Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Chemical Specification of E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Engagement by Cysteine-Reactive Chemistry

Roman C. Sarott, Inchul You, Yen-Der Li, Sean T. Toenjes, Katherine A. Donovan, Pooreum Seo, Martha Ordonez, Woong Sub Byun, Muhammad Murtaza Hassan, Franziska Wachter, Edward T. Chouchani, Mikołaj Słabicki, Eric S. Fischer, Benjamin L. Ebert, Stephen M. Hinshaw, and Nathanael S. Gray

Journal of the American Chemical Society Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c06622

Targeted protein degradation relies on small molecules that induce new protein–protein interactions between targets and the cellular protein degradation machinery. Most of these small molecules feature specific ligands for ubiquitin ligases. Recently, the attachment of cysteine-reactive chemical groups to pre-existing small molecule inhibitors has been shown to drive specific target degradation. We demonstrate here that different cysteine-reactive groups can specify target degradation via distinct ubiquitin ligases. By focusing on the bromodomain ligand JQ1, we identify cysteine-reactive functional groups that drive BRD4 degradation by either DCAF16 or DCAF11. Unlike proteolysis-targeting chimeric molecules (PROTACs), the new compounds use a single small molecule ligand with a well-positioned cysteine-reactive group to induce protein degradation. The finding that nearly identical compounds can engage multiple ubiquitination pathways suggests that targeting cellular pathways that search for and eliminate chemically reactive proteins is a feasible avenue for converting existing small molecule drugs into protein degrader molecules.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Assigning functionality to cysteines by base editing of cancer dependency genes [@davidrliu]

Haoxin Li, Tiantai Ma, Jarrett R. Remsberg, Sang Joon Won, Kristen E. DeMeester, Evert Njomen, Daisuke Ogasawara, Kevin T. Zhao, Tony P. Huang, Bingwen Lu, Gabriel M. Simon, Bruno Melillo, Stuart L. Schreiber, Jens Lykke-Andersen, David R. Liu & Benjamin F. Cravatt 

Nat Chem Biol, 2023

Covalent chemistry represents an attractive strategy for expanding the ligandability of the proteome, and chemical proteomics has revealed numerous electrophile-reactive cysteines on diverse human proteins. Determining which of these covalent binding events affect protein function, however, remains challenging. Here we describe a base-editing strategy to infer the functionality of cysteines by quantifying the impact of their missense mutation on cancer cell proliferation. The resulting atlas, which covers more than 13,800 cysteines on more than 1,750 cancer dependency proteins, confirms the essentiality of cysteines targeted by covalent drugs and, when integrated with chemical proteomic data, identifies essential, ligandable cysteines in more than 160 cancer dependency proteins. We further show that a stereoselective and site-specific ligand targeting an essential cysteine in TOE1 inhibits the nuclease activity of this protein through an apparent allosteric mechanism. Our findings thus describe a versatile method and valuable resource to prioritize the pursuit of small-molecule probes with high function-perturbing potential.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Single-Agent Divarasib (GDC-6036) in Solid Tumors with a KRAS G12C Mutation

N Engl J Med 2023; 389: 710–721
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2303810


Divarasib (GDC-6036) is a covalent KRAS G12C inhibitor that was designed to have high potency and selectivity.


In a phase 1 study, we evaluated divarasib administered orally once daily (at doses ranging from 50 to 400 mg) in patients who had advanced or metastatic solid tumors that harbor a KRAS G12C mutation. The primary objective was an assessment of safety; pharmacokinetics, investigator-evaluated antitumor activity, and biomarkers of response and resistance were also assessed.


A total of 137 patients (60 with non–small-cell lung cancer [NSCLC], 55 with colorectal cancer, and 22 with other solid tumors) received divarasib. No dose-limiting toxic effects or treatment-related deaths were reported. Treatment-related adverse events occurred in 127 patients (93%); grade 3 events occurred in 15 patients (11%) and a grade 4 event in 1 patient (1%). Treatment-related adverse events resulted in a dose reduction in 19 patients (14%) and discontinuation of treatment in 4 patients (3%). Among patients with NSCLC, a confirmed response was observed in 53.4% of patients (95% confidence interval [CI], 39.9 to 66.7), and the median progression-free survival was 13.1 months (95% CI, 8.8 to could not be estimated). Among patients with colorectal cancer, a confirmed response was observed in 29.1% of patients (95% CI, 17.6 to 42.9), and the median progression-free survival was 5.6 months (95% CI, 4.1 to 8.2). Responses were also observed in patients with other solid tumors. Serial assessment of circulating tumor DNA showed declines in KRAS G12C variant allele frequency associated with response and identified genomic alterations that may confer resistance to divarasib.


