G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs)
are the primary target class
of currently marketed drugs, accounting for about a quarter of all
drug targets of approved medicines. However, almost all the screening
efforts for novel ligand discovery rely exclusively on cellular systems
overexpressing the receptors. An alternative ligand discovery strategy
is a fragment-based drug discovery, where low molecular weight compounds,
known as fragments, are screened as initial starting points for optimization.
However, the screening of fragment libraries usually employs biophysical
screening methods, and as such, it has not been routinely applied
to membrane proteins. We present here a surface plasmon resonance
biosensor approach that enables, cell-free, label-free, fragment screening
that directly measures fragment interactions with wild-type GPCRs.
We exemplify the method by the discovery of novel, selective, high
affinity antagonists of human β2 adrenoceptor.
Fragment screening; G-protein coupled receptors; surface plasmon resonance; β2 adrenoceptor
•First non-substrate analogue inhibitor of the trypanosome GPI pathway.•Active against recombinant enzyme and cell-free system.•Low molecular weight and good ligand efficiency.
The zinc-metalloenzyme GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase is essential for the biosynthesis of mature GPI anchors and has been genetically validated in the bloodstream form of Trypanosoma brucei, which causes African sleeping sickness. We screened a focused library of zinc-binding fragments and identified salicylic hydroxamic acid as a GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase inhibitor with high ligand efficiency. This is the first small molecule inhibitor reported for the trypanosome GPI pathway. Investigating the structure activity relationship revealed that hydroxamic acid and 2-OH are essential for potency, and that substitution is tolerated at the 4- and 5-positions.
GPI; Trypanosoma brucei; Hydroxamic acid; Inhibitor; N-Deacetylase
discovery for neglected tropical diseases is carried out using
both target-based and phenotypic approaches. In this paper, target-based
approaches are discussed, with a particular focus on human African
trypanosomiasis. Target-based drug discovery can be successful, but
careful selection of targets is required. There are still very few
fully validated drug targets in neglected diseases, and there is a
high attrition rate in target-based drug discovery for these diseases.
Phenotypic screening is a powerful method in both neglected and non-neglected
diseases and has been very successfully used. Identification of molecular
targets from phenotypic approaches can be a way to identify potential
new drug targets.
A series of substrates analogues of GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase were tested as substrates and inhibitors of the Trypanosoma brucei enzyme.
A series of synthetic analogues of 1-d-(2-amino-2-deoxy-α-d-glucopyranosyl)-myo-inositol 1-(1,2-di-O-hexadecanoyl-sn-glycerol 3-phosphate), consisting of 7 variants of either the d-myo-inositol, d-GlcpN or the phospholipid components, were prepared and tested as substrates and inhibitors of GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase, a genetically validated drug target enzyme responsible for the second step in the glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) biosynthetic pathway of Trypanosoma brucei. The d-myo-inositol in the physiological substrate was successfully replaced by cyclohexanediol and is still a substrate for T. brucei GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase. However, this compound became sensitive to the stereochemistry of the glycoside linkage (the β-anomer was neither substrate or inhibitor) and the structure of the lipid moiety (the hexadecyl derivatives were inhibitors). Chemistry was successfully developed to replace the phosphate with a sulphonamide, but the compound was neither a substrate or an inhibitor, confirming the importance of the phosphate for molecular recognition. We also replaced the glucosamine by an acyclic analogue, but this also was inactive, both as a substrate and inhibitor. These findings add significantly to our understanding of substrate and inhibitor binding to the GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase enzyme and will have a bearing on the design of future inhibitors.
Dynamic models of metabolism can be useful in identifying potential drug targets, especially in unicellular organisms. A model of glycolysis in the causative agent of human African trypanosomiasis, Trypanosoma brucei, has already shown the utility of this approach. Here we add the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) of T. brucei to the glycolytic model. The PPP is localized to both the cytosol and the glycosome and adding it to the glycolytic model without further adjustments leads to a draining of the essential bound-phosphate moiety within the glycosome. This phosphate “leak” must be resolved for the model to be a reasonable representation of parasite physiology. Two main types of theoretical solution to the problem could be identified: (i) including additional enzymatic reactions in the glycosome, or (ii) adding a mechanism to transfer bound phosphates between cytosol and glycosome. One example of the first type of solution would be the presence of a glycosomal ribokinase to regenerate ATP from ribose 5-phosphate and ADP. Experimental characterization of ribokinase in T. brucei showed that very low enzyme levels are sufficient for parasite survival, indicating that other mechanisms are required in controlling the phosphate leak. Examples of the second type would involve the presence of an ATP:ADP exchanger or recently described permeability pores in the glycosomal membrane, although the current absence of identified genes encoding such molecules impedes experimental testing by genetic manipulation. Confronted with this uncertainty, we present a modeling strategy that identifies robust predictions in the context of incomplete system characterization. We illustrate this strategy by exploring the mechanism underlying the essential function of one of the PPP enzymes, and validate it by confirming the model predictions experimentally.
