Necroptosis-blocking compound NBC1 targets heat shock protein 70 to inhibit MLKL polymerization and necroptosis

Andrea N. Johnston, Yuyong Ma, Hua Liu, Shuzhen Liu, Sarah Hanna-Addams, She Chen, Chuo Chen, Zhigao Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Necroptosis is a regulated necrotic cell death pathway involved in development and disease. Its signaling cascade results in the formation of disulfide bond-dependent amyloid-like polymers of mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein (MLKL), which mediate proinflammatory cell membrane disruption. We screened compound libraries provided by the National Cancer Institute and identified a small-molecule inhibitor of necroptosis named necroptosis-blocking compound 1 (NBC1). Biotin-labeled NBC1 specifically conjugates to heat shock protein Hsp70. NBC1 and PES-Cl, a known Hsp70 substrate-binding inhibitor, block the formation of MLKL polymers, but not MLKL tetramers in necroptosis-induced cells. In vitro, recombinant Hsp70 interacts with the N-terminal domain (NTD) of MLKL and promotes NTD polymerization, which has been shown to mediate the cell killing activity. Furthermore, the substrate-binding domain (SBD) of Hsp70 is sufficient to promote MLKL polymerization. NBC1 covalently conjugates cysteine 574 and cysteine 603 of the SBD to block its function. In addition, an SBD mutant with both cysteines mutated to serines loses its ability to promote MLKL polymerization. Interestingly, knockdown of Hsp70 in cells leads to MLKL destabilization, suggesting that MLKL might also be a client protein of Hsp70. In summary, using NBC1, an inhibitor of necroptosis, we identified Hsp70 as a molecular chaperone performing dual functions in necroptosis. It stabilizes MLKL protein under normal condition and promotes MLKL polymerization through its substrate-binding domain during necroptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6521-6530
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 24 2020


  • Hsp70
  • MLKL
  • NBC1
  • Necroptosis
  • Polymerization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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