Treatment with divarasib resulted in durable clinical responses across KRAS G12C–positive tumors, with mostly low-grade adverse events. (Funded by Genentech; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT04449874. opens in new tab.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Development of LB244, an Irreversible STING Antagonist

 Leonard Barasa, Sauradip Chaudhuri, Jeffrey Y. Zhou, Zhaozhao Jiang, Shruti Choudhary, Robert Madison Green, Elenore Wiggin, Michael Cameron, Fiachra Humphries, Katherine A. Fitzgerald, and Paul R. Thompson

Journal of the American Chemical Society 2023

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c03637

The cGMP-AMP Synthase (cGAS)-Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING) pathway plays a critical role in sensing dsDNA localized to the cytosol, resulting in the activation of a robust inflammatory response. While cGAS-STING signaling is essential for antiviral immunity, aberrant STING activation is observed in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), lupus, and autoinflammatory diseases such as Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS) and STING associated vasculopathy with onset in infancy (SAVI). Significant efforts have therefore focused on the development of STING inhibitors. In a concurrent submission, we reported that BB-Cl-amidine inhibits STING-dependent signaling in the nanomolar range, both in vitro and in vivo. Considering this discovery, we sought to generate analogs with higher potency and proteome-wide selectivity. Herein, we report the development of LB244, which displays nanomolar potency and inhibits STING signaling with markedly enhanced proteome-wide selectivity. Moreover, LB244 mirrored the efficacy of BB-Cl-amidine in vivo. In summary, our data identify novel chemical entities that inhibit STING signaling and provide a scaffold for the development of therapeutics for treating STING-dependent inflammatory diseases.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Phage Display of Two Distinct Warheads to Inhibit Challenging Proteins

Mengmeng Zheng and Jianmin Gao

ACS Chemical Biology 2023

DOI: 10.1021/acschembio.3c00297

Falling in between traditional small molecules and antibodies in size, peptides are emerging as a privileged therapeutic modality, one that can harness the benefits of both small molecule and antibody drugs. To discover potential peptide therapeutics, it is highly desirable to have high throughput screening platforms that can assess peptides with diverse and non-natural functional motifs. With this contribution, we present a novel phage library that incorporates two distinct designer groups. As an example, a pair of reversible covalent warheads was installed onto phage-displayed peptides to target a cysteine and a lysine. The double modification is realized by sequential modification of an N-terminal cysteine and then an internal cysteine using chemoselective chemistry. Screening of this double-warhead-presenting library against TEV protease readily revealed peptide inhibitors with single-digit micromolar potency. Importantly, our structure–activity studies demonstrate that both covalent warheads make important contributions to TEV protease inhibition. We envision that our strategy of double phage modification can be readily extended to build phage libraries with diverse structural motifs, allowing facile expansion of the chemical space coverable by phage display.

Structure-Based Optimization of Covalent, Small-Molecule Stabilizers of the 14-3-3σ/ERα Protein–Protein Interaction from Nonselective Fragments

Markella Konstantinidou, Emira J. Visser, Edmee Vandenboorn, Sheng Chen, Priyadarshini Jaishankar, Maurits Overmans, Shubhankar Dutta, R. Jeffrey Neitz, Adam R. Renslo, Christian Ottmann, Luc Brunsveld, and Michelle R. Arkin

Journal of the American Chemical Society 2023

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c05161

The stabilization of protein–protein interactions (PPIs) has emerged as a promising strategy in chemical biology and drug discovery. The identification of suitable starting points for stabilizing native PPIs and their subsequent elaboration into selective and potent molecular glues lacks structure-guided optimization strategies. We have previously identified a disulfide fragment that stabilized the hub protein 14-3-3σ bound to several of its clients, including ERα and C-RAF. Here, we show the structure-based optimization of the nonselective fragment toward selective and highly potent small-molecule stabilizers of the 14-3-3σ/ERα complex. The more elaborated molecular glues, for example, show no stabilization of 14-3-3σ/C-RAF up to 150 μM compound. Orthogonal biophysical assays, including mass spectrometry and fluorescence anisotropy, were used to establish structure–activity relationships. The binding modes of 37 compounds were elucidated with X-ray crystallography, which further assisted the concomitant structure-guided optimization. By targeting specific amino acids in the 14-3-3σ/ERα interface and locking the conformation with a spirocycle, the optimized covalent stabilizer 181 achieved potency, cooperativity, and selectivity similar to the natural product Fusicoccin-A. This case study showcases the value of addressing the structure, kinetics, and cooperativity for molecular glue development.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Cyanotriazoles are selective topoisomerase II poisons that rapidly cure trypanosome infections

Srinivasa P. S. Rao et al.

Science 2023, 380, 1349-1356


Millions who live in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of trypanosomatid infections, which cause Chagas disease and human African trypanosomiasis (HAT). Improved HAT treatments are available, but Chagas disease therapies rely on two nitroheterocycles, which suffer from lengthy drug regimens and safety concerns that cause frequent treatment discontinuation. We performed phenotypic screening against trypanosomes and identified a class of cyanotriazoles (CTs) with potent trypanocidal activity both in vitro and in mouse models of Chagas disease and HAT. Cryo–electron microscopy approaches confirmed that CT compounds acted through selective, irreversible inhibition of trypanosomal topoisomerase II by stabilizing double-stranded DNA:enzyme cleavage complexes. These findings suggest a potential approach toward successful therapeutics for the treatment of Chagas disease.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Discovery of AZD4747, a Potent and Selective Inhibitor of Mutant GTPase KRASG12C with Demonstrable CNS Penetration

