Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is an adult lymphoid malignancy with a variable clinical course. There is considerable interest in the identification of new treatments, as most current approaches are not curative. While most patients respond to initial chemotherapy, relapsed disease is often resistant to the drugs commonly used in CLL and patients are left with limited therapeutic options. In this study, we used a luminescent cell viability assay based on ATP levels to find compounds that were potent and efficacious in killing CLL cells. We employed an in-house process of quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) to assess 8 concentrations of each member of a 2,816 compound library (including FDA-approved drugs and those known to be bio-active from commercial suppliers). Using qHTS we generated potency values on each compound in lymphocytes donated from each of six individuals with CLL and five unaffected individuals. We found 102 compounds efficacious against cells from all six individuals with CLL (“consensus” drugs) with five of these showing low or no activity on lymphocytes from a majority of normal donors, suggesting some degree of specificity for the leukemic cells. To our knowledge, this is the first study to screen a drug library against primary CLL cells to identify candidate agents for anti-cancer therapy. The results presented here offer possibilities for the development of novel drug candidates for therapeutic uses to treat CLL and other diseases.
Firefly luciferase (FLuc) is frequently used as a reporter in high-throughput screening assays owing to the exceptional sensitivity, dynamic range, and rapid measurement that bioluminescence affords. However, interaction of small molecules with FLuc has, to some extent, confounded its use in chemical biology and drug discovery. To identify and characterize chemotypes interacting with FLuc, we determined potency values for 360,864 compounds, found in the NIH Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository, available in PubChem. FLuc inhibitory activity was observed for 12% of this library with discernible SAR. Characterization of 151 inhibitors demonstrated a variety of inhibition modes including FLuc-catalyzed formation of multisubstrate-adduct enzyme inhibitor complexes. As in some cell-based FLuc reporter assays compounds acting as FLuc inhibitors yield paradoxical luminescence increases, data on compounds acquired from FLuc-dependent assays requires careful analysis as described in this report.
profiling; PubChem; luciferase; quantitative high-throughput screening; qHTS; firefly luciferase; reporter-gene assays; adenylate forming enzymes
Cancer cells engage in a metabolic program to enhance biosynthesis and support cell proliferation. The regulatory properties of pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) influence altered glucose metabolism in cancer. PKM2 interaction with phosphotyrosine-containing proteins inhibits enzyme activity and increases availability of glycolytic metabolites to support cell proliferation. This suggests that high pyruvate kinase activity may suppress tumor growth. We show that expression of PKM1, the pyruvate kinase isoform with high constitutive activity, or exposure to published small molecule PKM2 activators inhibit growth of xenograft tumors. Structural studies reveal that small molecule activators bind PKM2 at the subunit interaction interface, a site distinct from that of the endogenous activator fructose-1,6-bisphosphate (FBP). However, unlike FBP, binding of activators to PKM2 promotes a constitutively active enzyme state that is resistant to inhibition by tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins. These data support the notion that small molecule activation of PKM2 can interfere with anabolic metabolism.
In this work we characterize an alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrobaculum aerophilum (PyAeADHII). We have previously found that PyAeADHII has no activity when standard ADH substrates are used but is active when α-tetralone is used as substrate. Here, to gain insights into enzyme function, we screened several chemical libraries for enzymatic modulators using an assay employing α-tetralone. The results indicate that PyAeADHII activity in the presence of α-tetralone was inhibited by compounds such as flunarizine. We also examined metal coordination of the enzyme in solution by performing metal substitution of the enzyme-bound zinc (Zn2+) with cobalt. The solution-based absorption spectra for cobalt substituted PyAeADHII supports substitution at the structural Zn2+ site. To gain structural insight, we obtained the crystal structure of both wild-type and cobalt-substituted PyAeADHII at 1.75 Å and 2.20 Å resolution, respectively. The X-ray data confirmed one metal ion per monomer present only at the structural site with otherwise close conservation to other ADH enzymes. We next determined the co-crystal structure of the NADPH-bound form of the enzyme at 2.35 Å resolution to help define the active site region of the enzyme and this data shows close structural conservation with horse ADH, despite the lack of a catalytic Zn2+ ion in PyAeADHII. Modeling of α-tetralone into the NADPH bound structure suggests an arginine as a possible catalytic residue. The data presented here can yield a better understanding of alcohol dehydrogenases lacking the catalytic zinc as well as the structural features inherent to thermostable enzymes.
