Nicholas M Levinson

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States

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Publications (9)100.3 Total impact

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    Nicholas M Levinson, Steven G Boxer
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    ABSTRACT: Kinase inhibitors are important cancer drugs, but they tend to display limited target specificity, and their target profiles are often challenging to rationalize in terms of molecular mechanism. Here we report that the clinical kinase inhibitor bosutinib recognizes its kinase targets by engaging a pair of conserved structured water molecules in the active site and that many other kinase inhibitors share a similar recognition mechanism. Using the nitrile group of bosutinib as an infrared probe, we show that the gatekeeper residue and one other position in the ATP-binding site control access of the drug to the structured water molecules and that the amino acids found at these positions account for the kinome-wide target spectrum of the drug. Our work highlights the importance of structured water molecules for inhibitor recognition, reveals a new role for the kinase gatekeeper and showcases an effective approach for elucidating the molecular origins of selectivity patterns.
    Nature Chemical Biology 12/2013; · 12.95 Impact Factor
  • Miguel Saggu, Nicholas M Levinson, Steven G Boxer
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    ABSTRACT: Hydrogen bonds are ubiquitous in chemistry and biology. The physical forces that govern hydrogen bonding interactions have been heavily debated, with much of the discussion focused on the relative contributions of electrostatic vs. quantum mechanical effects. In principle, the vibrational Stark effect (VSE), the response of a vibrational mode to electric field, can provide an experimental method for parsing such interactions into their electrostatic and non-electrostatic components. In a previous study we showed that, in the case of relatively weak O-H...pi hydrogen bonds, the O-H bond displays a linear response to electric field, and we exploited this response to demonstrate that the interactions are dominated by electrostatics (Saggu, M.; Levinson, N. M.; Boxer, S. G. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 17414- 7419). Here we extend this work to other X-H...pi interactions. We find that the response of the X-H vibrational probe to electric field appears to become increasingly nonlinear in the order O-H<N-H<S-H. The observed effects are consistent with differences in atomic polarizabilities of the X-H groups. Nonetheless, we find that the X-H stretching vibrations of the model compounds indole and thiophenol report quantitatively on the electric fields they experience when complexed with aromatic hydrogen bond acceptors. These measurements can be used to estimate the electrostatic binding energies of the interactions, which are found to agree closely with the results of energy calculations. Taken together, these results highlight that with careful calibration vibrational probes can provide direct measurements of the electrostatic components of hydrogen bonds.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 10/2012; · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    Nicholas M Levinson, Stephen D Fried, Steven G Boxer
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    ABSTRACT: The physical properties of solvents strongly affect the spectra of dissolved solutes, and this phenomenon can be exploited to gain insight into the solvent-solute interaction. The large solvatochromic shifts observed for many dye molecules in polar solvents are due to variations in the solvent reaction field, and these shifts are widely used to estimate the change in the dye's dipole moment upon photoexcitation, which is typically on the order of ∼1-10 D. In contrast, the change in dipole moment for vibrational transitions is approximately 2 orders of magnitude smaller. Nonetheless, vibrational chromophores display significant solvatochromism, and the relative contributions of specific chemical interactions and electrostatic interactions are debated, complicating the interpretation of vibrational frequency shifts in complex systems such as proteins. Here we present a series of substituted benzonitriles that display widely varying degrees of vibrational solvatochromism. In most cases, this variation can be quantitatively described by the experimentally determined Stark tuning rate, coupled with a simple Onsager-like model of solvation, reinforcing the view that vibrational frequency shifts are largely caused by electrostatic interactions. In addition, we discuss specific cases where continuum solvation models fail to predict solvatochromic shifts, revealing the necessity for more advanced theoretical models that capture local aspects of solute-solvent interactions.
    The Journal of Physical Chemistry B 03/2012; 116(35):10470-6. · 3.61 Impact Factor
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    Nicholas M Levinson, Steven G Boxer
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    ABSTRACT: Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is caused by the kinase activity of the BCR-Abl fusion protein. The Abl inhibitors imatinib, nilotinib and dasatinib are currently used to treat CML, but resistance to these inhibitors is a significant clinical problem. The kinase inhibitor bosutinib has shown efficacy in clinical trials for imatinib-resistant CML, but its binding mode is unknown. We present the 2.4 Å structure of bosutinib bound to the kinase domain of Abl, which explains the inhibitor's activity against several imatinib-resistant mutants, and reveals that similar inhibitors that lack a nitrile moiety could be effective against the common T315I mutant. We also report that two distinct chemical compounds are currently being sold under the name "bosutinib", and report spectroscopic and structural characterizations of both. We show that the fluorescence properties of these compounds allow inhibitor binding to be measured quantitatively, and that the infrared absorption of the nitrile group reveals a different electrostatic environment in the conserved ATP-binding sites of Abl and Src kinases. Exploiting such differences could lead to inhibitors with improved selectivity.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(4):e29828. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    Miguel Saggu, Nicholas M Levinson, Steven G Boxer