Jason G. Kettle, Sharan K. Bagal, Derek Barratt, Michael S. Bodnarchuk, Scott Boyd, Erin Braybrooke, Jason Breed, Doyle J. Cassar, Sabina Cosulich, Michael Davies, Nichola L. Davies, Chao Deng, Andrew Eatherton, Laura Evans, Lyman J. Feron, Shaun Fillery, Emma S. Gleave, Frederick W. Goldberg, Miguel A. Cortés González, Carine Guerot, Afreen Haider, Stephanie Harlfinger, Rachel Howells, Anne Jackson, Peter Johnström, Paul D. Kemmitt, Alex Koers, Mikhail Kondrashov, Gillian M. Lamont, Scott Lamont, Hilary J. Lewis, Libin Liu, Megan Mylrea, Samuel Nash, Michael J. Niedbala, Alison Peter, Christopher Phillips, Kurt Pike, Piotr Raubo, Graeme R. Robb, Sarah Ross, Matthew G. Sanders, Magnus Schou, Iain Simpson, and Oliver Steward

Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2023 66 (13), 9147-9160

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.3c00746

The glycine to cysteine mutation at codon 12 of Kirsten rat sarcoma (KRAS) represents an Achilles heel that has now rendered this important GTPase druggable. Herein, we report our structure-based drug design approach that led to the identification of 14, AZD4747, a clinical development candidate for the treatment of KRASG12C-positive tumors, including the treatment of central nervous system (CNS) metastases. Building on our earlier discovery of C5-tethered quinazoline AZD4625, excision of a usually critical pyrimidine ring yielded a weak but brain-penetrant start point which was optimized for potency and DMPK. Key design principles and measured parameters that give high confidence in CNS exposure are discussed. During optimization, divergence between rodent and non-rodent species was observed in CNS exposure, with primate PET studies ultimately giving high confidence in the expected translation to patients. AZD4747 is a highly potent and selective inhibitor of KRASG12C with an anticipated low clearance and high oral bioavailability profile in humans.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Targeting Cytotoxic Agents through EGFR-Mediated Covalent Binding and Release

Pasquale A. Morese, Nahoum Anthony, Michael Bodnarchuk, Claire Jennings, Mathew P. Martin, Richard A. Noble, Nicole Phillips, Huw D. Thomas, Lan Z. Wang, Andrew Lister, Martin E. M. Noble, Richard A. Ward, Stephen R. Wedge, Hannah L. Stewart, and Michael J. Waring

Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2023
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.3c00845

A major drawback of cytotoxic chemotherapy is the lack of selectivity toward noncancerous cells. The targeted delivery of cytotoxic drugs to tumor cells is a longstanding goal in cancer research. We proposed that covalent inhibitors could be adapted to deliver cytotoxic agents, conjugated to the β-position of the Michael acceptor, via an addition–elimination mechanism promoted by covalent binding. Studies on model systems showed that conjugated 5-fluorouracil (5FU) could be released upon thiol addition in relevant time scales. A series of covalent epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors were synthesized as their 5FU derivatives. Achieving the desired release of 5FU was demonstrated to depend on the electronics and geometry of the compounds. Mass spectrometry and NMR studies demonstrated an anilinoquinazoline acrylate ester conjugate bound to EGFR with the release of 5FU. This work establishes that acrylates can be used to release conjugated molecules upon covalent binding to proteins and could be used to develop targeted therapeutics.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Development of a covalent cereblon-based PROTAC employing a fluorosulfate warhead [@LynJonesChemBio, @RPNowak]

Many cereblon (CRBN) ligands have been used to develop proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs), but all are reversible binders of the E3 ubiquitin ligase. We recently described the use of sulfonyl exchange chemistry to design binders that covalently engage histidine 353 in CRBN for the first time. Here we show that covalent CRBN ligands can be used to develop efficient PROTAC degraders. We demonstrate that the fluorosulfate PROTAC FS-ARV-825 covalently labels CRBN in vitro, and in cells the BRD4 degrader is insensitive to wash-out and competition by potent reversible CRBN ligands, reflecting enhanced pharmacodynamics. We anticipate that covalent CRBN-based PROTACs will enhance degradation efficiencies, thus expanding the scope of addressable targets using the heterobifunctional degrader modality.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

A covalent inhibitor of the YAP–TEAD transcriptional complex identified by high-throughput screening

Kayla Nutsch, Lirui Song, Emily Chen, Mitchell Hull, Arnab K. Chatterjee, Jian Jeffery Chen and Michael J. Bollong