Mathematical models have been valuable tools for investigating the complex behaviors of metabolism. Due to incomplete knowledge of biological systems, these models contain inevitable uncertainty. This uncertainty is present in the measured or estimated parameter values, but also in the structure of the metabolic network. In this paper we increase the coverage of a particularly well studied model of glucose metabolism in Trypanosoma brucei, a tropical parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, by extending it with an additional pathway in two compartments. During this modeling process we highlighted uncertainties in parameter values and network structure and used these to formulate new hypotheses which were subsequently tested experimentally. The models were improved with the experimentally derived data, but uncertainty remained concerning the exact topology of the system. These models allowed us to investigate the effects of the loss of one enzyme, 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase. By taking uncertainty into account, the models demonstrated that the loss of this enzyme is lethal to the parasite by a mechanism different than that in other organisms. Our methodology shows how formally introducing uncertainty into model building provides robust model behavior that is independent of the network structure or parameter values.
Human African trypanosomiasis is a neglected parasitic disease that is fatal if untreated. The current drugs available to eliminate the causative agent Trypanosoma brucei have multiple liabilities, including toxicity, increasing problems due to treatment failure and limited efficacy. There are two approaches to discover novel antimicrobial drugs - whole-cell screening and target-based discovery. In the latter case, there is a need to identify and validate novel drug targets in Trypanosoma parasites. The heat shock proteins (Hsp), while best known as cancer targets with a number of drug candidates in clinical development, are a family of emerging targets for infectious diseases. In this paper, we report the exploration of T. brucei Hsp83 – a homolog of human Hsp90 – as a drug target using multiple biophysical and biochemical techniques. Our approach included the characterization of the chemical sensitivity of the parasitic chaperone against a library of known Hsp90 inhibitors by means of differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF). Several compounds identified by this screening procedure were further studied using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and X-ray crystallography, as well as tested in parasite growth inhibitions assays. These experiments led us to the identification of a benzamide derivative compound capable of interacting with TbHsp83 more strongly than with its human homologs and structural rationalization of this selectivity. The results highlight the opportunities created by subtle structural differences to develop new series of compounds to selectively target the Trypanosoma brucei chaperone and effectively kill the sleeping sickness parasite.
Sleeping sickness, or human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), is a deadly neglected disease for which new therapeutic options are badly needed. Current drugs have several liabilities including toxicity and route of administration limiting their efficacy to combat the disease. Our study aimed at validating a potential new drug target against Trypanosoma brucei, its heat shock protein 83 (Hsp83). The chaperone was screened against a repurposed library composed of inhibitors against the human Hsp90. The compounds were assayed in their ability to bind the T. brucei protein and to kill the parasite. Our work has identified selective and high-affinity chemical compounds targeting the parasitic Hsp83. Additionally, structural studies were conducted to explore the observed selectivity of selected inhibitors. Our work has validated T. brucei Hsp83 as a potential target for future drug discovery campaigns. It has also shown the strength of repurposing chemical libraries developed against human proteins, emphasizing the possibility to piggyback current and past drug discovery efforts for other diseases in the search for new drugs against neglected tropical diseases.
Previously we have shown that trityl and diphenyl deoxyuridine derivatives and their acyclic analogues can inhibit Plasmodium falciparum dUTPase (PfdUTPase). We report the synthesis of conformationally restrained amide derivatives as inhibitors PfdUTPase, including both acyclic and cyclic examples. Activity was dependent on the orientation and location of the amide constraining group. In the case of the acyclic series, we were able to obtain amide-constrained analogues which showed similar or greater potency than the unconstrained analogues. Unfortunately these compounds showed lower selectivity in cellular assays.
Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a life-threatening disease with approximately 30 000–40 000 new cases each year. Trypanosoma brucei protein kinase GSK3 short (TbGSK3) is required for parasite growth and survival. Herein we report a screen of a focused kinase library against T. brucei GSK3. From this we identified a series of several highly ligand-efficient TbGSK3 inhibitors. Following the hit validation process, we optimised a series of diaminothiazoles, identifying low-nanomolar inhibitors of TbGSK3 that are potent in vitro inhibitors of T. brucei proliferation. We show that the TbGSK3 pharmacophore overlaps with that of one or more additional molecular targets.
antiprotozoal agents; GSK3; medicinal chemistry; protein kinases; Trypanosoma brucei
Visceral leishmaniasis is a neglected tropical disease with significant health impact. The current treatments are poor, and there is an urgent need to develop new drugs. Primary screening assays used for drug discovery campaigns have typically used free-living forms of the Leishmania parasite to allow for high-throughput screening. Such screens do not necessarily reflect the physiological situation, as the disease-causing stage of the parasite resides inside human host cells. Assessing the drug sensitivity of intracellular parasites on scale has recently become feasible with the advent of high-content screening methods. We describe here a 384-well microscopy-based intramacrophage Leishmania donovani assay and compare it to an axenic amastigote system. A panel of eight reference compounds was tested in both systems, as well as a human counterscreen cell line, and our findings show that for most clinically used compounds both axenic and intramacrophage assays report very similar results. A set of 15,659 diverse compounds was also screened using both systems. This resulted in the identification of seven new antileishmanial compounds and revealed a high false-positive rate for the axenic assay. We conclude that the intramacrophage assay is more suited as a primary hit-discovery platform than the current form of axenic assay, and we discuss how modifications to the axenic assay may render it more suitable for hit-discovery.
Target-based approaches for human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) and related parasites can be a valuable route for drug discovery for these diseases. However, care needs to be taken in selection of both the actual drug target and the chemical matter that is developed. In this article, potential criteria to aid target selection are described. Then the physiochemical properties of typical oral drugs are discussed and compared to those of known anti-parasitics.
Human African trypanosomiasis; drug discovery; target selection; target product profile
The clinical efficacy and safety of a drug is determined by its activity profile across multiple proteins in the proteome. However, designing drugs with a specific multi-target profile is both complex and difficult. Therefore methods to rationally design drugs a priori against profiles of multiple proteins would have immense value in drug discovery. We describe a new approach for the automated design of ligands against profiles of multiple drug targets. The method is demonstrated by the evolution of an approved acetylcholinesterase inhibitor drug into brain penetrable ligands with either specific polypharmacology or exquisite selectivity profiles for G-protein coupled receptors. Overall, 800 ligand-target predictions of prospectively designed ligands were tested experimentally, of which 75% were confirmed correct. We also demonstrate target engagement in vivo. The approach can be a useful source of drug leads where multi-target profiles are required to achieve either selectivity over other drug targets or a desired polypharmacology.
the pursuit of new antimalarial leads, a phenotypic screening
of various commercially sourced compound libraries was undertaken
by the World Health Organisation Programme for Research and Training
in Tropical Diseases (WHO-TDR). We report here the detailed characterization
of one of the hits from this process, TDR32750 (8a),
which showed potent activity against Plasmodium falciparum K1 (EC50 ∼ 9 nM), good selectivity (>2000-fold)
compared to a mammalian cell line (L6), and significant activity against
a rodent model of malaria when administered intraperitoneally. Structure–activity
relationship studies have indicated ways in which the molecule could
be optimized. This compound represents an exciting start point for
a drug discovery program for the development of a novel antimalarial.
Sole reliance on one drug, Praziquantel, for treatment and control of schistosomiasis raises concerns about development of widespread resistance, prompting renewed interest in the discovery of new anthelmintics. To discover new leads we designed an automated label-free, high content-based, high throughput screen (HTS) to assess drug-induced effects on in vitro cultured larvae (schistosomula) using bright-field imaging. Automatic image analysis and Bayesian prediction models define morphological damage, hit/non-hit prediction and larval phenotype characterization. Motility was also assessed from time-lapse images. In screening a 10,041 compound library the HTS correctly detected 99.8% of the hits scored visually. A proportion of these larval hits were also active in an adult worm ex-vivo screen and are the subject of ongoing studies. The method allows, for the first time, screening of large compound collections against schistosomes and the methods are adaptable to other whole organism and cell-based screening by morphology and motility phenotyping.
