The past 20 years have seen many advances in our understanding of protein-protein interactions (PPIs) and how to target them with small-molecule therapeutics. In 2004, we reviewed some early successes; since then, potent inhibitors have been developed for diverse protein complexes, and compounds are now in clinical trials for six targets. Surprisingly, many of these PPI clinical candidates have efficiency metrics typical of "lead-like'' or "drug-like'' molecules and are orally available. Successful discovery efforts have integrated multiple disciplines and make use of all the modern tools of target-based discovery-structure, computation, screening, and biomarkers. PPIs become progressively more challenging as the interfaces become more complex, i.e., as binding epitopes are displayed on primary, secondary, or tertiary structures. Here, we review the last 10 years of progress, focusing on the properties of PPI inhibitors that have advanced to clinical trials and prospects for the future of PPI drug discovery.
The selective chemical modification of biological molecules drives a good portion of modern drug development and fundamental biological research. While a few early examples of reactions that engage amine and thiol groups on proteins helped establish the value of such processes, the development of reactions that avoid most biological molecules so as to achieve selectivity in desired bond-forming events has revolutionized the field. We provide an update on recent developments in bioorthogonal chemistry that highlights key advances in reaction rates, biocompatibility, and applications. While not exhaustive, we hope this summary allows the reader to appreciate the rich continuing development of good chemistry that operates in the biological setting.
Vitamin D-3 is made in the skin from 7-dehydrocholesterol under the influence of UV light. Vitamin D-2 (ergocalciferol) is derived from the plant sterol ergosterol. Vitamin D is metabolized first to 25 hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD), then to the hormonal form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)(2)D). CYP2R1 is the most important 25-hydroxylase; CYP27B1 is the key 1-hydroxylase. Both 25OHD and 1,25(OH)(2)D are catabolized by CYP24A1. 1,25(OH)(2)D is the ligand for the vitamin D receptor (VDR), a transcription factor, binding to sites in the DNA called vitamin D response elements (VDREs). There are thousands of these binding sites regulating hundreds of genes in a cell-specific fashion. VDR-regulated transcription is dependent on comodulators, the profile of which is also cell specific. Analogs of 1,25(OH)(2)D are being developed to target specific diseases with minimal side effects. This review will examine these different aspects of vitamin D metabolism, mechanism of action, and clinical application.
Recent advances of biological drugs have broadened the scope of therapeutic targets for a variety of human diseases. This holds true for dozens of RNA-based therapeutics currently under clinical investigation for diseases ranging from genetic disorders to HIV infection to various cancers. These emerging drugs, which include therapeutic ribozymes, aptamers, and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), demonstrate the unprecedented versatility of RNA. However, RNA is inherently unstable, potentially immunogenic, and typically requires a delivery vehicle for efficient transport to the targeted cells. These issues have hindered the clinical progress of some RNA-based drugs and have contributed to mixed results in clinical testing. Nevertheless, promising results from recent clinical trials suggest that these barriers may be overcome with improved synthetic delivery carriers and chemical modifications of the RNA therapeutics. This review focuses on the clinical results of siRNA, RNA aptamer, and ribozyme therapeutics and the prospects for future successes.
BRD4, a bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) family member, is an attractive target in multiple pathological settings, particularly cancer. While BRD4 inhibitors have shown some promise in MYC-driven malignancies such as Burkitt's lymphoma (BL), we show that BRD4 inhibitors lead to robust BRD4 protein accumulation, which may account for their limited suppression of MYC expression, modest antiproliferative activity, and lack of apoptotic induction. To address these limitations we designed ARV825, a hetero-bifunctional PROTAC (Proteolysis Targeting Chimera) that recruits BRD4 to the E3 ubiquitin ligase cereblon, leading to fast, efficient, and prolonged degradation of BRD4 in all BL cell lines tested. Consequently, ARV-825 more effectively suppresses c-MYC levels and downstream signaling than small-molecule BRD4 inhibitors, resulting in more effective cell proliferation inhibition and apoptosis induction in BL. Our findings provide strong evidence that cereblon-based PROTACs provide a better and more efficient strategy in targeting BRD4 than traditional small-molecule inhibitors.