RSC Chem. Biol., 2023

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/D3CB00044C

Yes-associated protein (YAP), the master transcriptional effector downstream of the Hippo pathway, regulates essential cell growth and regenerative processes in animals. However, the activation of YAP observed in cancers drives cellular proliferation, metastasis, chemoresistance, and immune suppression, making it of key interest in developing precision therapeutics for oncology. As such, pharmacological inhibition of YAP by targeting its essential co-regulators, TEA domain transcription factors (TEADs) would likely promote tumor clearance in sensitive tumor types. From a fluorescence polarization-based high throughput screen of over 800 000 diverse small molecules, here we report the identification of a pyrazolopyrimidine-based scaffold that inhibits association of YAP and TEADs. Medicinal chemistry-based optimization identified mCMY020, a potent, covalent inhibitor of TEAD transcriptional activity that occupies a conserved, central palmitoylation site on TEADs.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Succinylation of a KEAP1 sensor lysine promotes NRF2 activation [@MichaelBollong]

Lara Ibrahim, Caroline Stanton, Kayla Nutsch, Thu Nguyen, Chloris Li-Ma, Yeonjin Ko, Gabriel C. Lander, R. Luke Wiseman, Michael J. Bollong

Cell Chemical Biology, 2023


Cross talk between metabolism and stress-responsive signaling is essential for maintaining cellular homeostasis. This cross talk is often achieved through covalent modification of proteins by endogenous, reactive metabolites that regulate key stress-responsive transcription factors like NRF2. Metabolites including methylglyoxal, glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate, fumarate, and itaconate covalently modify sensor cysteines of the NRF2 repressor KEAP1, resulting in stabilization of NRF2 and activation of its cytoprotective transcriptional program. Here, we employed a shRNA-based screen targeting the enzymes of central carbon metabolism to identify additional regulatory nodes bridging metabolism to NRF2 activation. Succinic anhydride, increased by genetic depletion of the TCA cycle enzyme succinyl-CoA synthetase or by direct administration, results in N-succinylation of lysine 131 of KEAP1 to activate NRF2 signaling. This study identifies KEAP1 as capable of sensing reactive metabolites not only by several cysteine residues but also by a conserved lysine residue, indicating its potential to sense an expanded repertoire of reactive metabolic messengers.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Multi-omic stratification of the missense variant cysteinome [@Keribackus]

Heta S Desai, Samuel Ofori, Lisa M Boatner,  Fengchao Yu, Miranda Villaneuva, Nicholas Ung, Alexey Nesvizhskii, Keriann M Backus

doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.08.12.553095

Cancer genomes are rife with genetic variants; one key outcome of this variation is gain-of-cysteine, which is the most frequently acquired amino acid due to missense variants in COSMIC. Acquired cysteines are both driver mutations and sites targeted by precision therapies. However, despite their ubiquity, nearly all acquired cysteines remain uncharacterized. Here, we pair cysteine chemoproteomics, a technique that enables proteome-wide pinpointing of functional, redox sensitive, and potentially druggable residues, with genomics to reveal the hidden landscape of cysteine acquisition. For both cancer and healthy genomes, we find that cysteine acquisition is a ubiquitous consequence of genetic variation that is further elevated in the context of decreased DNA repair. Our chemoproteogenomics platform integrates chemoproteomic, whole exome, and RNA-seq data, with a customized 2-stage false discovery rate (FDR) error controlled proteomic search, further enhanced with a user-friendly FragPipe interface. Integration of CADD predictions of deleteriousness revealed marked enrichment for likely damaging variants that result in acquisition of cysteine. By deploying chemoproteogenomics across 11 cell lines, we identify 116 gain-of-cysteines, of which 10 were liganded by electrophilic druglike molecules. Reference cysteines proximal to missense variants were also found to be pervasive, 791 in total, supporting heretofore untapped opportunities for proteoform-specific chemical probe development campaigns. As chemoproteogenomics is further distinguished by sample-matched combinatorial variant databases and compatible with redox proteomics and small molecule screening, we expect widespread utility in guiding proteoform-specific biology and therapeutic discovery.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Simultaneous Covalent Modification of K-Ras(G12D) and K-Ras(G12C) with Tunable Oxirane Electrophiles

Zhongtang Yu, Xiaoqiang He, Ruiliu Wang, Xinxin Xu, Zhang Zhang, Ke Ding, Zhi-Min Zhang, Yi Tan, and Zhengqiu Li
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2023

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c05899

Owing to their remarkable pharmaceutical properties compared to those of noncovalent inhibitors, the development of targeted covalent inhibitors (TCIs) has emerged as a powerful method for cancer treatment. The K-Ras mutant, which is prevalent in multiple cancers, has been confirmed to be a crucial drug target in the treatment of various malignancies. However, although the K-Ras(G12D) mutation is present in up to 33% of K-Ras mutations, no covalent inhibitors targeting K-Ras(G12D) have been developed to date. The relatively weak nucleophilicity of the acquired aspartic acid (12D) residue in K-Ras may be the reason for this. Herein, we present the first compound capable of covalently engaging both K-Ras(G12D) and K-Ras(G12C) mutants. Proteome profiling revealed that this compound effectively conjugates with G12C and G12D residues, modulating the protein functions in situ. These findings offer a unique pathway for the development of novel dual covalent inhibitors.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Structural and functional fine mapping of cysteines in mammalian glutaredoxin reveal their differential oxidation susceptibility

Corteselli, E.M., Sharafi, M., Hondal, R. et al. 

