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1.  Investigation of Specificity Determinants in Bacterial tRNA-Guanine Transglycosylase Reveals Queuine, the Substrate of Its Eucaryotic Counterpart, as Inhibitor 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64240.
Bacterial tRNA-guanine transglycosylase (Tgt) catalyses the exchange of the genetically encoded guanine at the wobble position of tRNAsHis,Tyr,Asp,Asn by the premodified base preQ1, which is further converted to queuine at the tRNA level. As eucaryotes are not able to synthesise queuine de novo but acquire it through their diet, eucaryotic Tgt directly inserts the hypermodified base into the wobble position of the tRNAs mentioned above. Bacterial Tgt is required for the efficient pathogenicity of Shigella sp, the causative agent of bacillary dysentery and, hence, it constitutes a putative target for the rational design of anti-Shigellosis compounds. Since mammalian Tgt is known to be indirectly essential to the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine, it is necessary to create substances which only inhibit bacterial but not eucaryotic Tgt. Therefore, it seems of utmost importance to study selectivity-determining features within both types of proteins. Homology models of Caenorhabditis elegans Tgt and human Tgt suggest that the replacement of Cys158 and Val233 in bacterial Tgt (Zymomonas mobilis Tgt numbering) by valine and accordingly glycine in eucaryotic Tgt largely accounts for the different substrate specificities. In the present study we have created mutated variants of Z. mobilis Tgt in order to investigate the impact of a Cys158Val and a Val233Gly exchange on catalytic activity and substrate specificity. Using enzyme kinetics and X-ray crystallography, we gained evidence that the Cys158Val mutation reduces the affinity to preQ1 while leaving the affinity to guanine unaffected. The Val233Gly exchange leads to an enlarged substrate binding pocket, that is necessary to accommodate queuine in a conformation compatible with the intermediately covalently bound tRNA molecule. Contrary to our expectations, we found that a priori queuine is recognised by the binding pocket of bacterial Tgt without, however, being used as a substrate.
PMCID: PMC3660597  PMID: 23704982
2.  IspE Inhibitors Identified by a Combination of In Silico and In Vitro High-Throughput Screening 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35792.
CDP-ME kinase (IspE) contributes to the non-mevalonate or deoxy-xylulose phosphate (DOXP) pathway for isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis found in many species of bacteria and apicomplexan parasites. IspE has been shown to be essential by genetic methods and since it is absent from humans it constitutes a promising target for antimicrobial drug development. Using in silico screening directed against the substrate binding site and in vitro high-throughput screening directed against both, the substrate and co-factor binding sites, non-substrate-like IspE inhibitors have been discovered and structure-activity relationships were derived. The best inhibitors in each series have high ligand efficiencies and favourable physico-chemical properties rendering them promising starting points for drug discovery. Putative binding modes of the ligands were suggested which are consistent with established structure-activity relationships. The applied screening methods were complementary in discovering hit compounds, and a comparison of both approaches highlights their strengths and weaknesses. It is noteworthy that compounds identified by virtual screening methods provided the controls for the biochemical screens.
PMCID: PMC3340893  PMID: 22563402
3.  De Novo Design of Protein Kinase Inhibitors by in Silico Identification of Hinge Region-Binding Fragments 
ACS Chemical Biology  2013;8(5):1044-1052.
Protein kinases constitute an attractive family of enzyme targets with high relevance to cell and disease biology. Small molecule inhibitors are powerful tools to dissect and elucidate the function of kinases in chemical biology research and to serve as potential starting points for drug discovery. However, the discovery and development of novel inhibitors remains challenging. Here, we describe a structure-based de novo design approach that generates novel, hinge-binding fragments that are synthetically feasible and can be elaborated to small molecule libraries. Starting from commercially available compounds, core fragments were extracted, filtered for pharmacophoric properties compatible with hinge-region binding, and docked into a panel of protein kinases. Fragments with a high consensus score were subsequently short-listed for synthesis. Application of this strategy led to a number of core fragments with no previously reported activity against kinases. Small libraries around the core fragments were synthesized, and representative compounds were tested against a large panel of protein kinases and subjected to co-crystallization experiments. Each of the tested compounds was active against at least one kinase, but not all kinases in the panel were inhibited. A number of compounds showed high ligand efficiencies for therapeutically relevant kinases; among them were MAPKAP-K3, SRPK1, SGK1, TAK1, and GCK for which only few inhibitors are reported in the literature.
PMCID: PMC3833278  PMID: 23534475

Results 1-3 (3)