Sulfenylation (RSH → RSOH) is a post-translational protein modification associated with cellular mechanisms for signal transduction and the regulation of reactive oxygen species. Protein sulfenic acids are challenging to identify and study due to their electrophilic and transient nature. Described here are sulfenic acid modifying trans-cycloocten-5-ol (SAM-TCO) probes for labeling sulfenic acid functionality in live cells. These probes enable a new mode of capturing sulfenic acids via transannular thioetherification, whereas “ordinary” trans-cyclooctenes react only slowly with sulfenic acids. SAM-TCOs combine with sulfenic acid forms of a model peptide and proteins to form stable adducts. Analogously, SAM-TCO with the selenenic acid form of a model protein leads to a selenoetherification product. Control experiments illustrate the need for the transannulation process coupled with the activated trans-cycloalkene functionality. Bioorthogonal quenching of excess unreacted SAM-TCOs with tetrazines in live cells provides both temporal control and a means of preventing artifacts caused by cellular-lysis. A SAM-TCO biotin conjugate was used to label protein sulfenic acids in live cells, and subsequent quenching by tetrazine prevented further labeling even under harshly oxidizing conditions. A cell-based proteomic study validates the ability of SAM-TCO probes to identify and quantify known sulfenic acid redox proteins as well as targets not captured by dimedone-based probes.
Aberration in FGFR4 signaling drives carcinogenesis and progression in a subset of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients, thereby making FGFR4 an attractive molecular target for this disease. Selective FGFR4 inhibition can be achieved through covalently targeting a poorly conserved cysteine residue in the FGFR4 kinase domain. We report mass spectrometry assays and cocrystal structures of FGFR4 in covalent complex with the clinical candidate BLU554 and with a series of four structurally related inhibitors that define the inherent reactivity and selectivity profile of these molecules. We further reveal the structure of FGFR1 with one of our inhibitors and show that off-target covalent binding can occur through an alternative conformation that supports targeting of a cysteine conserved in all members of the FGFR family. Collectively, we propose that rotational freedom, steric hindrance, and protein dynamics explain the exceptional selectivity profile of BLU554 for targeting FGFR4.
Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation pathway that eliminates aggregated proteins and damaged organelles to maintain cellular homeostasis. A major route for activating autophagy involves inhibition of the mTORC1 kinase, but current mTORC1-targeting compounds do not allow complete and selective mTORC1 blockade. Here, we have coupled screening of a covalent ligand library with activity-based protein profiling to discover EN6, a small-molecule in vivo activator of autophagy that covalently targets cysteine 277 in the ATP6V1A subunit of the lysosomal v-ATPase, which activates mTORC1 via the Rag guanosine triphosphatases. EN6-mediated ATP6V1A modification decouples the v-ATPase from the Rags, leading to inhibition of mTORC1 signaling, increased lysosomal acidification and activation of autophagy. Consistently, EN6 clears TDP-43 aggregates, a causative agent in frontotemporal dementia, in a lysosome-dependent manner. Our results provide insight into how the v-ATPase regulates mTORC1, and reveal a unique approach for enhancing cellular clearance based on covalent inhibition of lysosomal mTORC1 signaling.
Kristine Senkane, Ekaterina Vinogradova, Radu Suciu, Vincent Crowley, Balyn Zaro, Michael Bradshaw ,Ken Brameld, Benjamin Cravatt Angew. Chem. 2019
Reversible covalency, achieved with, for instance, highly electron‐deficient olefins, offers a compelling strategy to design chemical probes and drugs that benefit from the sustained target engagement afforded by irreversible compounds, while avoiding permanent protein modification that persists following unfolding and/or proteolytic processing. So far, reversible covalency has mainly been evaluated for cysteine residues in individual kinases and the broader potential for this strategy to engage cysteines across the proteome remains unexplored. Here we describe a mass‐spectrometry‐based platform that integrates gel filtration (GF) with activity‐based protein profiling (ABPP) to assess cysteine residues across the human proteome for both irreversible and reversible interactions with small‐molecule electrophiles. Using this method, we identify numerous cysteine residues from diverse protein classes that are reversibly engaged by cyanoacrylamide fragment electrophiles, revealing the broad potential for reversible covalency as a strategy for chemical probe discovery.