Nat Commun 14, 4550 (2023). 


Protein-S-glutathionylation is a post-translational modification involving the conjugation of glutathione to protein thiols, which can modulate the activity and structure of key cellular proteins. Glutaredoxins (GLRX) are oxidoreductases that regulate this process by performing deglutathionylation. However, GLRX has five cysteines that are potentially vulnerable to oxidative modification, which is associated with GLRX aggregation and loss of activity. To date, GLRX cysteines that are oxidatively modified and their relative susceptibilities remain unknown. We utilized molecular modeling approaches, activity assays using recombinant GLRX, coupled with site-directed mutagenesis of each cysteine both individually and in combination to address the oxidizibility of GLRX cysteines. These approaches reveal that C8 and C83 are targets for S-glutathionylation and oxidation by hydrogen peroxide in vitro. In silico modeling and experimental validation confirm a prominent role of C8 for dimer formation and aggregation. Lastly, combinatorial mutation of C8, C26, and C83 results in increased activity of GLRX and resistance to oxidative inactivation and aggregation. Results from these integrated computational and experimental studies provide insights into the relative oxidizability of GLRX’s cysteines and have implications for the use of GLRX as a therapeutic in settings of dysregulated protein glutathionylation.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Mutate and Conjugate: A Method to Enable Rapid In-Cell Target Validation

Thomas, A.; Serafini, M.; Grant, E.; Coombs, E.; Bluck, J.; Schiedel, M.; McDonough, M.; Reynolds, J.; Lee, B.; Platt, M.; Sharlandjieva, V.; Biggin, P.; Duarte, F.; Milne, T.; Bush, J.; Conway, S. 

ChemRxiv 2023


Target validation remains a challenge in drug discovery, which leads to a high attrition rate in the drug discovery process, particularly in Phase II clinical trials. Consequently, new approaches to enhance target validation are valuable tools to improve the drug discovery process. Here we report the combination of site-directed mutagenesis and electrophilic fragments to enable the rapid identification of small molecules that selectively inhibit the mutant protein. Using the bromodomain- containing protein BRD4 as an example, we employed a structure-based approach to identify the L94C mutation in the first bromodomain of BRD4 [BRD4(1)] as having minimal effect on BRD4(1) function. We then screen a focused, KAc mimic-containing fragment set, and a diverse fragment library against the mutant and wild-type proteins, and identified a series of fragments that showed high selectivity for the mutant protein. These compounds were elaborated to include an alkyne click tag to enable the attachment of a fluorescent dye. These clickable compounds were then assessed in HEK293T cells, transiently expressing BRD4(1)WT or BRD4(1)L94C, to determine their selectivity for BRD4(1)L94C over other possible cellular targets. One compound was identified that shows very high selectivity for BRD4(1)L94C over all other proteins. This work provides proof-of-concept that the combination of site-directed mutagenesis and electrophilic fragments, in a mutant and conjugate approach, can enable rapid identification of small molecule inhibitors for an appropriately mutated protein of interest. This technology can be used to assess the cellular phenotype of inhibiting the protein of interest, and the electrophilic ligand provides a starting point for non-covalent ligand development.


Friday, July 21, 2023

Cell Surface Labeling and Detection of Protein Tyrosine Kinase 7 via Covalent Aptamers

Savannah Albright, Mary Cacace, Yaniv Tivon, and Alexander Deiters Journal of the American Chemical Society 2023 DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c02752

Covalent aptamers are novel biochemical tools for fast and selective transfer of labels to target proteins. Equipped with cleavable electrophiles, these nucleic acid probes enable the installation of functional handles onto native proteins. The high affinity and specificity with which aptamers bind their selected targets allows for quick, covalent labeling that can compete with nuclease-mediated degradation. Here, we introduce the first application of covalent aptamers to modify a specific cell surface protein through proximity-driven label transfer. We targeted protein tyrosine kinase 7 (PTK7), a prominent cancer marker, and demonstrated aptamer-mediated biotin transfer to specific lysine residues on the extracellular domain of the protein. This allowed for tracking of PTK7 expression, localization, and cellular internalization. These studies validate the programmability of covalent aptamers and highlight their applicability in a cellular context, including protein and small molecule delivery

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Proteome-wide structural analysis identifies warhead-and coverage-specific biases in cysteine-focused chemoproteomics

Matthew E H White, Jesús Gil, Edward W Tate


Covalent drug discovery has undergone a resurgence over the past two decades and reactive cysteine profiling has emerged in parallel as a platform for ligand discovery through on- and off-target profiling; however, the scope of this approach has not been fully explored at the whole-proteome level. We combined AlphaFold2-predicted side-chain accessibilities for >95% of the human proteome with a meta-analysis of eighteen public cysteine profiling datasets, totaling 44,187 unique cysteine residues, revealing accessibility biases in sampled cysteines primarily dictated by warhead chemistry. Analysis of >3.5 million cysteine-fragment interactions further showed that hit elaboration and optimization drives increased bias against buried cysteine residues. Based on these data, we suggest that current profiling approaches cover a small proportion of potential ligandable cysteine residues and propose future directions for increasing coverage, focusing on high-priority residues and depth. All analysis and produced resources are freely available and extendable to other reactive amino acids.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Direct mapping of ligandable tyrosines and lysines in cells with chiral sulfonyl fluoride probes

