High-throughput screening (HTS) has become an integral part of academic and industrial efforts aimed at developing new chemical probes and drugs. These screens typically generate several “hits”, or lead active compounds, that must be prioritized for follow-up medicinal chemistry studies. Among primary considerations for ranking lead compounds is selectivity for the intended target, especially among mechanistically related proteins. Here, we show how the chemical proteomic technology activity-based protein profiling (ABPP) can serve as a universal assay to rank HTS hits based on their selectivity across many members of an enzyme superfamily. As a case study, four metalloproteinase-13 (MMP13) inhibitors of similar potency originating from a publically supported HTS and reported in PubChem were tested by ABPP for selectivity against a panel of 27 diverse metalloproteases. The inhibitors could be readily separated into two groups: 1) those that were active against several metalloproteases, and 2) those that showed high selectivity for MMP13. The latter set of inhibitors was thereby designated as more suitable for future medicinal chemistry optimization. We anticipate that ABPP will find general utility as a platform to rank the selectivity of lead compounds emerging from HTS assays for a wide variety of enzymes.
Proteases have long been considered targets for pharmaceutical development because of our deep understanding of their enzymatic mechanism and their regulatory roles in many pathologies. However, despite our ability to develop potent inhibitors, many clinical lead compounds have failed due either to a lack of specificity or a limited understanding of the biological roles of the targeted protease. In order to successfully develop protease inhibitors as drugs, it is necessary to first understand protease function and second, to expand the platform of inhibitor development beyond active site-directed design and in vitro optimization. Several newly developed technologies will enable much broader assessment of drug selectivity in living cells and in animal models, allowing for lead optimization to focus on compounds that show high specificity and minimal side effects in vivo. In this perspective, we highlight the current advances in the development of new chemical probes, proteomic methods, and screening tools that we feel will help facilitate this paradigm shift in drug discovery methods.
Small-molecule protein kinase inhibitors are central tools for elucidating cellular signaling pathways and are promising therapeutic agents. Due to evolutionary conservation of the ATP-binding site, most kinase inhibitors that target this site promiscuously inhibit multiple kinases. Interpretation of experiments utilizing these compounds is confounded by a lack of data on the comprehensive kinase selectivity of most inhibitors. Here we profiled the activity of 178 commercially available kinase inhibitors against a panel of 300 recombinant protein kinases using a functional assay. Quantitative analysis revealed complex and often unexpected kinase-inhibitor interactions, with a wide spectrum of promiscuity. Many off-target interactions occur with seemingly unrelated kinases, revealing how large-scale profiling can be used to identify multi-targeted inhibitors of specific, diverse kinases. The results have significant implications for drug development and provide a resource for selecting compounds to elucidate kinase function and for interpreting the results of experiments that use them.
Peptide deformylase (PDF) is an essential bacterial metalloenzyme which deformylates the N-formylmethionine of newly synthesized polypeptides and as such represents a novel target for antibacterial chemotherapy. To identify novel PDF inhibitors, we screened a metalloenzyme inhibitor library and identified an N-formyl-hydroxylamine derivative, BB-3497, and a related natural hydroxamic acid antibiotic, actinonin, as potent and selective inhibitors of PDF. To elucidate the interactions that contribute to the binding affinity of these inhibitors, we determined the crystal structures of BB-3497 and actinonin bound to Escherichia coli PDF at resolutions of 2.1 and 1.75 Å, respectively. In both complexes, the active-site metal atom was pentacoordinated by the side chains of Cys 90, His 132, and His 136 and the two oxygen atoms of N-formyl-hydroxylamine or hydroxamate. BB-3497 had activity against gram-positive bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis, and activity against some gram-negative bacteria. Time-kill analysis showed that the mode of action of BB-3497 was primarily bacteriostatic. The mechanism of resistance was via mutations within the formyltransferase gene, as previously described for actinonin. While actinonin and its derivatives have not been used clinically because of their poor pharmacokinetic properties, BB-3497 was shown to be orally bioavailable. A single oral dose of BB-3497 given 1 h after intraperitoneal injection of S. aureus Smith or methicillin-resistant S. aureus protected mice from infection with median effective doses of 8 and 14 mg/kg of body weight, respectively. These data validate PDF as a novel target for the design of a new generation of antibacterial agents.