DNA topoisomerases are the targets of important anticancer and antibacterial drugs. Camptothecins and novel noncamptothecins in clinical development (indenoisoquinolines and ARC-111) target eukaryotic type IB topoisomerases (Top1), whereas human type HA topoisomerases (Top2 alpha and Top2 beta) are the targets of the widely used anticancer agents etoposide, anthracyclines (doxorubicin, daunorubicin), and mitoxantrone. Bacterial type II topoisomerases (gyrase and Topo IV) are the targets of quinolones and aminocoumarin antibiotics. This review focuses on the molecular and biochemical characteristics of topoisomerases and their inhibitors. We also discuss the common mechanism of action of topoisomerase poisons by interfacial inhibition and trapping of topoisomerase cleavage complexes.
Protein kinases are a large family of approximately 530 highly conserved enzymes that transfer a gamma-phosphate group from ATP to a variety of amino acid residues, such as tyrosine, serine, and threonine, that serves as a ubiquitous mechanism for cellular signal transduction. The clinical success of a number of kinase-directed drugs and the frequent observation of disease causing mutations in protein kinases suggest that a large number of kinases may represent therapeutically relevant targets. To date, the majority of clinical and preclinical kinase inhibitors are ATP competitive, noncovalent inhibitors that achieve selectivity through recognition of unique features of particular protein kinases. Recently, there has been renewed interest in the development of irreversible inhibitors that form covalent bonds with cysteine or other nucleophilic residues in the ATP-binding pocket. Irreversible kinase inhibitors have a number of potential advantages including prolonged pharmacodynamics, suitability for rational design, high potency, and ability to validate pharmacological specificity through mutation of the reactive cysteine residue. Here, we review recent efforts to develop cysteine-targeted irreversible protein kinase inhibitors and discuss their modes of recognizing the ATP-binding pocket and their biological activity profiles. In addition, we provided an informatics assessment of the potential "kinase cysteinome" and discuss strategies for the efficient development of new covalent inhibitors.
Oligonucleotides (ONs), and their chemically modified mimics, are now routinely used in the laboratory as a means to control the expression of fundamentally interesting or therapeutically relevant genes. ONs are also under active investigation in the clinic, with many expressing cautious optimism that at least some ON-based therapies will succeed in the coming years. In this review, we will discuss several classes of ONs used for controlling gene expression, with an emphasis on antisense ONs (AONs), small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), and microRNA-targeting ONs (anti-miRNAs). This review provides a current and detailed account of ON chemical modification strategies for the optimization of biological activity and therapeutic application, while clarifying the biological pathways, chemical properties, benefits, and limitations of oligonucleotide analogs used in nucleic acids research.
Proteasomes are large, multisubunit proteolytic complexes presenting multiple targets for therapeutic intervention. The 26S proteasome consists of a 20S proteolytic core and one or two 19S regulatory particles. The 20S core contains three types of active sites. Many structurally diverse inhibitors of these active sites, both natural product and synthetic, have been discovered in the last two decades. One, bortezomib, is used clinically for treatment of multiple myeloma, mantle cell lymphoma, and acute allograft rejection. Five more recently developed proteasome inhibitors are in trials for treatment of myeloma and other cancers. Proteasome inhibitors also have activity in animal models of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, reperfusion injury, promote bone and hair growth, and can potentially be used as anti-infectives. In addition, inhibitors of ATPases and deubiquitinases of 19S regulatory particles have been discovered in the last decade.
