investigated whether condensates concentrate small-molecule cancer therapeutics such that their pharmacodynamic properties are altered. We found that antineoplastic drugs become concentrated in specific protein condensates in vitro and that this occurs through physicochemical properties independent of the drug target. This behavior was also observed in tumor cells, where drug partitioning influenced drug activity. Altering the properties of the condensate was found to affect the concentration and activity of drugs. These results suggest that selective partitioning and concentration of small molecules within condensates contributes to drug pharmacodynamics and that further understanding of this phenomenon may facilitate advances in disease therapy.

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