I'm a Postdoc working in the area of chemical biology at the School of Medicine, CWRU, Ohio, USA
Apart from research life, I like listening tamil music, reading science histories, playing outdoor games like cricket, volley ball, table tennis and badminton.
Revisiting electrophilic molecules as cancer therapeutics is encouraged both in industry & Academia
Drug discovery primarily relied on non-covalent small molecule inhibitors of proteins due to their high selectivity and safe in vivo cytotoxicity profiles. Irreversible inhibitors associated with idiosyncratic toxicity related issues is the major concern and this could be overcome with moderate to low-reactivity electrophiles. Further, durable and potent target engagement by the covalent probes could offer benefits over reversible therapeutics. In this context, recently, many of the moderately reactive acrylamide-electrophile containing small molecules including Afatinib, Neratinib and Ibrutinib have been approved by FDA as cancer chemotherapeutics. These molecules engage cysteines adjacent to the active site of protein kinases in cancer cells. Recognition of irreversible inhibitors for the treatment of cancer have encouraged people in industry and academia to shift their focus on developing covalent probes based chemotherapeutics.
Multiple synthetic strategies have been developed to identify potent irreversible inhibitors of cellular proteins. Fragment-based library design, target-based drug synthesis, structure-guided drug design and combinatorial synthesis are some of the powerful synthetic approaches exploited in developing libraries of covalent chemical probes. In our group, we came up with a design of weakly reactive electrophilic warheads appended to diverse structural, stereochemical and complex scaffolds. The structural complexity is expected to provide strong affinity of protein by the scaffold and hence attenuate any non-selective reactivity effects. One of my projects utilized (S)-or (R)-2-chloropropionamide electrophile, a chiral, low-reactivity electrophile conjugated to diverse structural scaffolds and synthesized a library of small molecules. Activity-based protein profiling, mass-spectrometric chemical proteomics, and enzymatic analysis resulted in identification of highly selective, irreversible inhibitor of protein disulfide isomerase (PDI), an endoplasmic reticulum bound chaperone protein. Phenotypic screening results revealed a highly selective inhibition of multiple myeloma cells only by the PDI inhibitor. Advancement in proteomics have significantly helped in identifying many undraggable cellular proteins. Together, these versatile synthetic and advanced chemical proteomics approaches are highly useful for the identification of potential covalent small molecules based therapeutics.
Abstract: Resurgent interest in covalent target engagement in drug discovery has demonstrated that small molecules containing weakly reactive electrophiles can be safe and effective therapies. Several recently FDA-approved drugs feature an acrylamide functionality to selectively engage cysteine side chains of kinases (Ibrutinib, Afatinib, and Neratinib). Additional electrophilic functionalities whose reactivity is compatible with highly selective target engagement and in vivo application could open new avenues in covalent small molecule discovery. Here we report the synthesis and evaluation of a library of small molecules containing the 2-chloropropionamide functionality, which we demonstrate is less reactive than typical acrylamide electrophiles. Although many library members do not appear to label proteins in cells, we identified S-CW3554 as selectively labeling protein disulfide isomerase and inhibiting its enzymatic activity. Subsequent profiling of the library against five diverse cancer cell lines showed unique cytotoxicity for S-CW3554 in cells derived from multiple myeloma, a cancer recently reported to be sensitive to PDI inhibition. Our novel PDI inhibitor highlights the potential of 2-chloropropionamides as weak and stereochemically-tunable electrophiles for covalent drug discovery.
Pub.: 15 Jun '17, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Fragment-based screens test multiple low-molecular weight molecules for binding to a target. Fragments often bind with low affinities but typically have better ligand efficiencies (DeltaG(bind)/heavy atom count) than traditional screening hits. This efficiency, combined with accompanying atomic-resolution structures, has made fragments popular starting points for drug discovery programs. Fragment-based design adopts a constructive strategy: affinity is enhanced either by cycles of functional-group addition or by joining two independent fragments together. The final inhibitor is expected to adopt the same geometry as the original fragment hit. Here we consider whether the inverse, deconstructive logic also applies--can one always parse a higher-affinity inhibitor into fragments that recapitulate the binding geometry of the larger molecule? Cocrystal structures of fragments deconstructed from a known beta-lactamase inhibitor suggest that this is not always the case.
Pub.: 31 Oct '06, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Fragment screens have successfully identified new scaffolds in drug discovery, often with relatively high hit rates (5%) using small screening libraries (1,000-10,000 compounds). This raises two questions: would other noteworthy chemotypes be found were one to screen all commercially available fragments (>300,000), and does the success rate imply low specificity of fragments? We used molecular docking to screen large libraries of fragments against CTX-M beta-lactamase. We identified ten millimolar-range inhibitors from the 69 compounds tested. The docking poses corresponded closely to the crystallographic structures subsequently determined. Notably, these initial low-affinity hits showed little specificity between CTX-M and an unrelated beta-lactamase, AmpC, which is unusual among beta-lactamase inhibitors. This is consistent with the idea that the high hit rates among fragments correlate to a low initial specificity. As the inhibitors were progressed, both specificity and affinity rose together, yielding to our knowledge the first micromolar-range noncovalent inhibitors against a class A beta-lactamase.
