ABSTRACT: Structure-based drug design (SBDD) can provide valuable guidance to drug discovery programs. Robust construct design and expression, protein purification and characterization, protein crystallization, and high-resolution diffraction are all needed for rapid, iterative inhibitor design. We describe here robust methods to support SBDD on an oral anti-cytokine drug target, human MAPKAP kinase 2 (MK2). Our goal was to obtain useful diffraction data with a large number of chemically diverse lead compounds. Although MK2 structures and structural methods have been reported previously, reproducibility was low and improved methods were needed.
Our construct design strategy had four tactics: N- and C-terminal variations; entropy-reducing surface mutations; activation loop deletions; and pseudoactivation mutations. Generic, high-throughput methods for cloning and expression were coupled with automated liquid dispensing for the rapid testing of crystallization conditions with minimal sample requirements. Initial results led to development of a novel, customized robotic crystallization screen that yielded MK2/inhibitor complex crystals under many conditions in seven crystal forms. In all, 44 MK2 constructs were generated, ~500 crystals were tested for diffraction, and ~30 structures were determined, delivering high-impact structural data to support our MK2 drug design effort.
Key lessons included setting reasonable criteria for construct performance and prioritization, a willingness to design and use customized crystallization screens, and, crucially, initiation of high-throughput construct exploration very early in the drug discovery process.
BMC Structural Biology 04/2009; 9:16. · 2.48 Impact Factor