A library of 367 protein kinase inhibitors, the GSK Published Kinase Inhibitor Set (PKIS), which has been annotated for protein kinase family activity and is available for public screening efforts, was assayed against the commonly used luciferase reporter enzymes from the firefly, Photinus pyralis (FLuc) and marine sea pansy, Renilla reniformis (RLuc). A total of 22 compounds (∼6% of the library) were found to inhibit FLuc with 10 compounds showing potencies ≤1 µM. Only two compounds were found to inhibit RLuc, and these showed relatively weak potency values (∼10 µM). An inhibitor series of the VEGFR2/TIE2 protein kinase family containing either an aryl oxazole or benzimidazole-urea core illustrate the different structure activity relationship profiles FLuc inhibitors can display for kinase inhibitor chemotypes. Several FLuc inhibitors were broadly active toward the tyrosine kinase and CDK families. These data should aid in interpreting the results derived from screens employing the GSK PKIS in cell-based assays using the FLuc reporter. The study also underscores the general need for strategies such as the use of orthogonal reporters to identify kinase or non-kinase mediated cellular responses.
Phosphoinositide kinases regulate diverse cellular functions and are important targets for therapeutic development for diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. Preparation of the lipid substrate is crucial for the development of a robust and miniaturizable lipid kinase assay. Enzymatic assays for phosphoinositide kinases often use lipid substrates prepared from lyophilized lipid preparations by sonication, which result in variability in the liposome size from preparation to preparation. Herein, we report a homogeneous 1536-well luciferase-coupled bioluminescence assay for PI5P4Kα. The substrate preparation is novel and allows the rapid production of a DMSO-containing substrate solution without the need for lengthy liposome preparation protocols, thus enabling the scale-up of this traditionally difficult type of assay. The Z’-factor value was greater than 0.7 for the PI5P4Kα assay, indicating its suitability for high-throughput screening applications. Tyrphostin AG-82 had been identified as an inhibitor of PI5P4Kα by assessing the degree of phospho transfer of γ-32P-ATP to PI5P; its inhibitory activity against PI5P4Kα was confirmed in the present miniaturized assay. From a pilot screen of a library of bioactive compounds, another tyrphostin, I-OMe tyrphostin AG-538 (I-OMe-AG-538), was identified as an ATP-competitive inhibitor of PI5P4Kα with an IC50 of 1 µM, affirming the suitability of the assay for inhibitor discovery campaigns. This homogeneous assay may apply to other lipid kinases and should help in the identification of leads for this class of enzymes by enabling high-throughput screening efforts.
The chemical diversity of nature has tremendous potential for discovery of new molecular probes and medicinal agents. However, sensitivity of HTS assays to interfering components of crude extracts derived from plants, macro- and microorganisms has curtailed their use in lead discovery efforts. Here we describe a process for leveraging the concentration-response curves (CRCs) obtained from quantitative HTS to improve the initial selection of “actives” from a library of partially fractionated natural product extracts derived from marine actinomycetes and fungi. By using pharmacological activity, the first-pass CRC paradigm aims to improve the probability that labor-intensive subsequent steps of re-culturing, extraction and bioassay-guided isolation of active component(s) target the most promising strains and growth conditions. We illustrate how this process identified a family of fungal metabolites as potent inhibitors of firefly luciferase, subsequently resolved in molecular detail by x-ray crystallography.