Pub.: 24 Mar '09, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Bisphosphonates are potent inhibitors of farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase (FPPS) and are highly efficacious in the treatment of bone diseases such as osteoporosis, Paget's disease and tumor-induced osteolysis. In addition, the potential for direct antitumor effects has been postulated on the basis of in vitro and in vivo studies and has recently been demonstrated clinically in early breast cancer patients treated with the potent bisphosphonate zoledronic acid. However, the high affinity of bisphosphonates for bone mineral seems suboptimal for the direct treatment of soft-tissue tumors. Here we report the discovery of the first potent non-bisphosphonate FPPS inhibitors. These new inhibitors bind to a previously unknown allosteric site on FPPS, which was identified by fragment-based approaches using NMR and X-ray crystallography. This allosteric and druggable pocket allows the development of a new generation of FPPS inhibitors that are optimized for direct antitumor effects in soft tissue.
Pub.: 17 Aug '10, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: A hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases is accumulation of misfolded proteins within neurons, leading to cellular dysfunction and cell death. Although several mechanisms have been proposed to link protein misfolding to cellular toxicity, the connection remains enigmatic. Here, we report a cell death pathway involving protein disulfide isomerase (PDI), a protein chaperone that catalyzes isomerization, reduction and oxidation of disulfides. Through a small molecule screening approach, we discovered five structurally distinct compounds that prevent apoptosis induced by mutant huntingtin protein. Using modified Huisgen cycloaddition chemistry, we then identified PDI as the molecular target of these small molecules. Expression of polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin exon 1 in PC12 cells caused PDI to accumulate at mitochondrial-associated ER membranes and trigger apoptotic cell death via mitochondrial outer-membrane permeabilization. Inhibiting PDI in rat brain cells suppressed the toxicity of mutant huntingtin exon 1 and Aβ peptides processed from the amyloid precursor protein. This pro-apoptotic function of PDI represents a new mechanism linking protein misfolding and apoptotic cell death.
Pub.: 17 Nov '10, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Small molecules are powerful tools for investigating protein function and can serve as leads for new therapeutics. Most human proteins, however, lack small-molecule ligands, and entire protein classes are considered 'undruggable'. Fragment-based ligand discovery can identify small-molecule probes for proteins that have proven difficult to target using high-throughput screening of complex compound libraries. Although reversibly binding ligands are commonly pursued, covalent fragments provide an alternative route to small-molecule probes, including those that can access regions of proteins that are difficult to target through binding affinity alone. Here we report a quantitative analysis of cysteine-reactive small-molecule fragments screened against thousands of proteins in human proteomes and cells. Covalent ligands were identified for >700 cysteines found in both druggable proteins and proteins deficient in chemical probes, including transcription factors, adaptor/scaffolding proteins, and uncharacterized proteins. Among the atypical ligand-protein interactions discovered were compounds that react preferentially with pro- (inactive) caspases. We used these ligands to distinguish extrinsic apoptosis pathways in human cell lines versus primary human T cells, showing that the former is largely mediated by caspase-8 while the latter depends on both caspase-8 and -10. Fragment-based covalent ligand discovery provides a greatly expanded portrait of the ligandable proteome and furnishes compounds that can illuminate protein functions in native biological systems.
Pub.: 17 Jun '16, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Identification and confirmation of bioactive small-molecule targets is a crucial, often decisive step both in academic and pharmaceutical research. Through the development and availability of several new experimental techniques, target identification is, in principle, feasible, and the number of successful examples steadily grows. However, a generic methodology that can successfully be applied in the majority of the cases has not yet been established. Herein we summarize current methods for target identification of small molecules, primarily for a chemistry audience but also the biological community, for example, the chemist or biologist attempting to identify the target of a given bioactive compound. We describe the most frequently employed experimental approaches for target identification and provide several representative examples illustrating the state-of-the-art. Among the techniques currently available, protein affinity isolation using suitable small-molecule probes (pulldown) and subsequent mass spectrometric analysis of the isolated proteins appears to be most powerful and most frequently applied. To provide guidance for rapid entry into the field and based on our own experience we propose a typical workflow for target identification, which centers on the application of chemical proteomics as the key step to generate hypotheses for potential target proteins.