Metalloproteases are a large, diverse class of enzymes involved in many physiological and disease processes. Metalloproteases are regulated by post-translational mechanisms that diminish the effectiveness of conventional genomic and proteomic methods for their functional characterization. Chemical probes directed at active sites offer a potential way to measure metalloprotease activities in biological systems; however, large variations in structure limit the scope of any single small-molecule probe aimed at profiling this enzyme class. Here, we address this problem by creating a library of metalloprotease-directed probes that show complementary target selectivity. These probes were applied as a ‘cocktail’ to proteomes and their labeling profiles were analyzed collectively using an advanced liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry platform. More than 20 metalloproteases were identified, including members from nearly all of the major branches of this enzyme class. These findings suggest that chemical proteomic methods can serve as a universal strategy to profile the activity of the metalloprotease superfamily in complex biological systems.
The stress-activated kinase p38α was used to evaluate a fragment-based drug discovery approach using the BioFocus fragment library. Compounds were screened by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) on a Biacore™ T100 against p38α and two selectivity targets. A sub-set of our library was the focus of detailed follow-up analyses that included hit confirmation, affinity determination on 24 confirmed, selective hits and competition assays of these hits with respect to a known ATP binding site inhibitor. In addition, functional activity against p38α was assessed in a biochemical assay using a mobility shift platform (LC3000, Caliper LifeSciences). A selection of fragments was also evaluated using fluorescence lifetime (FLEXYTE™) and microscale thermophoresis (Nanotemper) technologies. A good correlation between the data for the different assays was found. Crystal structures were solved for four of the small molecules complexed to p38α. Interestingly, as determined both by X-ray analysis and SPR competition experiments, three of the complexes involved the fragment at the ATP binding site, while the fourth compound bound in a distal site that may offer potential as a novel drug target site. A first round of optimization around the remotely bound fragment has led to the identification of a series of triazole-containing compounds. This approach could form the basis for developing novel and active p38α inhibitors. More broadly, it illustrates the power of combining a range of biophysical and biochemical techniques to the discovery of fragments that facilitate the development of novel modulators of kinase and other drug targets.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10822-011-9454-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
p38α; Surface-plasmon resonance; Fragment screening; X-ray crystallography
HIV-1 protease is one of the major antiviral targets in the treatment of patients infected with HIV-1. The nine FDA approved HIV-1 protease inhibitors were developed with extensive use of structure-based drug design, thus the atomic details of how the inhibitors bind are well characterized. From this structural understanding the molecular basis for drug resistance in HIV-1 protease can be elucidated. Selected mutations in response to therapy and diversity between clades in HIV-1 protease have altered the shape of the active site, potentially altered the dynamics and even altered the sequence of the cleavage sites in the Gag polyprotein. All of these interdependent changes act in synergy to confer drug resistance while simultaneously maintaining the fitness of the virus. New strategies, such as incorporation of the substrate envelope constraint to design robust inhibitors that incorporate details of HIV-1 protease’s function and decrease the probability of drug resistance, are necessary to continue to effectively target this key protein in HIV-1 life cycle.
drug resistance; HIV-1 protease; protease inhibitors; substrate envelope; structure based drug design
High-throughput cellular profiling has successfully stimulated early drug discovery pipelines by facilitating targeted as well as opportunistic lead finding, hit annotation and SAR analysis. While automation-friendly universal assay formats exist to address most established drug target classes like GPCRs, NHRs, ion channels or Tyr-kinases, no such cellular assay technology is currently enabling an equally broad and rapid interrogation of the Ser/Thr-kinase space. Here we present the foundation of an emerging cellular Ser/Thr-kinase platform that involves a) coexpression of targeted kinases with promiscuous peptide substrates and b) quantification of intracellular substrate phosphorylation by homogeneous TR-FRET. Proof-of-concept data is provided for cellular AKT, B-RAF and CamK2δ assays. Importantly, comparable activity profiles were found for well characterized B-Raf inhibitors in TR-FRET assays relying on either promiscuous peptide substrates or a MEK1(WT) protein substrate respectively. Moreover, IC50-values correlated strongly between cellular TR-FRET assays and a gold standard Ba/F3 proliferation assay for B-Raf activity. Finally, we expanded our initial assay panel by screening a kinase-focused cDNA library and identified starting points for >20 cellular Ser/Thr-kinase assays.
