[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The stress-activated kinase p38α was used to evaluate a fragment-based drug discovery approach using the BioFocus fragment library. Compounds were screened by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) on a Biacore™ T100 against p38α and two selectivity targets. A sub-set of our library was the focus of detailed follow-up analyses that included hit confirmation, affinity determination on 24 confirmed, selective hits and competition assays of these hits with respect to a known ATP binding site inhibitor. In addition, functional activity against p38α was assessed in a biochemical assay using a mobility shift platform (LC3000, Caliper LifeSciences). A selection of fragments was also evaluated using fluorescence lifetime (FLEXYTE™) and microscale thermophoresis (Nanotemper) technologies. A good correlation between the data for the different assays was found. Crystal structures were solved for four of the small molecules complexed to p38α. Interestingly, as determined both by X-ray analysis and SPR competition experiments, three of the complexes involved the fragment at the ATP binding site, while the fourth compound bound in a distal site that may offer potential as a novel drug target site. A first round of optimization around the remotely bound fragment has led to the identification of a series of triazole-containing compounds. This approach could form the basis for developing novel and active p38α inhibitors. More broadly, it illustrates the power of combining a range of biophysical and biochemical techniques to the discovery of fragments that facilitate the development of novel modulators of kinase and other drug targets.
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