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RIPK1-dependent cell death: a novel target of the Aurora kinase inhibitor Tozasertib (VX-680)

  • Martens, Sofie1, 2
  • Goossens, Vera1, 2
  • Devisscher, Lars3
  • Hofmans, Sam3
  • Claeys, Polien1, 2
  • Vuylsteke, Marnik1, 2, 4
  • Takahashi, Nozomi1, 2
  • Augustyns, Koen3
  • Vandenabeele, Peter1, 2
  • 1 Inflammation Research Center (IRC), VIB, Ghent, 9052, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 2 Ghent University, Department of Biomedical Molecular Biology (DBMB), Ghent, 9052, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 3 University of Antwerp, Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry, Antwerp, 2610, Belgium , Antwerp (Belgium)
  • 4 Gnomixx, Melle, 9090, Belgium , Melle (Belgium)
Published Article
Cell Death and Disease
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Feb 12, 2018
DOI: 10.1038/s41419-017-0245-7
Springer Nature


The Aurora kinase family (Aurora A, B and C) are crucial regulators of several mitotic events, including cytokinesis. Increased expression of these kinases is associated with tumorigenesis and several compounds targeting Aurora kinase are under evaluation in clinical trials (a.o. AT9283, AZD1152, Danusertib, MLN8054). Here, we demonstrate that the pan-Aurora kinase inhibitor Tozasertib (VX-680 and MK-0457) not only causes cytokinesis defects through Aurora kinase inhibition, but is also a potent inhibitor of necroptosis, a cell death process regulated and executed by the RIPK1, RIPK3 and MLKL signalling axis. Tozasertib’s potency to inhibit RIPK1-dependent necroptosis and to block cytokinesis in cells is in the same concentration range, with an IC50 of 1.06 µM and 0.554 µM, respectively. A structure activity relationship (SAR) analysis of 67 Tozasertib analogues, modified at 4 different positions, allowed the identification of analogues that showed increased specificity for either cytokinesis inhibition or for necroptosis inhibition, reflecting more specific inhibition of Aurora kinase or RIPK1, respectively. These results also suggested that RIPK1 and Aurora kinases are functionally non-interacting targets of Tozasertib and its analogues. Indeed, more specific Aurora kinase inhibitors did not show any effect in necroptosis and Necrostatin-1s treatment did not result in cytokinesis defects, demonstrating that both cellular processes are not interrelated. Finally, Tozasertib inhibited recombinant human RIPK1, human Aurora A and human Aurora B kinase activity, but not RIPK3. The potency ranking of the newly derived Tozasertib analogues and their specificity profile, as observed in cellular assays, coincide with ADP-Glo recombinant kinase activity assays. Overall, we show that Tozasertib not only targets Aurora kinases but also RIPK1 independently, and that we could generate analogues with increased selectivity to RIPK1 or Aurora kinases, respectively.

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