A detailed understanding of factors influencing the binding specificity
of a ligand to a set of desirable targets and undesirable decoys is a key step
in the design of potent and selective therapeutics. We have developed a general
method for optimizing binding specificity in ligand–receptor complexes
based on the theory of electrostatic charge optimization. This methodology can
be used to tune the binding of a ligand to a panel of potential targets and
decoys, along the continuum from narrow binding to only one partner to broad
binding to the entire panel. Using HIV-1 protease as a model system, we probe
specificity in three distinct ways. First, we probe interactions that could make
the promiscuous protease inhibitor pepstatin more selective toward HIV-1
protease. Next, we study clinically approved HIV-1 protease inhibitors and probe
ways to broaden the binding profiles toward both wild-type HIV-1 protease and
drug-resistant mutants. Finally, we study a conformational ensemble of wild-type
HIV-1 protease to “design in” broad specificity to known drugs
before resistance mutations arise. The results from this conformational ensemble
were similar to those from the drug-resistant ensemble, suggesting the use of a
conformational wild-type ensemble as a tool to develop escape-mutant resistant
binding affinity; continuum electrostatics; charge optimization
This study provides a comprehensive computational procedure for the discovery of novel urea-based antineoplastic kinase inhibitors while focusing on diversification of both chemotype and selectivity pattern. It presents a systematic structural analysis of the different binding motifs of urea-based kinase inhibitors and the corresponding configurations of the kinase enzymes. The computational model depends on simultaneous application of two protocols. The first protocol applies multiple consecutive validated virtual screening filters including SMARTS, support vector-machine model (ROC = 0.98), Bayesian model (ROC = 0.86) and structure-based pharmacophore filters based on urea-based kinase inhibitors complexes retrieved from literature. This is followed by hits profiling against different extended electron distribution (XED) based field templates representing different kinase targets. The second protocol enables cancericidal activity verification by using the algorithm of feature trees (Ftrees) similarity searching against NCI database. Being a proof-of-concept study, this combined procedure was experimentally validated by its utilization in developing a novel series of urea-based derivatives of strong anticancer activity. This new series is based on 3-benzylbenzo[d]thiazol-2(3H)-one scaffold which has interesting chemical feasibility and wide diversification capability. Antineoplastic activity of this series was assayed in vitro against NCI 60 tumor-cell lines showing very strong inhibition of GI50 as low as 0.9 uM. Additionally, its mechanism was unleashed using KINEX™ protein kinase microarray-based small molecule inhibitor profiling platform and cell cycle analysis showing a peculiar selectivity pattern against Zap70, c-src, Mink1, csk and MeKK2 kinases. Interestingly, it showed activity on syk kinase confirming the recent studies finding of the high activity of diphenyl urea containing compounds against this kinase. Allover, the new series, which is based on a new kinase scaffold with interesting chemical diversification capabilities, showed that it exhibits its “emergent” properties by perturbing multiple unexplored kinase pathways.
The crystal structure of the metalloprotease Gentlyase is described and compared with the structures of other related thermolysin-like proteases.
Gentlyase is a bacterial extracellular metalloprotease that is widely applied in cell culture and for tissue dissociation and that belongs to the family of thermolysin-like proteases. The structure of thermolysin has been known since 1972 and that of Bacillus cereus neutral protease since 1992. However, the structure determination of other Bacillus neutral proteases has been hindered by their tendency to cannibalistic autolysis. High calcium conditions that allow the concentration and crystallization of the active Gentlyase metalloprotease without autoproteolysis were identified using thermal fluorescent shift assays. X-ray structures of the protease were solved in the absence and in the presence of the inhibitor phosphoramidon at 1.59 and 1.76 Å resolution, respectively. No domain movement was observed upon inhibitor binding, although such movement is thought to be a general feature of the thermolysin-like protease family. Further analysis of the structure shows that the observed calcium dependency of Gentlyase stability may arise from a partly degenerated calcium site Ca1–2 and a deletion near site Ca3.
