Mengmeng Zheng, Fa-Jie Chen, Kaicheng Li, Rahi M. Reja, Fredrik Haeffner, and Jianmin Gao
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2022
Binding via reversible covalent bond formation presents a novel and powerful mechanism to enhance the potency of synthetic inhibitors for therapeutically important proteins. Work on this front has yielded the anticancer drug bortezomib as well as the antisickling drug voxelotor. However, the rational design of reversible covalent inhibitors remains difficult even when noncovalent inhibitors are available as a scaffold. Herein, we report chemically modified phage libraries, both linear and cyclic, that incorporate 2-acetylphenylboronic acid (APBA) as a warhead to bind lysines via reversible iminoboronate formation. To demonstrate their utility, these APBA-presenting phage libraries were screened against sortase A of Staphylococcus aureus, as well as the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. For both protein targets, peptide ligands were readily identified with single-digit micromolar potency and excellent specificity, enabling live-cell sortase inhibition and highly sensitive spike protein detection, respectively. Furthermore, our structure–activity studies unambiguously demonstrate the benefit of the APBA warhead for protein binding. Overall, this contribution shows for the first time that reversible covalent inhibitors can be developed via phage display for a protein of interest. The phage display platform should be widely applicable to proteins including those involved in protein–protein interactions.