Marine life forms are an important source of structurally diverse and biologically active secondary metabolites, several of which have inspired the development of new classes of therapeutic agents. These success stories have had to overcome difficulties inherent to natural products-derived drugs, such as adequate sourcing of the agent and issues related to structural complexity. Nevertheless, several marine-derived agents are now approved, most as "first-in-class" drugs, with five of seven appearing in the past few years. Additionally, there is a rich pipeline of clinical and preclinical marine compounds to suggest their continued application in human medicine. Understanding of how these agents are biosynthetically assembled has accelerated in recent years, especially through interdisciplinary approaches, and innovative manipulations and re-engineering of some of these gene clusters are yielding novel agents of enhanced pharmaceutical properties compared with the natural product.
Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) are a therapeutic class offering promise for cancer therapy. The attachment of cytotoxic drugs to antibodies can result in an effective therapy with better safety potential than nontargeted cytotoxics. To understand the role of conjugation site, we developed an enzymatic method for site-specific antibody drug conjugation using microbial transglutaminase. This allowed us to attach diverse compounds at multiple positions and investigate how the site influences stability, toxicity, and efficacy. We show that the conjugation site has significant impact on ADC stability and pharmacokinetics in a species-dependent manner. These differences can be directly attributed to the position of the linkage rather than the chemical instability, as was observed with a maleimide linkage. With this method, it is possible to produce homogeneous ADCs and tune their properties to maximize the therapeutic window.
We describe a general and rapid route for the addition of unnatural amino acids to the genetic code of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Five amino acids have been incorporated into proteins efficiently and with high fidelity in response to the nonsense codon TAG. The side chains of these amino acids contain a keto group, which can be uniquely modified in vitro and in vivo with a wide range of chemical probes and reagents; a heavy atom-containing amino acid for structural studies; and photocrosslinkers for cellular studies of protein interactions. This methodology not only removes the constraints imposed by the genetic code on our ability to manipulate protein structure and function in yeast, it provides a gateway to the systematic expansion of the genetic codes of multicellular eukaryotes.
Targeted endogenous gene activation is necessary for understanding complex gene networks and has great potential in medical and industrial applications. The CRISPR-Cas system offers simple and powerful tools for this purpose. However, these CRISPR-Cas-based tools for activating user-defined genes are unable to offer precise temporal control of gene expression, despite the fact that many biological phenomena are regulated by highly dynamic patterns of gene expression. Here we created a light-inducible, user-defined, endogenous gene activation system based on CRISPR-Cas9. We demonstrated that this CRISPR-Cas9-based transcription system can allow rapid and reversible targeted gene activation by light. In addition, using this system, we have exemplified photoactivation of multiple user-defined endogenous genes in mammalian cells. The present CRISPR-Cas9-based transcription system offers simple and versatile approaches for precise endogenous gene activation in basic biological research and biotechnology applications.
The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a sensor of cellular energy status. It is activated, by a mechanism requiring the tumor suppressor LKB1, by metabolic stresses that increase cellular ADP:ATP and/or AMP:ATP ratios. Once activated, it switches on catabolic pathways that generate ATP, while switching off biosynthetic pathways and cell-cycle progress. These effects suggest that AMPK activators might be useful for treatment and/or prevention of type 2 diabetes and cancer. Indeed, AMPK is activated by the drugs metformin and salicylate, the latter being the major breakdown product of aspirin. Metformin is widely used to treat diabetes, while there is epidemiological evidence that both metformin and aspirin provide protection against cancer. We review the mechanisms of AMPK activation by these and other drugs, and by natural products derived from traditional herbal medicines.
DNA-damaging agents have a long history of use in cancer chemotherapy. The full extent of their cellular mechanisms, which is essential to balance efficacy and toxicity, is often unclear. In addition, the use of many anticancer drugs is limited by dose-limiting toxicities as well as the development of drug resistance. Novel anticancer compounds are continually being developed in the hopes of addressing these limitations; however, it is essential to be able to evaluate these compounds for their mechanisms of action. This review covers the current DNA-damaging agents used in the clinic, discusses their limitations, and describes the use of chemical genomics to uncover new information about the DNA damage response network and to evaluate novel DNA-damaging compounds.