thermolysin; neutral proteases; calcium binding; Gentlyase
There are 16 approved human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) drugs belonging to three mechanistic classes: protease inhibitors, nucleoside and nucleotide reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors, and nonnucleoside RT inhibitors. HIV-1 resistance to these drugs is caused by mutations in the protease and RT enzymes, the molecular targets of these drugs. Drug resistance mutations arise most often in treated individuals, resulting from selective drug pressure in the presence of incompletely suppressed virus replication. HIV-1 isolates with drug resistance mutations, however, may also be transmitted to newly infected individuals. Three expert panels have recommended that HIV-1 protease and RT susceptibility testing should be used to help select HIV drug therapy. Although genotypic testing is more complex than typical antimicrobial susceptibility tests, there is a rich literature supporting the prognostic value of HIV-1 protease and RT mutations. This review describes the genetic mechanisms of HIV-1 drug resistance and summarizes published data linking individual RT and protease mutations to in vitro and in vivo resistance to the currently available HIV drugs.
BACKGROUND: Proteases facilitate several steps in cancer progression. To identify proteases most suitable for drug targeting, actual enzyme activity and not messenger RNA levels or immunoassay of protein is the ideal assay readout. MATERIALS AND METHODS: An automated microtiter plate assay format was modified to allow detection of all four major classes of proteases in tissue samples. Fifteen sets of colorectal carcinoma biopsies representing primary tumor, adjacent normal colon, and liver metastases were screened for protease activity. RESULTS: The major proteases detected were matrix metalloproteases (MMP9, MMP2, and MMP1), cathepsin B, cathepsin D, and the mast cell serine proteases, tryptase and chymase. Matrix metalloproteases were expressed at higher levels in the primary tumor than in adjacent normal tissue. The mast cell proteases, in contrast, were at very high levels in adjacent normal tissue, and not detectable in the metastases. Cathepsin B activity was significantly higher in the primary tumor, and highest in the metastases. The major proteases detected by activity assays were then localized in biopsy sections by immunohistochemistry. Mast cell proteases were abundant in adjacent normal tissue, because of infiltration of the lamina propria by mast cells. Matrix metalloproteases were localized to the tumor cells themselves; whereas, cathepsin B was predominantly expressed by macrophages at the leading edge of invading tumors. Although only low levels of urinary plasminogen activator were detected by direct enzyme assay, immunohistochemistry showed abundant protein within the tumor. CONCLUSIONS: This analysis, surveying all major classes of proteases by assays of activity rather than immunolocalization or in situ hybridization alone, serves to identify proteases whose activity is not completely balanced by endogenous inhibitors and which may be essential for tumor progression. These proteases are logical targets for initial efforts to produce low molecular weight protease inhibitors as potential chemotherapy.
Protein kinases are intensely studied mediators of cellular signaling, yet important questions remain regarding their regulation and in vivo properties. Here we use a probe-based chemoprotemics platform to profile several well studied kinase inhibitors against more than 200 kinases in native cell proteomes and reveal new biological targets for some of these inhibitors. Several striking differences were identified between native and recombinant kinase inhibitory profiles, in particular, for the Raf kinases. The native kinase binding profiles presented here closely mirror the cellular activity of these inhibitors, even when the inhibition profiles differ dramatically from recombinant assay results. Additionally, Raf activation events could be detected upon live cell treatment with inhibitors. These studies highlight the complexities of protein kinase behavior in the cellular context and demonstrate that profiling with only recombinant/purified enzymes can be misleading.
