Small molecule antagonists of the urokinase (uPA): urokinase receptor (uPAR) interaction with high reported potencies show only weak effects in cell-based competition assays employing the native uPAR ligand
Binding of the urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) to its cell-surface-bound receptor uPAR and upregulation of the plasminogen activation system (PAS) correlates with increased metastasis and poor prognosis in several tumour types. Disruptors of the uPA:uPAR interaction represent promising anti-tumour/metastasis agents and several approaches have been explored for this purpose, including the use of small molecule antagonists. Two highly potent non-peptidic antagonists 1 and 2 (IC50 1 = 0.8 nM, IC50 2 = 33 nM) from the patent literature were reportedly identified using competition assays employing radiolabelled uPAR-binding uPA fragments and appeared as useful pharmacological tools for studying the PAS. Before proceeding to such studies, confirmation was sought that 1 and 2 retained their potencies in physiologically relevant cell-based competition assays employing uPAR's native binding partner high molecular weight uPA (HMW-uPA). This study describes a new solution phase synthesis of 1, a mixed solid/solution phase synthesis of 2 and reports the activities of 1 and 2 in semi-quantitative competition flow cytometry assays and quantitative cell-based uPA activity assays that employed HMW-uPA as the competing ligand. The flow cytometry experiments revealed that high concentrations of 2 (10-100 μM) are required to compete with HMW-uPA for uPAR binding and that 1 shows no antagonist effects at 100 μM. The cell-based enzyme activity assays similarly revealed that 1 and 2 are poor inhibitors of cell surface-bound HMW-uPA activity (IC50 >100 μM for 1 and 2). The report highlights the dangers of identifying false-positive lead uPAR antagonists from competition assays employing labelled competing ligands other than the native HMW-uPA. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.