Stephen V Frye

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

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Publications (52)329.53 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We previously reported a potent small molecule Mer tyrosine kinase inhibitor UNC1062. However, its poor PK properties prevented further assessment in vivo. We report here the sequential modification of UNC1062 to address DMPK properties and yield a new potent and highly orally bioavailable Mer inhibitor, 11, capable of inhibiting Mer phosphorylation in vivo following oral dosing as demonstrated by pharmaco-dynamic (PD) studies examining phospho-Mer in leukemic blasts from mouse bone marrow. Kinome profiling versus more than 300 kinases in vitro and cellular selectivity assessments demonstrate that 11 has similar sub-nanomolar activity against Flt3, an additional important target in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), with pharmacologically useful selectivity versus other kinases examined.
    Journal of medicinal chemistry. 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The lysine methyltransferase SETD8 is the only known methyltransferase that catalyzes monomethylation of histone H4 lysine 20 (H4K20). Monomethylation of H4K20 has been implicated in regulating diverse biological processes including the DNA damage response. In addition to H4K20, SETD8 monomethylates non-histone substrates including proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and promotes carcinogenesis by deregulating PCNA expression. However, selective inhibitors of SETD8 are scarce. The only known selective inhibitor of SETD8 to date is nahuoic acid A, a marine natural product, which is competitive with the cofactor. Here, we report the discovery of the first substrate-competitive inhibitor of SETD8, UNC0379 (1). This small-molecule inhibitor is active in multiple biochemical assays. Its affinity to SETD8 was confirmed by ITC (isothermal titration calorimetry) and SPR (surface plasmon resonance) studies. Importantly, compound 1 is selective for SETD8 over 15 other methyltransferases. We also describe structure - activity relationships (SAR) of this series.
    Journal of medicinal chemistry. 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous pain-producing (pronociceptive) receptors signal via phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) hydrolysis. However, it is currently unknown which lipid kinases generate PIP2 in nociceptive dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons and if these kinases regulate pronociceptive receptor signaling. Here, we found that phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate 5 kinase type 1C (PIP5K1C) is expressed at higher levels than any other PIP5K and, based on experiments with Pip5k1c(+/-) mice, generates at least half of all PIP2 in DRG neurons. Additionally, Pip5k1c haploinsufficiency reduces pronociceptive receptor signaling and TRPV1 sensitization in DRG neurons as well as thermal and mechanical hypersensitivity in mouse models of chronic pain. We identified a small molecule inhibitor of PIP5K1C (UNC3230) in a high-throughput screen. UNC3230 lowered PIP2 levels in DRG neurons and attenuated hypersensitivity when administered intrathecally or into the hindpaw. Our studies reveal that PIP5K1C regulates PIP2-dependent nociceptive signaling and suggest that PIP5K1C is a therapeutic target for chronic pain.
    Neuron. 05/2014; 82(4):836-47.
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    ABSTRACT: The role of Mer kinase in regulating the second phase of platelet activation generates an opportunity to use Mer inhibitors for preventing thrombosis with diminished likelihood for bleeding as compared to current therapies. Toward this end, we have discovered a novel, Mer kinase specific substituted-pyrimidine scaffold using a structure-based drug design and a pseudo-ring replacement strategy. The co-crystal structure of Mer with two compounds (7 & 22) possessing distinct activity have been determined. Subsequent SAR studies identified compound 23 (UNC2881) as a lead compound for in vivo evaluation. When applied to live cells, 23 inhibits steady-state Mer kinase phosphorylation with an IC50 value of 22 nM. Treatment with 23 is also sufficient to block EGF-mediated stimulation of a chimeric receptor containing the intracellular domain of Mer fused to the extracellular domain of EGFR. In addition, 23 potently inhibits collagen-induced platelet aggregation, suggesting that this class of inhibitors may have utility for prevention and/or treatment of pathologic thrombosis.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 11/2013; · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abnormal activation or overexpression of Mer receptor tyrosine kinase has been implicated in survival signaling and chemoresistance in many human cancers. Consequently, Mer is a promising novel cancer therapeutic target. A structure-based drug design approach using a pseudo-ring replacement strategy was developed and validated to discover a new family of pyridinepyrimidine analogs as potent Mer inhibitors. Through SAR studies, 10 (UNC2250) was identified as the lead compound for further investigation based on high selectivity against other kinases and good pharmacokinetic properties. When applied to live cells, 10 inhibited steady-state phosphorylation of endogenous Mer with an IC50 of 9.8 nM and blocked ligand-stimulated activation of a chimeric EGFR-Mer protein. Treatment with 10 also resulted in decreased colony-forming potential in rhabdoid and NSCLC tumor cells, thereby demonstrating functional anti-tumor activity. The results provide a rationale for further investigation of this compound for therapeutic application in patients with cancer.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 11/2013; · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We recently reported the discovery of UNC1215, a potent and selective chemical probe for the L3MBTL3 methyllysine reader domain. In this article, we describe the development of structure-activity relationships (SAR) of a second series of potent L3MBTL3 antagonists which evolved from the structure of the chemical probe UNC1215. These compounds are selective for L3MBTL3 against a panel of methyllysine reader proteins, particularly the related MBT family proteins, L3MBTL1 and MBTD1. A co-crystal structure of L3MBTL3 and one of the most potent compounds suggests that the L3MBTL3 dimer rotates about the dimer interface to accommodate ligand binding.