Pyruvate kinase (PYK) plays a central role in the metabolism of many organisms and cell types, but the elucidation of the details of its function in a systems biology context has been hampered by the lack of specific high-affinity small molecule inhibitors. High-throughput screening has been used to identify a family of saccharin derivatives which inhibit Leishmania mexicana PYK (LmPYK) activity in a time- (and dose-) dependent manner; a characteristic of irreversible inhibition. The crystal structure of 4-[(1,1-dioxo-1,2-benzothiazol-3-yl)sulfanyl]benzoic acid (DBS) complexed with LmPYK shows that the saccharin moiety reacts with an active-site lysine residue (Lys335), forming a covalent bond and sterically hindering the binding of ADP/ATP. Mutation of the lysine residue to an arginine residue eliminated the effect of the inhibitor molecule, providing confirmation of the proposed inhibitor mechanism. This lysine residue is conserved in the active sites of the four human PYK isoenzymes, which were also found to be irreversibly inhibited by DBS. X-ray structures of PYK isoforms show structural differences at the DBS binding pocket, and this covalent inhibitor of PYK provides a chemical scaffold for the design of new families of potentially isoform-specific irreversible inhibitors.
Leishmania mexicana; lysine covalent modification; nucleotide binding; pyruvate kinase; saccharin analogues; covalent inhibitor
Control of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) concentrations is critical for cancer cell survival. We show that, in human lung cancer cells, acute increases in intracellular concentrations of ROS caused inhibition of the glycolytic enzyme pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) through oxidation of Cys358. This inhibition of PKM2 is required to divert glucose flux into the pentose phosphate pathway and thereby generate sufficient reducing potential for detoxification of ROS. Lung cancer cells in which endogenous PKM2 was replaced with the Cys358 to Ser358 oxidation-resistant mutant exhibited increased sensitivity to oxidative stress and impaired tumor formation in a xenograft model. Besides promoting metabolic changes required for proliferation, the regulatory properties of PKM2 may confer an additional advantage to cancer cells by allowing them to withstand oxidative stress.
We describe how room temperature storage of a 1,120 member compound library prepared in either DMSO or in a hydrated DMSO/water (67/33) mixture affects the reproducibility of potency values as monitored using cytochrome P450 1A2 and 2D6 isozyme assays. The bioluminescent assays showed Z′-factors of 0.71 and 0.62, with 18% and 32% of the library found as active against the CYP 1A2 and 2D6 isozymes respectively. We tested the library using quantitative high-throughput screening to generate potency values for every library member which was measured at seven time intervals spanning 37 weeks. We calculated the minimum significant ratio (MSR) from these potency values at each time interval and we found that for the library stored in DMSO, the CYP 1A2 and 2D6 assay MSRs progressed from approximately 2.0 to 5.0. The hydrated conditions showed similar performance in both MSR progression and analytical QC results. Based on this study we recommend that DMSO samples be stored in 1,536-well plates for < 4 months at room temperature. Further, the study shows the magnitude of potency changes that can occur in a robust bioassay due to compound sample storage.
HTS; compound storage; DMSO; quantitative HTS
We measured the “druggability” of the ATP-dependent luciferase derived from the firefly Photuris pennsylvanica that was optimized using directed evolution (Ultra-Glo™, Promega). Quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) was used to determine IC50’s of 198,899 samples against a formulation of Ultra-Glo luciferase (Kinase-Glo™). We found that only 0.1% of the Kinase-Glo inhibitors showed an IC50 < 10 μM compared to 0.9% found from a previous qHTS against the firefly luciferase from Photinus pyralis (lucPpy). Further, the maximum affinity identified in the lucPpy qHTS was 50 nM while for Kinase-Glo this value increased to 600 nM. Compounds with interactions stretching outside the luciferin binding pocket were largely lost with Ultra-Glo luciferase. Therefore, Ultra-Glo luciferase will show less compound interference when used as an ATP sensor compared to lucPpy. This study demonstrates the power of large-scale quantitative analysis of structure-activity relationships (>100K compounds) in addressing important questions such as a target's druggability.
chemical profiling; enzyme assay; PubChem; luciferase; quantitative high-throughput screening
Continued examination of substituted 6-arylquinazolin-4-amines as Clk4 inhibitors resulted in selective inhibitors of Clk1, Clk4, Dyrk1A and Dyrk1B. Several of the most potent inhibitors were validated as being highly selective within a comprehensive kinome scan.