West Nile virus (WNV) has recently emerged in North America as a significant disease threat to humans and animals. Unfortunately, no approved antiviral drugs exist to combat WNV or other members of the genus Flavivirus in humans. The WNV NS2B-NS3 protease has been one of the primary targets for anti-WNV drug discovery and design since it is required for virus replication. As part of our efforts to develop effective WNV inhibitors, we reexamined the reaction kinetics of the NS2B-NS3 protease and the inhibition mechanisms of newly discovered inhibitors. The WNV protease showed substrate inhibition in assays utilizing fluorophore-linked peptide substrates GRR, GKR, and DFASGKR. Moreover, a substrate inhibition reaction step was required to accurately model kinetic data generated from protease assays with a peptide inhibitor. The substrate inhibition model suggested peptide substrates could bind to two binding sites on the protease. Reaction product analogs also showed inhibition of the protease, demonstrating product inhibition in addition to, and distinct from, substrate inhibition. We propose that small peptide substrates and inhibitors may interact with protease residues that form either the P3-P1 binding surface (i.e., the S3-S1 sites) or the P1′-P3′ interaction surface (i.e., the S1′-S3′ sites). Optimization of substrate analog inhibitors that target these two independent sites may lead to novel anti-WNV drugs.
Protein kinases represent one of the most promising groups of drug targets owing to their involvement in such pathological conditions as cancer, inflammatory diseases, neural disorders, and metabolism problems. In the last few years, numerous pharmaceutical and biotech companies have established kinase high-throughput screening (HTS) programs, and the reagent and service industries for kinase assay platforms, kits, and profiling services have begun to thrive.
The plethora of different assay formats available today poses a great challenge to scientists who want to select a technology that will be cost efficient, convenient to use, and have low false positive and false negative rates.
In the current review, we summarize the most commonly used kinase assay methods in the drug discovery process, present the advantages and disadvantages of each of these methods, and discuss the challenges of discovering kinase inhibitors by using these technologies.
The decision of selecting the assay formats for HTS or service platform for profiling should take into account not only the final goals of the screens but also the limitation of resources.
drug discovery; drug profiling; drug screening; ELISA; fluorescence polarization; fluorescence resonance energy transfer; kinase assay; kinase profiling; luminescence assays; radioisotope filtration binding assay; time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer
Selective inhibitors of human peptide deformylase (HsPDF) are predicted to constitute a new class of antitumor agents. We report the identification of benzofuran-4,5-diones as the first known selective HsPDF inhibitors and we describe their selectivity profile in a panel of metalloproteases. We characterize their struture activity relationships for antitumor activity in a panel of cancer cell lines, and we assess their in vivo efficacy in a mouse xenograft model. Our results demonstrate that selective HsPDF inhibitors based on the benzofuran-4,5-dione scaffold constitute a novel class of antitumor agents that are potent in vitro and in vivo.
Human peptide deformylase; Benzofuran-4,5-diones; Structure activity relationships; Fluorescence polarization; Antiproliferative agents
Using a newly developed competitive binding assay dependent upon the reassembly of a split reporter protein, we have tested the promiscuity of a panel of reported kinase inhibitors against the AGC group. Many non-AGC targeted kinase inhibitors target multiple members of the AGC group. In general, structurally similar inhibitors consistently exhibited activity toward the same target as well as toward closely related kinases. The inhibition data was analyzed to test the predictive value of either using identity scores derived from residues within 6 Å of the active site or identity scores derived from the entire kinase domain. The results suggest that the active site identity in certain cases may be a stronger predictor of inhibitor promiscuity. The overall results provide general guidelines for establishing inhibitor selectivity, as well as for the future design of inhibitors that either target or avoid AGC kinases.