    Medicinal Chemistry Communication 11/2013; 4(11):1501-1507. · 2.72 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Among epigenetic "writers", "readers", and "erasers", the lysine methyltransferases G9a and GLP, which catalyze mono- and dimethylation of histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9me2) and non-histone proteins, have been implicated in a variety of human diseases. A "toolkit" of well-characterized chemical probes will allow biological and disease hypotheses concerning these proteins to be tested in cell-based and animal models with high confidence. We previously discovered potent and selective G9a/GLP inhibitors including the cellular chemical probe UNC0638, which displays an excellent separation of functional potency and cell toxicity. However, this inhibitor is not suitable for animal studies due to its poor pharmacokinetic (PK) properties. Here, we report the discovery of the first G9a and GLP in vivo chemical probe UNC0642, which not only maintains high in vitro and cellular potency, low cell toxicity, and excellent selectivity, but also displays improved in vivo PK properties, making it suitable for animal studies.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 10/2013; · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Lysine methylation is a key epigenetic mark, the dysregulation of which is linked to many diseases. Small-molecule antagonism of methyl-lysine (Kme) binding proteins that recognize such epigenetic marks can improve our understanding of these regulatory mechanisms and potentially validate Kme binding proteins as drug-discovery targets. We previously reported the discovery of 1 (UNC1215), the first potent and selective small-molecule chemical probe of a methyl-lysine reader protein, L3MBTL3, which antagonizes the mono- and dimethyl-lysine reading function of L3MBTL3. The design, synthesis, and structure-activity relationship studies that led to the discovery of 1 are described herein. These efforts established the requirements for potent L3MBTL3 binding and enabled the design of novel antagonists, such as compound 2 (UNC1679), that maintain in vitro and cellular potency with improved selectivity against other MBT-containing proteins. The antagonists described were also found to effectively interact with unlabeled endogenous L3MBTL3 in cells.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 09/2013; · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common malignancy in children. Although survival rates have improved, patients with certain biological subtypes still have suboptimal outcomes. Current chemotherapeutic regimens are associated with short- and long-term toxicities and novel, less toxic therapeutic strategies are needed. Mer receptor tyrosine kinase is ectopically expressed in ALL patient samples and cell lines. Inhibition of Mer expression reduces pro-survival signaling, increases chemosensitivity, and delays development of leukemia in vivo suggesting that Mer tyrosine kinase inhibitors are excellent candidates for targeted therapies. Brain and spinal tumors are the second most common malignancies in childhood. Multiple chemotherapy approaches and radiation have been attempted, yet overall survival remains dismal. Mer is also abnormally expressed in atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors (ATRT), providing a rationale for targeting Mer as a therapeutic strategy. We have previously described UNC569, the first small molecule Mer inhibitor. This manuscript describes the biochemical and biological effects of UNC569 in ALL and ATRT. UNC569 inhibited Mer activation and downstream signaling through ERK1/2 and AKT, determined by western blot analysis. Treatment with UNC569 reduced proliferation/survival in liquid culture, decreased colony formation in methylcellulose/soft agar, and increased sensitivity to cytotoxic chemotherapies. MYC transgenic zebrafish with T-ALL were treated with UNC569 (4 μM for 2 weeks). Fluorescence was quantified as indicator of the distribution of lymphoblasts, which express Mer and enhanced green fluorescent protein. UNC569 induced >50% reduction in tumor burden compared to vehicle- and mock-treated fish. These data support further development of Mer inhibitors as effective therapies in ALL and ATRT.
    Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 08/2013; · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: EZH2 or EZH1 is the catalytic subunit of the polycomb repressive complex 2 that catalyzes methylation of histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27). The trimethylation of H3K27 (H3K27me3) is a transcriptionally repressive post-translational modification. Overexpression of EZH2 and hypertrimethylation of H3K27 have been implicated in a number of cancers. Several selective inhibitors of EZH2 have been reported recently. Herein we disclose UNC1999, the first orally bioavailable inhibitor that has high in vitro potency for wild-type and mutant EZH2 as well as EZH1, a closely related H3K27 methyltransferase that shares 96% sequence identity with EZH2 in their respective catalytic domains. UNC1999 was highly selective for EZH2 and EZH1 over a broad range of epigenetic and non-epigenetic targets, competitive with the cofactor SAM and non-competitive with the peptide substrate. This inhibitor potently reduced H3K27me3 levels in cells and selectively killed diffused large B cell lymphoma cell lines harboring the EZH2(Y641N) mutant. Importantly, UNC1999 was orally bioavailable in mice, making this inhibitor a valuable tool for investigating the role of EZH2 and EZH1 in chronic animal studies. We also designed and synthesized UNC2400, a close analogue of UNC1999 with potency >1,000-fold lower than that of UNC1999 as a negative control for cell-based studies. Finally, we created a biotin-tagged UNC1999 (UNC2399), which enriched EZH2 in pull-down studies, and a UNC1999-dye conjugate (UNC2239) for co-localization studies with EZH2 in live cells. Taken together, these compounds represent a set of useful tools for the biomedical community to investigate the role of EZH2 and EZH1 in health and disease.
    ACS Chemical Biology 04/2013; · 5.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Metastatic melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of cutaneous cancers. Although recent therapeutic advances have prolonged patient survival, the prognosis remains dismal. C-MER proto-oncogene tyrosine kinase (MERTK) is a receptor tyrosine kinase with oncogenic properties that is often overexpressed or activated in various malignancies. Using both protein immunohistochemistry and microarray analyses, we demonstrate that MERTK expression correlates with disease progression. MERTK expression was highest in metastatic melanomas, followed by primary melanomas, while the lowest expression was observed in nevi. Additionally, over half of melanoma cell lines overexpressed MERTK compared with normal human melanocytes; however, overexpression did not correlate with mutations in BRAF or RAS. Stimulation of melanoma cells with the MERTK ligand GAS6 resulted in the activation of several downstream signaling pathways including MAPK/ERK, PI3K/AKT, and JAK/STAT. MERTK inhibition via shRNA reduced MERTK-mediated downstream signaling, reduced colony formation by up to 59%, and diminished tumor volume by 60% in a human melanoma murine xenograft model. Treatment of melanoma cells with UNC1062, a novel MERTK-selective small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor, reduced activation of MERTK-mediated downstream signaling, induced apoptosis in culture, reduced colony formation in soft agar, and inhibited invasion of melanoma cells. This work establishes MERTK as a therapeutic target in melanoma and provides a rationale for the continued development of MERTK-targeted therapies.
    The Journal of clinical investigation 04/2013; · 15.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abnormal activation of Mer kinase has been implicated in the oncogenesis of many human cancers including acute lymphoblastic and myeloid leukemia, non-small cell lung cancer, and glioblastoma. We have discovered a new family of small molecule Mer inhibitors, pyrazolopyrimidine sulfonamides, that potently inhibit the kinase activity of Mer. Importantly, these compounds do not demonstrate significant hERG activity in the PatchXpress assay. Through structure-activity relationship studies, 35 (UNC1062) was identified as a potent (IC50 = 1.1 nM) and selective Mer inhibitor. When applied to live tumor cells, UNC1062 inhibited Mer phosphorylation and colony formation in soft agar. Given the potential of Mer as a therapeutic target, UNC1062 is a promising candidate for further drug development.
