Identification of cytotoxic agents disrupting synovial sarcoma oncoprotein interactions by proximity ligation assay

Conventional cytotoxic therapies for synovial sarcoma provide limited benefit. Drugs specifically targeting the product of its driver translocation are currently unavailable, in part because the SS18-SSX oncoprotein functions via aberrant interactions within multiprotein complexes. Proximity ligation assay is a recently-developed method that assesses protein-protein interactions in situ. Here we report use of the proximity ligation assay to confirm the oncogenic association of SS18-SSX with its co-factor TLE1 in multiple human synovial sarcoma cell lines and in surgically-excised human tumor tissue. SS18-SSX/TLE1 interactions are disrupted by class I HDAC inhibitors and novel small molecule inhibitors. This assay can be applied in a high-throughput format for drug discovery in fusion-oncoprotein associated cancers where key effector partners are known.