Schistosomiasis is a severe helminth infection affecting an estimated 600 million people. The one drug widely available, praziquantel (PZQ), is not ideal. PZQ kills the adult worms but not the developing juveniles so the treated patient may not be cured long-term. In addition, use of repeated mass treatment campaigns with PZQ to control morbidity raises concerns about the development of drug resistance. Our work is aimed at providing starting points for drug discovery programs for schistosomiasis by screening large compound libraries against whole organisms. Praziquantel and several other known anti-schistosomal drugs are also active in vitro against the adult worms and the larval stages, schistosomula. The latter are ideal for novel drug screening as they can be produced in large numbers in vitro, are small and so are amenable to screening in microwell plates. Drug activity can be assessed visually but this is subjective and laborious. We have built an automated system for assessing drug action involving the collection of images of the larvae and the development of computer algorithms to analyze their morphology and motility, defining them as "hits" or "nonhits." The method is reliable, consistent and efficient, making it feasible, for the first time, to screen large compound collections.
Quinols have been developed as a class of potential anti-cancer compounds. They are thought to act as double Michael acceptors, forming two covalent bonds to their target protein(s). Quinols have also been shown to have activity against the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, the causative organism of human African trypanosomiasis, but they demonstrated little selectivity over mammalian MRC5 cells in a counter-screen. In this paper, we report screening of further examples of quinols against T. brucei. We were able to derive an SAR, but the compounds demonstrated little selectivity over MRC5 cells. In an approach to increase selectivity, we attached melamine and benzamidine motifs to the quinols, because these moieties are known to be selectively concentrated in the parasite by transporter proteins. In general these transporter motif-containing analogues showed increased selectivity; however they also showed reduced levels of potency against T. brucei.
Inhibitors; Medicinal chemistry; Trypanosoma brucei; P2 transporter; Quinols
N-Myristoyltransferase (NMT) represents
drug target for human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), which is caused
by the parasitic protozoa Trypanosoma brucei. We
report the optimization of a high throughput screening hit (1) to give a lead molecule DDD85646 (63), which
has potent activity against the enzyme (IC50 = 2 nM) and T. brucei (EC50 = 2 nM) in culture. The compound
has good oral pharmacokinetics and cures rodent models of peripheral
HAT infection. This compound provides an excellent tool for validation
of T. brucei NMT as a drug target for HAT as well
as a valuable lead for further optimization.
We report the extension of the copper(II) tetrafluoroborate catalysed opening of epoxides with alcohols to include a wider variety of alcohols, a range of solvents and a method to purify the products from the reaction.
Epoxide; Copper(II) tetrafluoroborate; Lewis acid; Alcohols
Chitin is an essential structural component of the fungal cell wall. Chitinases are thought to be important for fungal cell wall remodelling, and inhibition of these enzymes has been proposed as a potential strategy for development of novel anti-fungals. The fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus possesses two distinct multi-gene chitinase families. Here we explore acetazolamide as a chemical scaffold for the inhibition of an A. fumigatus ‘plant-type’ chitinase. A co-crystal structure of AfChiA1 with acetazolamide was used to guide synthesis and screening of acetazolamide analogues that yielded SAR in agreement with these structural data. Although acetazolamide and its analogues are weak inhibitors of the enzyme, they have a high ligand efficiency and as such are interesting leads for future inhibitor development.
Chitinase; Aspergillus fumigatus
Drug discovery is a high-risk, expensive and lengthy process taking at least 12 years and costing upwards of US$500 million per drug to reach the clinic. For neglected diseases, the drug discovery process is driven by medical need and guided by pre-defined target product profiles. Assessment and prioritisation of the most promising targets for entry into screening programmes is crucial for maximising chances of success. Here we describe criteria used in our drug discovery unit for target assessment and introduce the ‘traffic light’ system as a prioritisation and management tool. We hope this brief review will stimulate basic scientists to acquire additional information necessary for drug discovery.
African sleeping sickness or human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), caused by Trypanosoma brucei spp., is responsible for ~30,000 deaths each year. Available treatments for this neglected disease are poor, with unacceptable efficacy and safety profiles, particularly in the late stage of the disease, when the parasite has infected the central nervous system. Here, we report the validation of a molecular target and discovery of associated lead compounds with potential to address this unmet need. Inhibition of this target, T. brucei N-myristoyltransferase (TbNMT), leads to rapid killing of trypanosomes both in vitro and in vivo and cures trypanosomiasis in mice. These high affinity inhibitors bind into the peptide substrate pocket of the enzyme and inhibit protein N-myristoylation in trypanosomes. The compounds identified have very promising pharmaceutical properties and represent an exciting opportunity to develop oral drugs to treat this devastating disease. Our studies validate TbNMT as a promising therapeutic target for HAT.
Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes human African trypanosomiasis, is auxotrophic for purines and has specialist nucleoside transporters to import these metabolites. In particular, the P2 aminopurine transporter can also selectively accumulate melamine derivatives. In this Letter, we report the coupling of the melamine moiety to 2-hydroxy APA, a potent ornithine decarboxylase inhibitor, with the aim of selectively delivering this compound to the parasite. The best compound described here shows an increased in vitro trypanocidal activity compared with the parent.
Trypanosoma brucei; P2 transporter; Ornithine decarboxylase
We report the identification of novel inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei 6PGDH enzyme by virtual fragment screening.
The enzyme 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase is a potential drug target for the parasitic protozoan Trypanosoma brucei, the causative organism of human African trypanosomiasis. This enzyme has a polar active site to accommodate the phosphate, hydroxyl and carboxylate groups of the substrate, 6-phosphogluconate. A virtual fragment screen was undertaken of the enzyme to discover starting points for the development of inhibitors which are likely to have appropriate physicochemical properties for an orally bioavailable compound. A virtual screening library was developed, consisting of compounds with functional groups that could mimic the phosphate group of the substrate, but which have a higher pKa. Following docking, hits were clustered and appropriate compounds purchased and assayed against the enzyme. Three fragments were identified that had IC50 values in the low micromolar range and good ligand efficiencies. Based on these initial hits, analogues were procured and further active compounds were identified. Some of the fragments identified represent potential starting points for a medicinal chemistry programme to develop potent drug-like inhibitors of the enzyme.
Virtual fragment screening; Trypanosoma brucei; 6-Phosphogluconate dehydrogenase
There is a need for new safe, effective and short-course treatments for leishmaniasis; one strategy is to use combination chemotherapy. Polymer–drug conjugates have shown promise for the delivery of anti-leishmanial agents such as amphotericin B. In this paper, we report on the preparation and biological evaluation of polymer–drug conjugates of N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide (HPMA), amphotericin B and alendronic acid. The combinatorial polymer–drug conjugates were effective anti-leishmanial agents in vitro and in vivo, but offered no advantage over the single poly(HPMA)–amphotericin B conjugates.
Leishmaniasis; Polymer–drug conjugates; Combination therapy; Amphotericin B; Alendronate
In the search for new therapeutics for the treatment of human African trypanosomiasis, many potential drug targets in Trypanosoma brucei have been validated by genetic means, but very few have been chemically validated. Trypanothione synthetase (TryS; EC 18.104.22.168; spermidine/glutathionylspermidine:glutathione ligase (ADP-forming)) is one such target. To identify novel inhibitors of T. brucei TryS, we developed an in vitro enzyme assay, which was amenable to high throughput screening. The subsequent screen of a diverse compound library resulted in the identification of three novel series of TryS inhibitors. Further chemical exploration resulted in leads with nanomolar potency, which displayed mixed, uncompetitive, and allosteric-type inhibition with respect to spermidine, ATP, and glutathione, respectively. Representatives of all three series inhibited growth of bloodstream T. brucei in vitro. Exposure to one of our lead compounds (DDD86243; 2 × EC50 for 72 h) decreased intracellular trypanothione levels to <10% of wild type. In addition, there was a corresponding 5-fold increase in the precursor metabolite, glutathione, providing strong evidence that DDD86243 was acting on target to inhibit TryS. This was confirmed with wild-type, TryS single knock-out, and TryS-overexpressing cell lines showing expected changes in potency to DDD86243. Taken together, these data provide initial chemical validation of TryS as a drug target in T. brucei.
We have previously reported the discovery of potent and selective inhibitors of 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase, the third enzyme of the phosphate pentose pathway, from Trypanosoma brucei, the causative organism of human African trypanosomiasis. These inhibitors were charged phosphate derivatives with restricted capacity to enter cells. Herein, we report the synthesis of five different classes of prodrugs: phosphoramidate; bis-S-acyl thioethyl esters (bis-SATE); bis-pivaloxymethyl (bis-POM); CycloSaligenyl; and phenyl, S-acyl thioethyl mixed phosphate esters (mix-SATE). Prodrugs were studied for stability and activity against the intact parasites. Most prodrugs caused inhibition of the growth of the parasites. The activity of the prodrugs against the parasites appeared to be related to their stability in aqueous buffer.
6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase; masked phosphate; prodrugs; Trypanosoma brucei