Clk1; Clk2; Clk3; Clk4; Dyrk1A; Dyrk1B; Pre-mRNA splicing; kinase inhibition; quinazoline
Compared to normal differentiated cells, cancer cells have altered metabolic regulation to support biosynthesis and the expression of the M2 isozyme of pyruvate kinase (PKM2) plays an important role in this anabolic metabolism. While the M1 isoform is a highly active enzyme, the alternatively spliced M2 variant is considerably less active and expressed in tumors. While the exact mechanism by which decreased pyruvate kinase activity contributes to anabolic metabolism remains unclear, it is hypothesized that activation of PKM2 to levels seen with PKM1 may promote a metabolic program that is not conducive to cell proliferation. Here we report the third chemotype in a series of PKM2 activators based on the 2-oxo-N-aryl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydroquinoline-6-sulfonamide scaffold. The synthesis, structure activity relationships, selectivity and notable physiochemical properties are described.
PKM2; pyruvate kinase; cellular metabolism; anti-cancer strategies; small molecule activators
Understanding luciferase enzymology and the structure of compounds that modulate luciferase activity can be used to improve the design of luminescence-based assays. This review provides an overview of these popular reporters with an emphasis on the commonly used firefly luciferase from Photinus pyralis (FLuc). Large-scale chemical profile studies have identified a variety of scaffolds that inhibit FLuc. In some cell-based assays these inhibitors can act in a counter-intuitive way –leading to a gain in luminescent signal. Although formerly attributed to transcriptional activation, intracellular stabilization of FLuc is the primary mechanism underlying this observation. FLuc inhibition/stabilization can be complex, as illustrated by the compound PTC124, which is converted by FLuc in the presence of ATP to a high affinity multi-substrate-adduct inhibitor, PTC124-AMP. The potential influence these findings can have on drug discovery efforts is provided here.
Cancer cells have distinct metabolic needs that are different from normal cells and can be exploited for development of anti-cancer therapeutics. Activation of the tumor specific M2 form of pyruvate kinase (PKM2) is a potential strategy for returning cancer cells to a metabolic state characteristic of normal cells. Here, we describe activators of PKM2 based upon a substituted thieno[3,2-b]pyrrole[3,2-d]pyridazinone scaffold. The synthesis of these agents, structure activity relationships, analysis of activity at related targets (PKM1, PKR and PKL) and examination of aqueous solubility are investigated. These agents represent the second reported chemotype for activation of PKM2.
Warburg effect; pyruvate kinase; cellular metabolism; anti-cancer strategies; small molecule activators
Summary of recent advances
Expansive compound collections made up of structurally heterogeneous chemicals, the activities of which are largely undefined, present challenging problems for high-throughput screening (HTS). Foremost is differentiating whether the activity for a given compound in an assay is directed against the targeted biology, or is the result of surreptitious compound activity involving the assay detection system. Such compound interference can be especially difficult to identify if it is reproducible and concentration-dependent – characteristics generally attributed to compounds with genuine activity. While reactive chemical groups on compounds were once thought to be the primary source of compound interference in assays used in HTS, recent work suggests that other factors, such as compound aggregation, may play a more significant role in many assay formats. Considerable progress has been made to profile representative compound libraries in an effort to identify chemical classes susceptible to producing compound interference, such as compounds commonly found to inhibit the reporter enzyme firefly luciferase. Such work has also led to the development of practices that have the potential to significantly reduce compound interference, for example, through the addition of non-ionic detergent to assay buffer to reduce aggregation-based inhibition.
