The apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease 1/redox factor-1 (Ape-1/Ref-1) is a multi-functional protein, involved in DNA repair and the activation of redox-sensitive transcription factors. The Ape-1/Ref-1 redox domain acts as a cytoprotective element in normal endothelial cells, mitigating the deleterious effects of apoptotic stimuli through induction of survival signals. We explored the role of the Ape-1/Ref-1 redox domain in the maintenance of tumor-associated endothelium, and of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), which contribute to tumor angiogenesis. We demonstrate that E3330, a small molecule inhibitor of the Ape-1/Ref-1 redox domain, blocks the in vitro growth of pancreatic cancer-associated endothelial cells (PCECs) and EPCs, which is recapitulated by stable expression of a dominant-negative redox domain mutant. Further, E3330 blocks the differentiation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) into CD31 + endothelial progeny. Exposure of PCECs to E3330 results in a reduction of H-ras expression and intracellular nitric oxide (NO) levels, as well as decreased DNA-binding activity of the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor, HIF-1α. E3330 also reduces secreted and intracellular vascular endothelial growth factor expression by pancreatic cancer cells, while concomitantly downregulating the cognate receptor Flk-1/KDR on PCECs. Inhibition of the Ape-1/Ref-1 redox domain with E3330 or comparable angiogenesis inhibitors might be a potent therapeutic strategy in solid tumors.
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