University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers screened a chemical library of 200,000 compounds to find the chemicals that can be used to study and possibly manipulate cellular pathways.
"The identification of these chemicals and their targets within this cellular pathway represents an important step in developing therapeutic agents," said Assistant Professor Lawrence Lum.
Using cultured mouse cells, the researchers studied biochemical reactions within cells controlled by a class of proteins called Wnt that help control embryonic development in many animals, including humans. Misregulation of cellular responses to Wnt proteins is associated with a broad range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's and polycystic kidney disease, and type 2 diabetes, the scientists said.
Nine compounds found to inactivate Wnt-controlled systems were earmarked for further research. The scientists found five of the compounds stopped cells from responding to Wnt and four prevented Wnt from being produced in the first place.
The research is reported in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.