Jessica N. Spradlin, Xirui Hu, Carl C. Ward, Scott M. Brittain, Michael D. Jones, Lisha Ou, Milton To, Andrew Proudfoot, Elizabeth Ornelas, Mikias Woldegiorgis, James A. Olzmann, Dirksen E. Bussiere, Jason R. Thomas, John A. Tallarico, Jeffrey M. McKenna, Markus Schirle, Thomas J. Maimone & Daniel K. Nomura
Nimbolide, a terpenoid natural product derived from the Neem tree, impairs cancer pathogenicity; however, the direct targets and mechanisms by which nimbolide exerts its effects are poorly understood. Here, we used activity-based protein profiling (ABPP) chemoproteomic platforms to discover that nimbolide reacts with a novel functional cysteine crucial for substrate recognition in the E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF114. Nimbolide impairs breast cancer cell proliferation in-part by disrupting RNF114-substrate recognition, leading to inhibition of ubiquitination and degradation of tumor suppressors such as p21, resulting in their rapid stabilization. We further demonstrate that nimbolide can be harnessed to recruit RNF114 as an E3 ligase in targeted protein degradation applications and show that synthetically simpler scaffolds are also capable of accessing this unique reactive site. Our study highlights the use of ABPP platforms in uncovering unique druggable modalities accessed by natural products for cancer therapy and targeted protein degradation applications.
Ligand-dependent protein degradation has emerged as a compelling strategy to pharmacologically control the protein content of cells. So far, however, only a limited number of E3 ligases have been found to support this process. Here, we use a chemical proteomic strategy that leverages broadly reactive, cysteine-directed electrophilic fragments coupled to selective ligands for intracellular proteins (for example, SLF for FKBP12, JQ1 for BRD4) to screen for heterobifunctional degrader compounds (or proteolysis targeting chimeras, PROTACs) that operate by covalent adduction of E3 ligases. This approach identified DCAF16—a poorly characterized substrate recognition component of CUL4-DDB1 E3 ubiquitin ligases—as a target of electrophilic PROTACs that promote the nuclear-restricted degradation of proteins. We find that only a modest fraction (~10–40%) of DCAF16 needs to be modified to support protein degradation, pointing to the potential for electrophilic PROTACs to induce neosubstrate degradation without substantially perturbing the function of the participating E3 ligase.
Genetically introducing covalent bonds into proteins in vivo with residue specificity is affording innovative ways for protein research and engineering, yet latent bioreactive unnatural amino acids (Uaas) genetically encoded to date react with one to few natural residues only, limiting the variety of proteins and the scope of applications amenable to this technology. Here we report the genetic encoding of (2R)-2-amino-3-fluoro-3-(4-((2-nitrobenzyl)oxy) phenyl) propanoic acid (FnbY) in Escherichia coli and mammalian cells. Upon photoactivation, FnbY generated a reactive quinone methide (QM), which selectively reacted with nine natural amino acid residues placed in proximity in proteins directly in live cells. In addition to Cys, Lys, His, and Tyr, photoactivated FnbY also reacted with Trp, Met, Arg, Asn, and Gln, which are inaccessible with existing latent bioreactive Uaas. FnbY thus dramatically expanded the number of residues for covalent targeting in vivo. QM has longer half-life than the intermediates of conventional photo-cross-linking Uaas, and FnbY exhibited cross-linking efficiency higher than p-azido-phenylalanine. The photoactivatable and multitargeting reactivity of FnbY with selectivity toward nucleophilic residues will be valuable for addressing diverse proteins and broadening the scope of applications through exploiting covalent bonding in vivo for chemical biology, biotherapeutics, and protein engineering.