Electrophilic reactive intermediates resulting from drug metabolism have been associated with toxicity and off-target effects and in some drug discovery programs trigger NO-GO decisions. Many botanicals and dietary supplements are replete with such reactive electrophiles, notably Michael acceptors, which have been demonstrated to elicit chemopreventive mechanisms; and Michael acceptors are gaining regulatory approval as contemporary cancer therapeutics. Identifying protein targets of these electrophiles is central to understanding potential therapeutic benefit and toxicity risk. NO-donating NSAID prodrugs (NO-NSAIDs) have been the focus of extensive clinical and preclinical studies in inflammation and cancer chemoprevention and therapy: a subset exemplified by pNO-ASA, induces chemopreventive mechanisms following bioactivation to an electrophilic quinone methide (QM) Michael acceptor. Having previously shown that these NO-independent, QM-donors activated Nrf2 via covalent modification of Keap-1, we demonstrate that components of canonical NF-κB signaling are also targets, leading to the inhibition of NF-κB signaling. Combining bio-orthogonal probes of QM-donor ASA prodrugs with mass spectrometric proteomics and pathway analysis, we proceeded to characterize the quinonome: the protein cellular targets of QM-modification by pNO-ASA and its ASA pro-drug congeners. Further comparison was made using a biorthogonal probe of the "bare-bones", Michael acceptor, and clinical anti-inflammatory agent, dimethyl fumarate, which we have shown to inhibit NF-κB signaling. Identified quinonome pathways include post-translational protein folding, cell-death regulation, protein transport, and glycolysis; and identified proteins included multiple heat shock elements, the latter functionally confirmed by demonstrating activation of heat shock response.
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