Targeting phosphatases of regenerating liver (PRLs) in cancer

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The phosphatase of regenerating liver (PRL) family, also known as protein tyrosine phosphatase 4A (PTP4A), are dual-specificity phosphatases with largely unknown cellular functions. However, accumulating evidence indicates that PRLs are oncogenic across a broad variety of human cancers. PRLs are highly expressed in advanced tumors and metastases compared to early stage cancers or matched healthy tissue, and high expression of PRLs often correlates with poor patient prognosis. Consequentially, PRLs have been considered potential therapeutic targets in cancer. Persistent efforts have been made to define their role and mechanism in cancer progression and to create specific PRL inhibitors for basic research and drug development. However, targeting PRLs with small molecules remains challenging due to the highly conserved active site of protein tyrosine phosphatases and a high degree of sequence similarity between the PRL protein families. Here, we review the current PRL inhibitors, including the strategies used for their identification, their biological efficacy, potency, and selectivity, with a special focus on how PRL structure can inform future efforts to develop specific PRL inhibitors.

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