Pub.: 19 Feb '13, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: We propose a novel single-cell chemical proteomics (SCCP) strategy to profile low-abundance membrane proteins in single cells. In this approach, the membrane protein GB1 and its splicing variants were targeted on cultured cell lines and primary neurons using a specifically designed activity-based probe. The functionally labeled single cells were encapsulated in individual buffer droplets on a PDMS microwell array, and were further picked up one at a time and loaded into a capillary electrophoresis system for cell lysis, separation, and laser-induced fluorescence detection of the targeted proteins. The results revealed the expression of GB1 splicing variants in HEK and MEF cells, which was previously only suggested at the transcriptional level. We further applied this method to investigate single primary cells and observed significant heterogeneity among individual mouse cerebellar granule neurons. Interference experiments with GB1 antagonist and agonist validated this observation.
Pub.: 23 May '14, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Sonic Hedgehog protein (Shh) is a morphogen molecule important in embryonic development and in the progression of many cancer types in which it is aberrantly overexpressed. Fully mature Shh requires attachment of cholesterol and palmitic acid to its C- and N-termini, respectively. The study of lipidated Shh has been challenging due to the limited array of tools available, and the roles of these posttranslational modifications are poorly understood. Herein, we describe the development and validation of optimised alkynyl sterol probes that efficiently tag Shh cholesterylation and enable its visualisation and analysis through bioorthogonal ligation to reporters. An optimised probe was shown to be an excellent cholesterol biomimetic in the context of Shh, enabling appropriate release of tagged Shh from signalling cells, formation of multimeric transport complexes and signalling. We have used this probe to determine the size of transport complexes of lipidated Shh in culture medium and expression levels of endogenous lipidated Shh in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell lines through quantitative chemical proteomics, as well as direct visualisation of the probe by fluorescence microscopy and detection of cholesterylated Hedgehog protein in developing zebrafish embryos. These sterol probes provide a set of novel and well-validated tools that can be used to investigate the role of lipidation on activity of Shh, and potentially other members of the Hedgehog protein family.
Pub.: 13 Jan '15, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: In this study, we present a highly efficient method for proteomic profiling of cysteine residues in complex proteomes and in living cells. Our method is based on alkynylation of cysteines in complex proteomes using a "clickable" alkynyl benziodoxolone bearing an azide group. This reaction proceeds fast, under mild physiological conditions, and with a very high degree of chemoselectivity. The formed azide-capped alkynyl-cysteine adducts are readily detectable by LC-MS/MS, and can be further functionalized with TAMRA or biotin alkyne via CuAAC. We demonstrate the utility of alkynyl benziodoxolones for chemical proteomics applications by identifying the proteomic targets of curcumin, a diarylheptanoid natural product that was and still is part of multiple human clinical trials as anticancer agent. Our results demonstrate that curcumin covalently modifies several key players of cellular signaling and metabolism, most notably the enzyme casein kinase I gamma. We anticipate that this new method for cysteine profiling will find broad application in chemical proteomics and drug discovery.
Pub.: 28 Jul '15, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Protein dynamics are essential in regulating nearly every cellular event, and aberrant proteostasis is the source of many diseases. It is extraordinarily difficult to globally study protein dynamics and accurately measure their half-lives. Here we have developed a chemical proteomics method integrating protein labeling, click chemistry and multiplexed proteomics, which overcomes current challenges with existing methods. Labeling with both azidohomoalanine (AHA) and heavy lysine allows us to selectively enrich newly synthesized proteins, clearly distinguish them from existing proteins, and reduce the impact of heavy amino acid recycling. Moreover, multiplexed proteomics enables us to quantify proteins at multiple time points simultaneously, thus increasing the accuracy of measuring protein abundance changes and their half-lives. Systematic investigation of newly synthesized protein dynamics will provide insight into proteostasis and the molecular mechanisms of disease.
Pub.: 16 Nov '15, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Gram-negative bacteria represent a challenging task for antibacterial drug discovery owing to their impermeable cell membrane and restricted uptake of small molecules. We herein describe the synthesis of natural-product-derived epoxycyclohexenones and explore their antibiotic activity against several pathogenic bacteria. A compound with activity against Salmonella Typhimurium was identified, and the target enzymes were unraveled by quantitative chemical proteomics. Importantly, two protein hits were linked to bacterial stress response, and corresponding assays revealed an elevated susceptibility to reactive oxygen species upon compound treatment. The consolidated inhibition of these targets provides a rationale for antibacterial activity and highlights epoxycyclohexenones as natural product scaffolds with suitable properties for killing Gram-negative Salmonella.