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is expressed in a variety of human solid tumors, including malignant mesothelioma. EGFR has been implicated in regulation of cell proliferation, survival, angiogenesis, and metastasis, making it an ideal target for drug development. ZD1839 (gefitinib) and OSI-774 (erlotinib) are new, low-molecular-weight, EGFR-selective tyrosine kinase (TK) inhibitors, whereas CI-1033 is a pan- EGFR family TK inhibitor. In the present study, we used ZD1839, OSI-774, and CI-1033 and investigated the effect of these drugs on proliferation, migration, and matrix metalloprotease (MMP) production in three malignant mesothelioma cell lines (M14K, ZL34, and SPC212). Using [3H]thymidine incorporation, DNA synthesis assay, we found that all three drugs inhibited transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-α)-induced cellular proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, all three drugs induced apoptosis in ZL34 cells as determined by flow cytometry using annexin-V staining. Furthermore, all three drugs inhibited TGFA-α-induced cell migration (chemotaxis) in a dose-dependent manner as determined by Boyden chamber assay. TGF-α-induced MMP-9 production was also inhibited in a dose-dependent manner as determined by gelatin zymography in three cell lines tested. In conclusion, our study demonstrates inhibitory effectiveness of EGFR-TK inhibitors in malignant mesothelioma cells and suggests that these drugs may be an effective treatment strategy for malignant mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma; epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR); tyrosine kinase (TK) inhibitors; migration; matrix metalloproteases (MMPs)
ADAMs (a disintegrin and metalloprotease) constitute a family of cell surface proteins containing disintegrin and metalloprotease domains which associate features of adhesion molecules and proteases. ADAMTSs (a disintegrin and metalloprotease with thrombospondin motifs) bear thrombospondin type I motifs in C-terminal extremity, and most of them are secreted proteins. Because genetic studies have shown that ADAM-33 gene polymorphisms are associated with asthma, we designed this study to assess mRNA expression profile of several ADAM and ADAMTS proteases in sputum from patients with asthma and to investigate the relationship between expression of these proteases and asthma-associated inflammation and airway obstruction. mRNA expression profile of selected ADAM and ADAMTS proteinases (ADAM-8, -9, -10, -12, -15, -17, and -33; ADAMTS-1, -2, -15, -16, -17, -18, and -19), their physiological inhibitors TIMP-1 and TIMP-3, and RECK, a membrane-anchored MMP activity regulator, was obtained by RT-PCR analysis performed on cells collected by sputum induction from 21 patients with mild to moderate asthma and 17 healthy individuals. mRNA levels of ADAM-8, ADAM-9, ADAM-12, TIMP-1, and TIMP-3 were significantly increased, whereas mRNA levels coding for ADAMTS-1, ADAMTS-15, and RECK were significantly decreased in patients with asthma compared with control patients. ADAM-8 expression was negatively correlated with the forced expiratory volume at the first second (FEV1) (r = −0.57, P < 0.01), whereas ADAMTS-1 and RECK expressions were positively correlated to FEV1 (r = 0.45, P < 0.05, and r = 0.55, P = 0.01, respectively). We conclude that expression of ADAMs and ADAMTSs and their inhibitors is modulated in airways from patients with asthma and that these molecules may play a role in the pathogenesis of asthma.
The members of the Aurora kinase family play critical roles in the regulation of the cell cycle and mitotic spindle assembly and have been intensively investigated as potential targets for a new class of anti-cancer drugs. We describe a new highly potent and selective class of Aurora kinase inhibitors discovered using a phenotypic cellular screen. Optimized inhibitors display many of the hallmarks of Aurora inhibition including endoreduplication, polyploidy, and loss of cell viability in cancer cells. Structure-activity relationships with respect to kinome-wide selectivity and guided by an Aurora B co-crystal structure resulted in the identification of key selectivity determinants and discovery of a sub-series with selectivity towards Aurora A. A direct comparison of biochemical and cellular profile with respect to published Aurora inhibitors including VX-680, AZD1152, MLN8054, and a pyrimidine-based compound from Genentech demonstrates that compounds 1 and 3 will become valuable additional pharmacological probes of Aurora dependent functions.
The human mitochondrial peptide deformylase (HsPDF) provides a potential new target for broadly acting antiproliferative agents. To identify novel nonpeptidomimetic and nonhydroxamic acid–based inhibitors of HsPDF, the authors have developed a high-throughput screening (HTS) strategy using a fluorescence polarization (FP)–based binding assay as the primary assay for screening chemical libraries, followed by an enzymatic-based assay to confirm hits, prior to characterization of their antiproliferative activity against established tumor cell lines. The authors present the results and performance of the established strategy tested in a pilot screen of 2880 compounds and the identification of the 1st inhibitors. Two common scaffolds were identified within the hits. Furthermore, cytotoxicity studies revealed that most of the confirmed hits have antiproliferative activity. These findings demonstrate that the designed strategy can identify novel functional inhibitors and provide a powerful alternative to the use of functional assays in HTS and support the hypothesis that HsPDF inhibitors may constitute a new class of antiproliferative agent.