    European journal of medicinal chemistry 04/2013; 65C:83-93. · 3.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs) play an important role in diverse biological processes. Among the nine known human PRMTs, PRMT3 has been implicated in ribosomal biosynthesis via asymmetric dimethylation of the 40S ribosomal protein S2 and in cancer via interaction with the DAL-1 tumor suppressor protein. However, few selective inhibitors of PRMTs have been discovered. We recently disclosed the first selective PRMT3 inhibitor, which occupies a novel allosteric binding site and is noncompetitive with both the peptide substrate and cofactor. Here we report comprehensive structure-activity relationship studies of this series, which resulted in the discovery of multiple PRMT3 inhibitors with submicromolar potencies. An X-ray crystal structure of compound 14u in complex with PRMT3 confirmed that this inhibitor occupied the same allosteric binding site as our initial lead compound. These studies provide the first experimental evidence that potent and selective inhibitors can be created by exploiting the allosteric binding site of PRMT3.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 02/2013; · 5.61 Impact Factor
  • L I James, S V Frye
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    ABSTRACT: Modulation of gene expression through epigenetic signaling has recently emerged as a novel approach in treating human disease. Specifically, chromatin reader proteins, which mediate protein-protein interactions via binding to modified lysine residues, are gaining traction as potential therapeutic targets. Herein, we review recent efforts to understand and modulate the activity of chromatin reader proteins with small-molecule ligands.Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics (2013); advance online publication 13 February 2013. doi:10.1038/clpt.2013.6.
    Clinical Pharmacology &#38 Therapeutics 01/2013; · 6.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We describe the discovery of UNC1215, a potent and selective chemical probe for the methyllysine (Kme) reading function of L3MBTL3, a member of the malignant brain tumor (MBT) family of chromatin-interacting transcriptional repressors. UNC1215 binds L3MBTL3 with a K(d) of 120 nM, competitively displacing mono- or dimethyllysine-containing peptides, and is greater than 50-fold more potent toward L3MBTL3 than other members of the MBT family while also demonstrating selectivity against more than 200 other reader domains examined. X-ray crystallography identified a unique 2:2 polyvalent mode of interaction between UNC1215 and L3MBTL3. In cells, UNC1215 is nontoxic and directly binds L3MBTL3 via the Kme-binding pocket of the MBT domains. UNC1215 increases the cellular mobility of GFP-L3MBTL3 fusion proteins, and point mutants that disrupt the Kme-binding function of GFP-L3MBTL3 phenocopy the effects of UNC1215 on localization. Finally, UNC1215 was used to reveal a new Kme-dependent interaction of L3MBTL3 with BCLAF1, a protein implicated in DNA damage repair and apoptosis.
    Nature Chemical Biology 01/2013; · 12.95 Impact Factor
  • Stephen V Frye
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    ABSTRACT: Although academic science has always provided a fundamental understanding of the biological and clinical basis of disease, the opportunity and imperative for academics to contribute more directly to the discovery of new medicines continues to grow. Embedding medicinal chemists with cancer biologists creates collaborative opportunities for drug discovery and the design and synthesis of chemical biology tool compounds (chemical probes) to better elucidate the role of specific proteins and pathways in biology and disease. Two case studies are presented here: (1) the discovery of inhibitors of mer kinase to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children and (2) the discovery of chemical probes targeting epigenetic regulators. These case studies provide lessons in target selection strategies, the requirement for iterative optimization of lead compounds (useful drugs/probes rarely come directly from a screen), and the value of mutually dependent collaborations between medicinal chemists and cancer biologists.