Ying Chen, Gregory B. Craven, Roarke A. Kamber, Adolfo Cuesta, Serhii Zhersh, Yurii S. Moroz, Michael C. Bassik & Jack Taunton 

Nature Chemistry 2023


Advances in chemoproteomic technology have revealed covalent interactions between small molecules and protein nucleophiles, primarily cysteine, on a proteome-wide scale. Most chemoproteomic screening approaches are indirect, relying on competition between electrophilic fragments and a minimalist electrophilic probe with inherently limited proteome coverage. Here we develop a chemoproteomic platform for direct electrophile-site identification based on enantiomeric pairs of clickable arylsulfonyl fluoride probes. Using stereoselective site modification as a proxy for ligandability in intact cells, we identify 634 tyrosines and lysines within functionally diverse protein sites, liganded by structurally diverse probes. Among multiple validated sites, we discover a chiral probe that modifies Y228 in the MYC binding site of the epigenetic regulator WDR5, as revealed by a high-resolution crystal structure. A distinct chiral probe stimulates tumour cell phagocytosis by covalently modifying Y387 in the recently discovered immuno-oncology target APMAP. Our work provides a deep resource of ligandable tyrosines and lysines for the development of covalent chemical probes.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

N-Acryloylindole-alkyne (NAIA) enables imaging and profiling new ligandable cysteines and oxidized thiols by chemoproteomics

Nat Commun 14, 3564 (2023). 


Cysteine has been exploited as the binding site of covalent drugs. Its high sensitivity to oxidation is also important for regulating cellular processes. To identify new ligandable cysteines which can be hotspots for therapy and to better study cysteine oxidations, we develop cysteine-reactive probes, N-acryloylindole-alkynes (NAIAs), which have superior cysteine reactivity owing to delocalization of π electrons of the acrylamide warhead over the whole indole scaffold. This allows NAIAs to probe functional cysteines more effectively than conventional iodoacetamide-alkyne, and to image oxidized thiols by confocal fluorescence microscopy. In mass spectrometry experiments, NAIAs successfully capture new oxidized cysteines, as well as a new pool of ligandable cysteines and proteins. Competitive activity-based protein profiling experiments further demonstrate the ability of NAIA to discover lead compounds targeting these cysteines and proteins. We show the development of NAIAs with activated acrylamide for advancing proteome-wide profiling and imaging ligandable cysteines and oxidized thiols.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Expanding the Chemistry of Dihaloacetamides as Tunable Electrophiles for Reversible Covalent Targeting of Cysteines

Daiki Yamane, Ryo Tetsukawa, Naoki Zenmyo, Kaori Tabata, Yuya Yoshida, Naoya Matsunaga, Naoya Shindo, and Akio Ojida

Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2023
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.3c00737

The choice of an appropriate electrophile is crucial in the design of targeted covalent inhibitors (TCIs). In this report, we systematically investigated the glutathione (GSH) reactivity of various haloacetamides and the aqueous stability of their thiol adducts. Our findings revealed that dihaloacetamides cover a broad range of GSH reactivity depending on the combination of the halogen atoms and the structure of the amine scaffold. Among the dihaloacetamides, dichloroacetamide (DCA) exhibited slightly lower GSH reactivity than chlorofluoroacetamide (CFA). The DCA–thiol adduct is readily hydrolyzed under aqueous conditions, but it can stably exist in the solvent-sequestered binding pocket of the protein. These reactivity profiles of DCA were successfully exploited in the design of TCIs targeting noncatalytic cysteines of KRASG12C and EGFRL858R/T790M. These inhibitors exhibited strong antiproliferative activities against cancer cells. Our findings provide valuable insights for designing dihaloacetamide-based reversible covalent inhibitors.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Electrophile Scanning Reveals Reactivity Hotspots for the Design of Covalent Peptide Binders

Grob, N. M.; Remarcik, C.; Rössler, S. L.; Wong, J. Y. K.; Wang, J. C. K.; Tao, J.; Smith, C. L.; Loas, A.; Buchwald, S. L.; Eaton, D. L.; Preciado López, M.; Pentelute, B. L. 

ChemRxiv 2023.


Protein–protein interactions (PPIs) are intriguing targets in drug discovery and development. Peptides are well suited to target PPIs, which typically present with large surface areas lacking distinct features and deep binding pockets. To improve binding interactions to these topologies by PPI-focused therapeutics and advance their development, potential ligands can be equipped with electrophilic groups to enable binding through covalent mechanisms of action. We report a strategy termed electrophile scanning to identify reactivity hotspots in a known peptide ligand. Cysteine mutants of the ligand are used to install protein-reactive modifiers via a palladium oxidative addition complex (Pd-OAC). Reactivity hotspots are revealed by cross-linking reactions with the target protein under physiological conditions. In a system with the 9-mer peptide antigen VL9 and MHC class I receptor HLA-E, we identify two reactivity hotspots that afford up to 87% conversion to the protein–peptide conjugate within 4 hours. The reactions are specific to the target protein in vitro and dependent on the peptide sequence. Moreover, the cross-linked peptide successfully inhibits molecular recognition of HLA-E by CD94─NKG2A possibly due to structural changes enacted at the PPI interface. The results illustrate the potential of electrophile scanning as a tool for rapid discovery and development of covalent peptide binders.