Herein we examine the potential of a nitrile-containing proprionic acid moiety as an electrophile for covalent attack by the active site cysteine residue of caspase 1. The syntheses of several cyanopropanate containing small molecules based upon the optimized peptidic scaffold of the prodrug VX-765 were accomplished and found to be potent inhibitors of caspase 1 (IC50s ≤ 1 nM). Examination of these novel small molecules versus a caspase panel demonstrated an impressive degree of selectivity for caspase 1 inhibition. Assessment of hydrolytic stability and selected ADME properties highlighted these agents as potentially useful tools for studying caspase 1 down-regulation in various settings including in vivo analyses.
Inhibitor; enzymes; prodrugs; peptides; caspase 1 inhibitor; Cysteine proteases; Caspase 1; VX-765; VRT-043198; covalent modifiers,; nitrile caspase inhibitors
The metabolism of cancer cells is altered to support rapid proliferation. Pharmacological activators of a tumor cell specific pyruvate kinase isozyme (PKM2) may be an approach for altering the classic Warburg effect characteristic of aberrant metabolism in cancer cells yielding a novel anti-proliferation strategy. In this manuscript we detail the discovery of a series of substituted N,N′-diarylsulfonamides as activators of PKM2. The synthesis of numerous analogues and the evaluation of structure activity relationships are presented as well as assessments of mechanism and selectivity. Several agents are found that have good potencies and appropriate solubility for use as chemical probes of PKM2 including 55 (AC50 = 43 nM, maximum response = 84%; solubility = 7.3 μg/mL), 56 (AC50 = 99 nM, maximum response = 84%; solubility = 5.7 μg/mL) and 58 (AC50 = 38 nM, maximum response = 82%; solubility = 51.2 μg/mL). The small molecules described here represent first-in-class activators of PKM2
Warburg effect; pyruvate kinase; cellular metabolism; high-throughput screening; small molecule activators
A series of substituted 6-arylquinazolin-4-amines were prepared and analyzed as inhibitors of Clk4. Synthesis, structure activity-relationships and the selectivity of a potent analogue against a panel of 402 kinases are presented. Inhibition of Clk4 by these agents at varied concentrations of assay substrates (ATP and receptor peptide) highly suggests that this chemotype is an ATP competitive inhibitor. Molecular docking provides further evidence that inhibition is the result of binding at the kinase hinge region. Selected compounds represent novel tools capable of potent and selective inhibition of Clk1, Clk4 and Dyrk1A.
kinase inhibition; pre-mRNA splicing; Clk; Dyrk1A
Assays for ATPases have been enabled for high-throughput screening (HTS) by employing firefly luciferase to detect the remaining ATP in the assay. However, for any enzyme assay, measurement of product formation is a more sensitive assay design. Recently, technologies that allow detection of the ADP product from ATPase reactions have been described using fluorescent methods of detection. We describe here the characterization of a bioluminescent assay that employs firefly luciferase in a coupled-enzyme assay format to enable detection of ADP levels from ATPase assays (ADP-Glo®, Promega Corp.). We determined the performance of the ADP-Glo assay in 1,536-well microtiter plates using the protein kinase Clk4 and a 1,352 member kinase focused combinatorial library. The ADP-Glo assay was compared to the Clk4 assay performed using a bioluminescence ATP-depletion format (Kinase-Glo™, Promega Corp). We performed this analysis using quantitative HTS (qHTS) where we determined potency values for all library members and identified ∼300 compounds with potencies ranging from as low as 50 nM to >10 µM, yielding a robust dataset for the comparison. Both assay formats showed high performance (Z′-factors ∼0.9) and showed a similar potency distribution for the actives. We conclude that the bioluminescence ADP detection assay system is a viable generic alternative to the widely used ATP-depletion assay for ATPases and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches.
The NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) was the inaugural center of the Molecular Libraries and Screening Center Network (MLSCN). Along with the nine other research centers of the MLSCN, the NCGC was established with a primary goal of bringing industrial technology and experience to empower the scientific community with small molecule compounds for use in their research. We intend this review to serve as 1) an introduction to the NCGC standard operating procedures, 2) an overview of several of the lessons learned during the pilot phase and 3) a review of several of the innovative discoveries reported during the pilot phase of the MLSCN.
Inclusions comprised of fibrils of the microtubule (MT)-associated protein tau are found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative tauopathies. The pathology that is observed in these diseases is believed to result from the formation of toxic tau oligomers or fibrils, and/or from the loss of normal tau function due to its sequestration into insoluble deposits. Hence, small molecules that prevent tau oligomerization and/or fibrillization might have therapeutic value. Indeed, examples of such compounds have been published but nearly all have properties that render them unsuitable as drug candidates. For these reasons, we conducted quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) of ~292,000 compounds to identify drug-like inhibitors of tau assembly. The fibrillization of a truncated tau fragment that contains four MT-binding domains was monitored in an assay that employed complementary thioflavine T fluorescence and fluorescence polarization methods. Previously described classes of inhibitors as well as new scaffolds were identified, including novel aminothienopyridazines (ATPZ’s). A number of ATPZ analogs were synthesized and structure-activity relationships were defined. Further characterization of representative ATPZ compounds showed they do not interfere with tau-mediated MT assembly, and they are significantly more effective at preventing the fibrillization of tau than the Aβ(1–42) peptide which forms AD senile plaques. Thus, the ATPZ molecules described here represent a novel class of tau assembly inhibitors that merit further development for testing in animal models of AD-like tau pathology.
The efflux pump P-glycoprotein (ATP-binding cassette B1, multidrug resistance [MDR] 1, P-gp) has long been known to contribute to MDR against cancer chemotherapeutics. We describe the development of a dual-fluorescent cell line system to allow multiplexing of drug-sensitive and P-gp-mediated MDR cell lines. The parental OVCAR-8 human ovarian carcinoma cell line and the isogenic MDR NCI/ADR-RES subline, which stably expresses high levels of endogenous P-gp, were transfected to express the fluorescent proteins Discosoma sp. red fluorescent protein DsRed2 and enhanced green fluorescent protein, respectively. Co-culture conditions were defined, and fluorescent barcoding of each cell line allowed for the direct, simultaneous comparison of resistance to cytotoxic compounds in sensitive and MDR cell lines. We show that this assay system retains the phenotypes of the original lines and is suitable for multiplexing using confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, or laser scanning microplate cytometry in 1,536-well plates, enabling the high-throughput screening of large chemical libraries.
An expansion of structure-activity studies on a series of substituted 7H-[1,2,4]triazolo[3,4-b][1,3,4]thiadiazine PDE4 inhibitors and the introduction of a related [1,2,4]triazolo[4,3-b]pyridazine based inhibitor of PDE4 is presented. The development of SAR included strategic incorporation of known substituents on the critical catachol diether moiety of the 6-phenyl appendage on each heterocyclic core. From these studies, (R)-3-(2,5-dimethoxyphenyl)-6-(4-methoxy-3-(tetrahydrofuran-3-yloxy)phenyl)-7H-[1,2,4]triazolo[3,4-b][1,3,4]thiadiazine (10) and (R)-3-(2,5-dimethoxyphenyl)-6-(4-methoxy-3-(tetrahydrofuran-3-yloxy)phenyl)-[1,2,4]triazolo[4,3-b]pyridazine (18) were identified as highly potent PDE4A inhibitors. Each of these analogues was submitted across a panel of 21 PDE family members and was shown to be highly selective for PDE4 isoforms (PDE4A, PDE4B, PDE4C, PDE4D). Both 10 and 18 were then evaluated in divergent cell-based assays to assess their relevant use as probes of PDE4 activity. Finally, docking studies with selective ligands (including 10 and 18) were undertaken to better understand this chemotypes ability to bind and inhibit PDE4 selectively.