    Hematology 01/2013; 2013:300-5. · 1.49 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protein kinases play key roles in oncogenic signaling and are a major focus in the development of targeted cancer therapies. Imatinib, a BCR-Abl tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is a successful front-line treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). However, resistance to imatinib may be acquired by BCR-Abl mutations or hyperactivation of Src family kinases such as Lyn. We have used multiplexed kinase inhibitor beads (MIBs) and quantitative mass spectrometry (MS) to compare kinase expression and activity in an imatinib-resistant (MYL-R) and -sensitive (MYL) cell model of CML. Using MIB/MS, expression and activity changes of over 150 kinases were quantitatively measured from various protein kinase families. Statistical analysis of experimental replicates assigned significance to 35 of these kinases, referred to as the MYL-R kinome profile. MIB/MS and immunoblotting confirmed the over-expression and activation of Lyn in MYL-R cells and identified additional kinases with increased (MEK, ERK, IKKα, PKCβ, NEK9) or decreased (Abl, Kit, JNK, ATM, Yes) abundance or activity. Inhibiting Lyn with dasatinib or by shRNA-mediated knockdown reduced the phosphorylation of MEK and IKKα. Because MYL-R cells showed elevated NF-κB signaling relative to MYL cells, as demonstrated by increased IκBα and IL-6 mRNA expression, we tested the effects of an IKK inhibitor (BAY 65-1942). MIB/MS and immunoblotting revealed that BAY 65-1942 increased MEK/ERK signaling and that this increase was prevented by co-treatment with a MEK inhibitor (AZD6244). Furthermore, the combined inhibition of MEK and IKKα resulted in reduced IL-6 mRNA expression, synergistic loss of cell viability and increased apoptosis. Thus, MIB/MS analysis identified MEK and IKKα as important downstream targets of Lyn, suggesting that co-targeting these kinases may provide a unique strategy to inhibit Lyn-dependent imatinib-resistant CML. These results demonstrate the utility of MIB/MS as a tool to identify dysregulated kinases and to interrogate kinome dynamics as cells respond to targeted kinase inhibition.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(6):e66755. · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Pilar Blancafort, Jian Jin, Stephen V Frye
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    ABSTRACT: The epigenomic era has revealed a well-connected network of molecular processes that shape the chromatin landscape. These processes comprise abnormal methylomes, transcriptosomes, genome-wide histone post-transcriptional modifications patterns, histone variants, and non-coding RNAs. The mapping of these processes in large scale by ChIP-Seq and other methodologies in both cancer and normal cells reveals novel therapeutic opportunities for anti-cancer intervention. The goal of this minireview is to summarize pharmacological strategies to modify the epigenetic landscape of cancer cells. These approaches include the use of novel small molecule inhibitors of epigenetic processes specifically deregulated in cancer cells and the design of engineered proteins able to stably reprogram the epigenetic code in cancer cells in a way that is similar to normal cells.
    Molecular pharmacology 11/2012; · 4.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Functionally selective G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) ligands, which differentially modulate canonical and noncanonical signaling, are extremely useful for elucidating key signal transduction pathways essential for both the therapeutic actions and side effects of drugs. However, few such ligands have been created, and very little purposeful attention has been devoted to studying what we term: "structure-functional selectivity relationships" (SFSR). We recently disclosed the first β-arrestin-biased dopamine D(2) receptor (D(2)R) agonists UNC9975 (44) and UNC9994 (36), which have robust in vivo antipsychotic drug-like activities. Here we report the first comprehensive SFSR studies focused on exploring four regions of the aripiprazole scaffold, which resulted in the discovery of these β-arrestin-biased D(2)R agonists. These studies provide a successful proof-of-concept for how functionally selective ligands can be discovered.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 07/2012; 55(16):7141-53. · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Adenosine A(1) receptor (A(1)AR) agonists have antinociceptive effects in multiple preclinical models of acute and chronic pain. Although numerous A(1)AR agonists have been developed, clinical applications of these agents have been hampered by their cardiovascular side effects. Herein we report a series of novel A(1)AR agonists, some of which are structurally related to adenosine 5'-monophosphate (5'-AMP), a naturally occurring nucleotide that itself activates A(1)AR. These novel compounds potently activate A(1)AR in several orthogonal in vitro assays and are subtype selective for A(1)AR over A(2A)AR, A(2B)AR, and A(3)AR. Among them, UNC32A (3a) is orally active and has dose-dependent antinociceptive effects in wild-type mice. The antinociceptive effects of 3a were completely abolished in A(1)AR knockout mice, revealing a strict dependence on A(1)AR for activity. The apparent lack of cardiovascular side effects when administered orally and high affinity (K(i) of 36 nM for the human A(1)AR) make this compound potentially suitable as a therapeutic.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 06/2012; 55(14):6467-77. · 5.61 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

661 Citations
329.53 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2009–2014
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
      • • Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry
      • • Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery
      North Carolina, United States
    • Research Triangle Park Laboratories, Inc.
      Raleigh, North Carolina, United States
  • 2012
    • University of Western Australia
      Perth City, Western Australia, Australia