Enhancing the Equilibrium of Dynamic Thia-Michael Reactions through Heterocyclic Design

Alex E. Crolais, Neil D. Dolinski, Nicholas R. Boynton, Julia M. Radhakrishnan, Scott A. Snyder, and Stuart J. Rowan

Journal of the American Chemical Society 2023

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c03643

Although the catalyst-free dynamic thia-Michael (tM) reaction has been leveraged for a range of significant applications in materials science and pharmaceutical development, exploiting its full potential has been limited by relatively low equilibrium constants. To address this shortcoming, a new series of catalyst-free, room-temperature dynamic thia-Michael acceptors bearing an isoxazolone motif were developed and utilized to access both dynamic covalent networks and linear polymers. By leveraging the generation of aromaticity upon thiol addition and tuning the electronic-withdrawing/donating nature of the acceptor at two different sites, a wide range of equilibrium constants (Keq ∼1000 to ∼100,000 M–1) were obtained, constituting a 2 orders of magnitude increase compared to their noncyclic benzalcyanoacetate analogues. Integration into a ditopic isoxazolone-based Michael acceptor allowed access to both bulk dynamic networks and linear polymers; these materials not only exhibited tailorable thermomechanical properties based on thia-Michael acceptor composition, but the higher Keq tM bonds resulted in more mechanically robust materials relative to past designs. Furthermore, solution-state formation of linear polymers was achieved thanks to the increased Keq of the isoxazolone-based acceptors.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Comprehensive Mapping of Electrophilic Small Molecule-Protein Interactions in Human Cells

Cravatt, B.; Njomen, E.; Hayward, R.; DeMeester, K.; Ogasawara, D.; Dix, M.; Nguyen, T.; Ashby, P.; Simon, G.; Schreiber, S.; Melillo, B. 

ChemRxiv 2023


Covalent chemistry is a versatile approach for expanding the ligandability of the human proteome. Activity-based protein profiling (ABPP) can infer the specific residues modified by electrophilic compounds through competition with broadly reactive probes. Nonetheless, the extent to which such residue-directed ABPP platforms fully assess the protein targets of electrophilic compounds in human cells remains unclear. Here, we introduce a complementary approach that directly identifies proteins showing stereoselective reactivity with focused libraries of stereochemically-defined, alkynylated electrophilic compounds. Integration of protein- and cysteine-directed ABPP data from compound-treated human cancer cells revealed generally well-correlated target maps and highlighted specific features, such as protein size and the proteotypicity of cysteine-containing peptides, that help to explain gaps in each ABPP platform. The integrated ABPP strategy furnished stereoselective, high-engagement covalent ligands for > 300 structurally and functionally diverse human proteins, including compounds that modulate enzymes by canonical (active-site cysteine) and non-canonical (isotype-restricted and non-catalytic cysteines) mechanisms.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Structure-Based Design and Characterization of the Highly Potent and Selective Covalent Inhibitors Targeting the Lysine Methyltransferases G9a/GLP

Zongbo Feng, Chunju Yang, Yi Zhang, Huaxuan Li, Wei Fang, Junhua Wang, Yichu Nie, Chang-Yun Wang, Zhiqing Liu, Zhimin Jiang, Junjian Wang, and Yuanxiang Wang
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2023

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.3c00411

Protein lysine methyltransferases G9a and GLP, which catalyze mono- and di-methylation of histone H3K9 and nonhistone proteins, play important roles in diverse cellular processes. Overexpression or dysregulation of G9a and GLP has been identified in various types of cancer. Here, we report the discovery of a highly potent and selective covalent inhibitor 27 of G9a/GLP via the structure-based drug design approach following structure–activity relationship exploration and cellular potency optimization. Mass spectrometry assays and washout experiments confirmed its covalent inhibition mechanism. Compound 27 displayed improved potency in inhibiting the proliferation and colony formation of PANC-1 and MDA-MB-231 cell lines and exhibited enhanced potency in reducing the levels of H3K9me2 in cells compared to noncovalent inhibitor 26. In vivo, 27 showed significant antitumor efficacy in the PANC-1 xenograft model with good safety. These results clearly indicate that 27 is a highly potent and selective covalent inhibitor of G9a/GLP.

