Inhibition of GCN2 Reveals Synergy with Cell-Cycle Regulation and Proteostasis
The integrated stress response is a signaling network comprising four branches, each sensing different cellular stressors, converging on the phosphorylation of eIF2α to downregulate global translation and initiate recovery. One of these branches includes GCN2, which senses cellular amino acid insufficiency and participates in maintaining amino acid homeostasis. Previous studies have shown that GCN2 is a viable cancer target when amino acid stress is induced by inhibiting an ad-ditional target. In this light, we screened myriad drugs for their potential to synergize with the GCN2 inhibitor TAP20. The drug sensitivity of six cancer cell lines to a panel of 25 compounds was assessed. Each compound was then combined with TAP20 at concentrations below their IC50, and the impact on cell growth was evaluated. The strongly synergistic combinations were further characterized using synergy analyses and matrix-dependent invasion assays. Inhibitors of proteostasis and the MEK–ERK pathway, as well as the pan-CDK inhibitors, flavopiridol, and seliciclib, were potently synergistic with TAP20 in two cell lines. Among their common CDK targets was CDK7, which was more selectively targeted by THZ-1 and synergized with TAP20. Moreover, these combinations were partially synergistic when assessed using matrix-dependent invasion assays. However, TAP20 alone was sufficient to restrict invasion at concentrations well below its growth-inhibitory IC50. We conclude that GCN2 inhibition can be further explored in vivo as a cancer target.