human peptide deformylase; high-throughput screening; fluorescence polarization; antiproliferative agents
Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) protease inhibitors (PIs) are the most potent class of drugs in antiretroviral therapies. However, viral drug resistance to PIs could emerge rapidly thus reducing the effectiveness of those drugs. Of note, all current FDA-approved PIs are competitive inhibitors, i.e., inhibitors that compete with substrates for the active enzymatic site. This common inhibitory approach increases the likelihood of developing drug resistant HIV-1 strains that are resistant to many or all current PIs. Hence, new PIs that move away from the current target of the active enzymatic site are needed. Specifically, allosteric inhibitors, inhibitors that prohibit PR enzymatic activities through non-competitive binding to PR, should be sought. Another common feature of current PIs is they were all developed based on the structure-based design. Drugs derived from a structure-based strategy may generate target specific and potent inhibitors. However, this type of drug design can only target one site at a time and drugs discovered by this method are often associated with strong side effects such as cellular toxicity, limiting its number of target choices, efficacy, and applicability. In contrast, a cell-based system may provide a useful alternative strategy that can overcome many of the inherited shortcomings associated with structure-based drug designs. For example, allosteric PIs can be sought using a cell-based system without considering the site or mechanism of inhibition. In addition, a cell-based system can eliminate those PIs that have strong cytotoxic effect. Most importantly, a simple, economical, and easy-to-maintained eukaryotic cellular system such as yeast will allow us to search for potential PIs in a large-scaled high throughput screening (HTS) system, thus increasing the chances of success. Based on our many years of experience in using fission yeast as a model system to study HIV-1 Vpr, we propose the use of fission yeast as a possible surrogate system to study the effects of HIV-1 protease on cellular functions and to explore its utility as a HTS system to search for new PIs to battle HIV-1 resistant strains.
HIV-1 protease; Structure-based design; Allosteric inhibitor; Antiretroviral therapy; Fission yeast; Cell-based high-throughput screening
Target-based high-throughput screening (HTS) is essential for the discovery of small-molecule modulators of proteins. Typical screening methods for enzymes rely on extensively tailored substrate assays, which are not available for targets of poorly characterized biochemical activity. Here, we report a general, substrate-free platform for HTS that overcomes this problem by monitoring the reaction of broad-spectrum, activity-based probes with enzymes using fluorescence polarization. We show that this platform is applicable to enzymes from multiple mechanistic classes, regardless of their degree of functional annotation, and can be coupled with secondary competitive activity-based proteomic assays to rapidly determine the specificity of screening hits. Using this platform, we identified the bioactive alkaloid emetine as a selective inhibitor of the uncharacterized cancer-associated hydrolase RBBP9. We furthermore show that the detoxification enzyme GSTO1, also implicated in cancer, is inhibited by several electrophilic compounds found in public libraries, some of which display high selectivity for this enzyme.
HIV replication assays are important tools for HIV drug discovery efforts. Here, we present a full HIV replication system (EASY-HIT) for the identification and analysis of HIV inhibitors. This technology is based on adherently growing HIV-susceptible cells, with a stable fluorescent reporter gene activated by HIV Tat and Rev. A fluorescence-based assay was designed that measures HIV infection by two parameters relating to the early and the late phases of HIV replication, respectively. Validation of the assay with a panel of nine reference inhibitors yielded effective inhibitory concentrations consistent with published data and allowed discrimination between inhibitors of early and late phases of HIV replication. Finer resolution of the effects of reference drugs on different steps of HIV replication was achieved in secondary time-of-addition assays. The EASY-HIT assay yielded high Z′ scores (>0.9) and signal stabilities, confirming its robustness. Screening of the LOPAC1280 library identified 10 compounds (0.8%), of which eight were known to inhibit HIV, validating the suitability of this assay for screening applications. Studies evaluating anti-HIV activities of natural products with the EASY-HIT technology led to the identification of three novel inhibitory compounds that apparently act at different steps of HIV-1 replication. Furthermore, we demonstrate successful evaluation of plant extracts for HIV-inhibitory activities, suggesting application of this technology for the surveillance of biological extracts with anti-HIV activities. We conclude that the EASY-HIT technology is a versatile tool for the discovery and characterization of HIV inhibitors.