[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The pro-survival BCL-2 proteins are attractive yet challenging targets for medicinal chemists. Their involvement in the initiation and progression of many, if not all, tumors makes them prime targets for developing new anti-cancer therapies. We present our approach based on de novo structure-based drug design. Using known structural information from complexes engaging opposing members of the BCL-2 family of proteins, we designed peptidomimetic compounds using a benzoylurea scaffold to reproduce key interactions between these proteins. A library stemming from the initial de novo designed scaffold led to the discovery of ligands with low micromolar potency (KD = 4 μM) and selectivity for BCL-XL. These compounds bind in the canonical BH3 binding groove in a binding mode distinct from previously known BCL-2 inhibitors. The results of our study provide insight into the design of a new class of antagonists targeting a challenging class of protein-protein interactions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Bcl-2 family of proteins represents a compelling medicinal chemistry challenge. Despite the immense interest in developing compounds modulating apoptosis, only a few inhibitors have reached clinical trial. Potent molecules that afford new opportunities to treat cancers via reactivation of the cell death machinery are greatly needed. Herein, we describe the hit-to-lead development of selective Bcl-XL inhibitors originating from one molecule with low micromolar affinity for Bcl-XL discovered after a high-throughput screening campaign. Small changes to its structure resulted in more than three hundred-fold increase in binding affinity (IC50 < 20 nM). This series of small molecules exhibits drug-like characteristics and retain low molecular weights (Mw < 450). Importantly, these molecules exhibit unprecedented selectivity for Bcl-XL. Surface plasmon resonance experiments afford strong evidence of binding affinity within the hydrophobic groove of Bcl-XL. Combined results obtained in biological experiments using engineered Mcl-1 deficient mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEF, relying only on Bcl-XL for survival) and Bax/Bak deficient MEFs (insensitive to selective activation of the Bcl-2-driven apoptotic cascade) support a mechanism-based induction of apoptosis. In summary, this research describes the first series of small-molecule selective inhibitors of Bcl-XL and provides promising leads for the future development of efficacious therapeutics against solid tumours and chemo-resistant cancer cell lines.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The prosurvival BCL-2 family protein BCL-XL is often overexpressed in solid tumors and renders malignant tumor cells resistant to anticancer therapeutics. Enhancing apoptotic responses by inhibiting BCL-XL will most likely have widespread utility in cancer treatment and, instead of inhibiting multiple prosurvival BCL-2 family members, a BCL-XL-selective inhibitor would be expected to minimize the toxicity to normal tissues. We describe the use of a high-throughput screen to discover a new series of small molecules targeting BCL-XL and their structure-guided development by medicinal chemistry. The optimized compound, WEHI-539 (7), has high affinity (subnanomolar) and selectivity for BCL-XL and potently kills cells by selectively antagonizing its prosurvival activity. WEHI-539 will be an invaluable tool for distinguishing the roles of BCL-XL from those of its prosurvival relatives, both in normal cells and notably in malignant tumor cells, many of which may prove to rely upon BCL-XL for their sustained growth.
Nature Chemical Biology 04/2013; 9(6):390-397. DOI:10.1038/nchembio.1246 · 13.00 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An attractive approach for developing therapeutic peptides is to enhance binding to their targets by stabilizing their helical conformation, for example stabilized BimBH3 peptides (BimSAHB) designed to induce apoptosis. Unexpectedly, we found that such modified peptides have reduced affinity for their targets, the pro-survival Bcl-2 proteins. We attribute this loss in affinity to disruption of a network of stabilizing intramolecular interactions present in the bound state of the native peptide. Altering this network may compromise binding affinity, as in the case of the BimBH3 stapled peptide studied here. Moreover, cells exposed to these peptides do not readily undergo apoptosis, strongly indicating that BimSAHB is not inherently cell permeable.