Pub.: 26 Oct '16, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: ADP-ribosylation is a post-translational modification that is known to be involved in cellular homeostasis and stress but has been challenging to analyze biochemically. To facilitate the detection of ADP-ribosylated proteins, we show that an alkyne–adenosine analog, N6-propargyl adenosine (N6pA), is metabolically incorporated in mammalian cells and enables fluorescence detection and proteomic analysis of ADP-ribosylated proteins. Notably, our analysis of N6pA-labeled proteins that are upregulated by oxidative stress revealed differential ADP-ribosylation of small GTPases. We discovered that oxidative stress induced ADP-ribosylation of Hras on Cys181 and Cys184 in the C-terminal hypervariable region, which are normally S-fatty-acylated. Downstream Hras signaling is impaired by ADP-ribosylation during oxidative stress, but is rescued by ADP-ribosyltransferase inhibitors. Our study demonstrates that ADP-ribosylation of small GTPases not only is mediated by bacterial toxins but is endogenously regulated in mammalian cells. N6pA provides a useful tool to characterize ADP-ribosylated proteins and their regulatory mechanisms in cells.
Pub.: 16 Jan '17, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: The stress-inducible molecular chaperone, HSP72, is an important therapeutic target in oncology, but inhibiting this protein with small molecules has proven particularly challenging. Validating HSP72 inhibitors in cells is difficult owing to competition with the high affinity and abundance of its endogenous nucleotide substrates. We hypothesized this could be overcome using a cysteine-targeted irreversible inhibitor. Using rational design, we adapted a validated 8-N-benzyladenosine ligand for covalent bond formation and confirmed targeted irreversible inhibition. However, no cysteine in the protein was modified; instead, we demonstrate that lysine-56 is the key nucleophilic residue. Targeting this lysine could lead to a new design paradigm for HSP72 chemical probes and drugs.
Pub.: 23 Feb '17, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: Cysteine proteases are among the most abundant hydrolytic enzymes produced by bacteria, and this diverse family of proteins have significant biological roles in bacterial viability and environmental interactions. Members of the clostripain-like (C11) family of cysteine proteases from distal gut commensal strains have recently been shown to mediate immune responses by inducing neutrophil phagocytosis and activating bacterial pathogenic toxins. Development of substrates, inhibitors, and probes that target C11 proteases from enteric bacteria will help to establish the role of these proteins at the interface of the host and microbiome in health and disease. We employed mass spectrometry-based substrate profiling method to identify an optimal peptide substrate of PmC11, a C11 protease secreted by the commensal bacterium Parabacteroides merdae. Using this substrate sequence information, a panel of fluorogenic substrates were synthesized to calculate kcat and KM and to evaluate the importance of the P2 amino acid for substrate turnover. A potent and irreversible tetrapeptide inhibitor with an C-terminal acyloxymethyl ketone warhead, Ac-VLTK-AOMK, was then synthesized. We determined the crystal structure of PmC11 in complex with this inhibitor and uncovered key active-site interactions that govern PmC11 substrate recognition and specificity. This is the first C11 protease structure in complex with a substrate mimetic and is also the highest resolution crystal structure of a C11 protease to date at 1.12 Å resolution. Importantly, subjecting human epithelial cell lysates to PmC11 hydrolysis in combination with subtiligase-based N-terminal labeling and tandem mass spectrometry proteomics complemented the stringent substrate specificity observed in the in vitro substrate profiling experiment. The combination of chemical biological, biophysical, and biochemical techniques presented here to elucidate and characterize PmC11 substrate selectivity can be expanded to other proteases and the development of chemical tools to study these essential proteins in biologically relevant samples, such as the highly complex distal gut microbiome.
Pub.: 18 Apr '17, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
Abstract: 1,6-epi-Cyclophellitol cyclosulfate (“α-cyclosulfate”) is a conceptually new, potent and selective irreversible α-glucosidase inhibitor that acts through mimicry of the α-glucosidase Michaelis complex 4C1 chair conformation.The essential biological roles played by glycosidases, coupled to the diverse therapeutic benefits of pharmacologically targeting these enzymes, provide considerable motivation for the development of new inhibitor classes. Cyclophellitol epoxides and aziridines are recently established covalent glycosidase inactivators. Inspired by the application of cyclic sulfates as electrophilic equivalents of epoxides in organic synthesis, we sought to test whether cyclophellitol cyclosulfates would similarly act as irreversible glycosidase inhibitors. Here we present the synthesis, conformational analysis, and application of novel 1,6-cyclophellitol cyclosulfates. We show that 1,6-epi-cyclophellitol cyclosulfate (α-cyclosulfate) is a rapidly reacting α-glucosidase inhibitor whose 4C1 chair conformation matches that adopted by α-glucosidase Michaelis complexes. The 1,6-cyclophellitol cyclosulfate (β-cyclosulfate) reacts more slowly, likely reflecting its conformational restrictions. Selective glycosidase inhibitors are invaluable as mechanistic probes and therapeutic agents, and we propose cyclophellitol cyclosulfates as a valuable new class of carbohydrate mimetics for application in these directions.
Pub.: 13 Jul '17, Pinned: 08 Aug '17
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