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    ABSTRACT: Hydrogen bonds and aromatic interactions are of widespread importance in chemistry, biology, and materials science. Electrostatics play a fundamental role in these interactions, but the magnitude of the electric fields that support them has not been quantified experimentally. Phenol forms a weak hydrogen bond complex with the π-cloud of benzene, and we used this as a model system to study the role of electric fields in weak OH···π hydrogen bonds. The effects of complex formation on the vibrational frequency of the phenol OH or OD stretches were measured in a series of benzene-based aromatic solvents. Large shifts are observed and these can be converted into electric fields via the measured vibrational Stark effect. A comparison of the measured fields with quantum chemical calculations demonstrates that calculations performed in the gas phase are surprisingly effective at capturing the electrostatics observed in solution. The results provide quantitative measurements of the magnitude of electric fields and electrostatic binding energies in these interactions and suggest that electrostatics dominate them. The combination of vibrational Stark effect (VSE) measurements of electric fields and high-level quantum chemistry calculations is a general strategy for quantifying and characterizing the origins of intermolecular interactions.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 09/2011; 133(43):17414-9. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The role of electric fields in important biological processes such as binding and catalysis has been studied almost exclusively by computational methods. Experimental measurements of the local electric field in macromolecules are possible using suitably calibrated vibrational probes. Here we demonstrate that the vibrational transitions of phosphate groups are highly sensitive to an electric field and show how that sensitivity can be quantified, allowing electric field measurements to be made in phosphate-containing biological systems without chemical modification.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 08/2011; 133(34):13236-9. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    Nicholas M Levinson, Patrick R Visperas, John Kuriyan
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    ABSTRACT: The Src family kinases possess two sites of tyrosine phosphorylation that are critical to the regulation of kinase activity. Autophosphorylation on an activation loop tyrosine residue (Tyr 416 in commonly used chicken c-Src numbering) increases catalytic activity, while phosphorylation of a C-terminal tyrosine (Tyr 527 in c-Src) inhibits activity. The latter modification is achieved by the tyrosine kinase Csk (C-terminal Src Kinase), but the complete inactivation of the Src family kinases also requires the dephosphorylation of the activation loop tyrosine. The SH3 domain of Csk recruits the tyrosine phosphatase PEP, allowing for the coordinated inhibition of Src family kinase activity. We have discovered that Csk forms homodimers through interactions mediated by the SH3 domain in a manner that buries the recognition surface for SH3 ligands. The formation of this dimer would therefore block the recruitment of tyrosine phosphatases and may have important implications for the regulation of Src kinase activity.
    PLoS ONE 01/2009; 4(11):e7683. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The catalytic activity of the Src family of tyrosine kinases is suppressed by phosphorylation on a tyrosine residue located near the C terminus (Tyr 527 in c-Src), which is catalyzed by C-terminal Src Kinase (Csk). Given the promiscuity of most tyrosine kinases, it is remarkable that the C-terminal tails of the Src family kinases are the only known targets of Csk. We have determined the crystal structure of a complex between the kinase domains of Csk and c-Src at 2.9 A resolution, revealing that interactions between these kinases position the C-terminal tail of c-Src at the edge of the active site of Csk. Csk cannot phosphorylate substrates that lack this docking mechanism because the conventional substrate binding site used by most tyrosine kinases to recognize substrates is destabilized in Csk by a deletion in the activation loop.
    Cell 08/2008; 134(1):124-34. · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The improper activation of the Abl tyrosine kinase results in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The recognition of an inactive conformation of Abl, in which a catalytically important Asp-Phe-Gly (DFG) motif is flipped by approximately 180 degrees with respect to the active conformation, underlies the specificity of the cancer drug imatinib, which is used to treat CML. The DFG motif is not flipped in crystal structures of inactive forms of the closely related Src kinases, and imatinib does not inhibit c-Src. We present a structure of the kinase domain of Abl, determined in complex with an ATP-peptide conjugate, in which the protein adopts an inactive conformation that resembles closely that of the Src kinases. An interesting aspect of the Src-like inactive structure, suggested by molecular dynamics simulations and additional crystal structures, is the presence of features that might facilitate the flip of the DFG motif by providing room for the phenylalanine to move and by coordinating the aspartate side chain as it leaves the active site. One class of mutations in BCR-Abl that confers resistance to imatinib appears more likely to destabilize the inactive Src-like conformation than the active or imatinib-bound conformations. Our results suggest that interconversion between distinctly different inactive conformations is a characteristic feature of the Abl kinase domain.
    PLoS Biology 06/2006; 4(5):e144. · 12.69 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

214 Citations
100.30 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2011–2013
    • Stanford University
      • Department of Chemistry
      Palo Alto, California, United States
  • 2006–2009
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
      Berkeley, CA, United States
  • 2006–2008
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States