ACS Chemical Biology 11/2012; 8(2). DOI:10.1021/cb3005403 · 5.33 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Epigenetic aberrations are increasingly regarded as key factors in cancer progression. Recently, deregulation of histone acetyltransferases (HATs) has been linked to several types of cancer. Monocytic leukemia zinc finger protein (MOZ) is a member of the MYST family of HATs, which regulate gene expression in cell proliferation and differentiation. Deregulation of these processes through constitutively active MOZ fusion proteins gives rise to the formation of leukemic stem cells, rendering MOZ an excellent target for treating myeloid leukemia. The authors implemented a hit discovery campaign to identify small-molecule inhibitors of MOZ-HAT activity. They developed a robust, homogeneous assay measuring the acetylation of synthetic histone peptides. In a primary screening campaign testing 243 000 lead-like compounds, they identified inhibitors from several chemical classes. Secondary assays were used to eliminate assay-interfering compounds and prioritize confirmed hits. This study establishes a new high-throughput assay for HAT activity and could provide the foundation for the development of a new class of drugs for the treatment of leukemias.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: ABT-737 and ABT-263 are potent inhibitors of the BH3 antiapoptotic proteins, Bcl-x(L) and Bcl-2. This class of putative anticancer agents invariantly contains an acylsulfonamide core. We have designed and synthesized a series of novel quinazoline-based inhibitors of Bcl-2 and Bcl-x(L) that contain a heterocyclic alternative to the acylsulfonamide. These compounds exhibit submicromolar, mechanism-based activity in human small-cell lung carcinoma cell lines in the presence of 10% human serum. This comprises the first successful demonstration of a quinazoline sulfonamide core serving as an effective benzoylsulfonamide bioisostere. Additionally, these novel quinazolines comprise only the second known class of Bcl-2 family protein inhibitors to induce mechanism-based cell death.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Antagonists of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members hold promise as cancer therapeutics. Apoptosis is triggered when a peptide containing a BH3 motif or a small molecule BH3 peptidomimetic, such as ABT 737, binds to the relevant Bcl-2 family members. ABT-737 is an antagonist of Bcl-2, Bcl-x(L), and Bcl-w but not of Mcl-1. Here we describe new structures of mutant BH3 peptides bound to Bcl-x(L) and Mcl-1. These structures suggested a rationale for the failure of ABT-737 to bind Mcl-1, but a designed variant of ABT-737 failed to acquire binding affinity for Mcl-1. Rather, it was selective for Bcl-x(L), a result attributable in part to significant backbone refolding and movements of helical segments in its ligand binding site. To date there are few reported crystal structures of organic ligands in complex with their pro-survival protein targets. Our structure of this new organic ligand provided insights into the structural transitions that occur within the BH3 binding groove, highlighting significant differences in the structural properties of members of the Bcl-2 pro-survival protein family. Such differences are likely to influence and be important in the quest for compounds capable of selectively antagonizing the different family members.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Interactions between Bcl-2 homology-3 (BH3)-only proteins and their pro-survival Bcl-2 family binding partners initiate the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. These interactions are mediated by a short helical motif, the BH3 domain, on the BH3-only protein, which inserts into a hydrophobic groove on the pro-survival molecule. To identify novel peptidic ligands that bind Mcl-1, a pro-survival protein relative of Bcl-2, both human and mouse Mcl-1 were screened against large randomized phage-displayed peptide libraries. We identified a number of 16-mer peptides with sub-micromolar affinity that were highly selective for Mcl-1, as well as being somewhat selective for the species of Mcl-1 (human or mouse) against which the library was panned. Interestingly, these sequences all strongly resembled natural BH3 domain sequences. By switching residues within the best of the human Mcl-1-binding sequences, or extending beyond the core sequence identified, we were able to alter the pro-survival protein interaction profile of this peptide such that it now bound all members tightly and was a potent killer when introduced into cells. Introduction of an amide lock constraint within this sequence also increased its helicity and binding to pro-survival proteins. These data provide new insights into the determinants of BH3 domain:pro-survival protein affinity and selectivity.