Membrane microdomains (rafts) remain one of the controversial issues in biophysics. Fluorescent molecular probes, which make these lipid nanostructures visible through optical techniques, are one of the tools currently used to study lipid rafts. The most common are lipophilic fluorescent probes that partition specifically into liquid ordered or liquid disordered phase. Their partition depends on the lipid composition of a given phase, which complicates their use in cellular membranes. A second class of probes is based on environment-sensitive dyes, which partition into both phases, but stain them by different fluorescence color, intensity, or lifetime. These probes can directly address the properties of each separate phase, but their cellular applications are still limited. The present review focuses on summarizing the current state in the field of developing and applying fluorescent molecular probes to study lipid rafts. We highlight an urgent need to develop new probes, specifically adapted for cell plasma membranes and compatible with modern fluorescence microscopy techniques to push the understanding of membrane microdomains forward.
The rule of 5 (Ro5) is a set of in silico guidelines applied to drug discovery to prioritize compounds with an increased likelihood of high oral absorption. It has been influential in reducing attrition due to poor pharmacokinetics over the last 15 years. However, strict reliance on the Ro5 may have resulted in lost opportunities, particularly for difficult targets. To identify opportunities for oral drug discovery beyond the Ro5 (bRo5), we have comprehensively analyzed drugs and clinical candidates with molecular weight (MW) > 500 Da. We conclude that oral drugs are found far bRo5 and properties such as intramolecular hydrogen bonding, macrocyclization, dosage, and formulations can be used to improve bRo5 bioavailability. Natural products and structure-based design, often from peptidic leads, are key sources for oral bRo5 drugs. These insights should help guide the design of oral drugs in bRo5 space, which is of particular interest for difficult targets.
Semiconductor quantum dots are quickly becoming a critical diagnostic tool for discerning cellular function at the molecular level. Their high brightness, long-lasting, size-tunable, and narrow luminescence set them apart from conventional fluorescence dyes. Quantum dots are being developed for a variety of biologically oriented applications, including fluorescent assays for drug discovery, disease detection, single protein tracking, and intracellular reporting. This review introduces the science behind quantum dots and describes how they are made biologically compatible. Several applications are also included, illustrating strategies toward target specificity, and are followed by a discussion on the limitations of quantum dot approaches. The article is concluded with a look at the future direction of quantum dots.
Mycolic acids are major and specific lipid components of the mycobacterial cell envelope and are essential for the survival of members of the genus Mycobacterium that contains the causative agents of both tuberculosis and leprosy. In the alarming context of the emergence of multidrug-resistant, extremely drug-resistant, and totally drug-resistant tuberculosis, understanding the biosynthesis of these critical determinants of the mycobacterial physiology is an important goal to achieve, because it may open an avenue for the development of novel antimycobacterial agents. This review focuses on the chemistry, structures, and known inhibitors of mycolic acids and describes progress in deciphering the mycolic acid biosynthetic pathway. The functional and key biological roles of these molecules are also discussed, providing a historical perspective in this dynamic area.
The histone acetyltransferase (HAT) p300/CBP is a transcriptional coactivator implicated in many gene regulatory pathways and protein acetylation events. Although p300 inhibitors have been reported, a potent, selective, and readily available active-site-directed small molecule inhibitor is not yet known. Here we use a structure-based, in silico screening approach to identify a commercially available pyrazolone-containing small molecule p300 HAT inhibitor, C646. C646 is a competitive p300 inhibitor with a K-i of 400 nM and is selective versus other acetyltransferases. Studies on site-directed p300 HAT mutants and synthetic modifications of C646 confirm the importance of predicted interactions in conferring potency. Inhibition of histone acetylation and cell growth by C646 in cells validate its utility as a pharmacologic probe and suggest that p300/CBP HAT is a worthy anticancer target.