Characterization of a Potent and Orally Bioavailable Lys-Covalent Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein (IAP) Antagonist

Parima Udompholkul, Ana Garza-Granados, Giulia Alboreggia, Carlo Baggio, Jack McGuire, Scott D. Pegan, and Maurizio Pellecchia
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2023

We have recently reported on the use of aryl-fluorosulfates in designing water- and plasma-stable agents that covalently target Lys, Tyr, or His residues in the BIR3 domain of the inhibitor of the apoptosis protein (IAP) family. Here, we report further structural, cellular, and pharmacological characterizations of this agent, including the high-resolution structure of the complex between the Lys-covalent agent and its target, the BIR3 domain of X-linked IAP (XIAP). We also compared the cellular efficacy of the agent in two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) cell cultures, side by side with the clinical candidate reversible IAP inhibitor LCL161. Finally, in vivo pharmacokinetic studies indicated that the agent was long-lived and orally bioavailable. Collectively our data further corroborate that aryl-fluorosulfates, when incorporated correctly in a ligand, can result in Lys-covalent agents with pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties that warrant their use in the design of pharmacological probes or even therapeutics.


Thursday, June 1, 2023

Covalent Inhibition by a Natural Product-Inspired Latent Electrophile

David P. Byun, Jennifer Ritchie, Yejin Jung, Ronald Holewinski, Hong-Rae Kim, Ravichandra Tagirasa, Joseph Ivanic, Claire M. Weekley, Michael W. Parker, Thorkell Andresson, and Euna Yoo

Journal of the American Chemical Society 2023 145 (20), 11097-11109

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c00598

Strategies to target specific protein cysteines are critical to covalent probe and drug discovery. 3-Bromo-4,5-dihydroisoxazole (BDHI) is a natural product-inspired, synthetically accessible electrophilic moiety that has previously been shown to react with nucleophilic cysteines in the active site of purified enzymes. Here, we define the global cysteine reactivity and selectivity of a set of BDHI-functionalized chemical fragments using competitive chemoproteomic profiling methods. Our study demonstrates that BDHIs capably engage reactive cysteine residues in the human proteome and the selectivity landscape of cysteines liganded by BDHI is distinct from that of haloacetamide electrophiles. Given its tempered reactivity, BDHIs showed restricted, selective engagement with proteins driven by interactions between a tunable binding element and the complementary protein sites. We validate that BDHI forms covalent conjugates with glutathione S-transferase Pi (GSTP1) and peptidyl-prolyl cis–trans isomerase NIMA-interacting 1 (PIN1), emerging anticancer targets. BDHI electrophile was further exploited in Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor design using a single-step late-stage installation of the warhead onto acrylamide-containing compounds. Together, this study expands the spectrum of optimizable chemical tools for covalent ligand discovery and highlights the utility of 3-bromo-4,5-dihydroisoxazole as a cysteine-reactive electrophile.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Nucleophilic covalent ligand discovery for the cysteine redoxome

Fu, L., Jung, Y., Tian, C. et al. 

Nat Chem Biol (2023). 


With an eye toward expanding chemistries used for covalent ligand discovery, we elaborated an umpolung strategy that exploits the ‘polarity reversal’ of sulfur when cysteine is oxidized to sulfenic acid, a widespread post-translational modification, for selective bioconjugation with C-nucleophiles. Here we present a global map of a human sulfenome that is susceptible to covalent modification by members of a nucleophilic fragment library. More than 500 liganded sulfenic acids were identified on proteins across diverse functional classes, and, of these, more than 80% were not targeted by electrophilic fragment analogs. We further show that members of our nucleophilic fragment library can impair functional protein–protein interactions involved in nuclear oncoprotein transport and DNA damage repair. Our findings reveal a vast expanse of ligandable sulfenic acids in the human proteome and highlight the utility of nucleophilic small molecules in the fragment-based covalent ligand discovery pipeline, presaging further opportunities using non-traditional chemistries for targeting proteins.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Covalent drug discovery using sulfur(VI) fluoride exchange warheads

Huang Huang, Lyn H. Jones

Expert Opinion on Drug Discovery, 2023


Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Selective control of parasitic nematodes using bioactivated nematicide

Burns, A.R., Baker, R.J., Kitner, M. et al. Selective control of parasitic nematodes using bioactivated nematicides. 

Nature (2023)


Parasitic nematodes are a major threat to global food security, particularly as the world amasses 10 billion people amid limited arable land. Most traditional nematicides have been banned owing to poor nematode selectivity, leaving farmers with inadequate means of pest control. Here we use the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to identify a family of selective imidazothiazole nematicides, called selectivins, that undergo cytochrome-p450-mediated bioactivation in nematodes. At low parts-per-million concentrations, selectivins perform comparably well with commercial nematicides to control root infection by Meloidogyne incognita, a highly destructive plant-parasitic nematode. Tests against numerous phylogenetically diverse non-target systems demonstrate that selectivins are more nematode-selective than most marketed nematicides. Selectivins are first-in-class bioactivated nematode controls that provide efficacy and nematode selectivity.

Chemical Specification of E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Engagement by Cysteine-Reactive Chemistry

Roman C. Sarott, Inchul You, Yen-Der Li, Sean T. Toenjes, Katherine A. Donovan, Pooreum Seo, Martha Ordonez, Woong Sub Byun, Muhammad Murtaz...