Grahame J McKenzie

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (11)77.97 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Peptide stapling is a method for designing macrocyclic alpha-helical inhibitors of protein-protein interactions. However, obtaining a cell-active inhibitor can require significant optimization. We report a novel stapling technique based on a double strain-promoted azide-alkyne reaction, and exploit its biocompatibility to accelerate the discovery of cell-active stapled peptides. As a proof of concept, MDM2-binding peptides were stapled in parallel, directly in cell culture medium in 96-well plates, and simultaneously evaluated in a p53 reporter assay. This in situ stapling/screening process gave an optimal candidate that showed improved proteolytic stability and nanomolar binding to MDM2 in subsequent biophysical assays. α-Helicity was confirmed by a crystal structure of the MDM2-peptide complex. This work introduces in situ stapling as a versatile biocompatible technique with many other potential high-throughput biological applications.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Angewandte Chemie International Edition
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    ABSTRACT: Protein-protein interactions (PPIs) underlie the majority of biological processes, signaling, and disease. Approaches to modulate PPIs with small molecules have therefore attracted increasing interest over the past decade. However, there are a number of challenges inherent in developing small-molecule PPI inhibitors that have prevented these approaches from reaching their full potential. From target validation to small-molecule screening and lead optimization, identifying therapeutically relevant PPIs that can be successfully modulated by small molecules is not a simple task. Following the recent review by Arkin et al., which summarized the lessons learnt from prior successes, we focus in this article on the specific challenges of developing PPI inhibitors and detail the recent advances in chemistry, biology, and computation that facilitate overcoming them. We conclude by providing a perspective on the field and outlining four innovations that we see as key enabling steps for successful development of small-molecule inhibitors targeting PPIs. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · Chemistry & biology
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    ABSTRACT: Aldosterone synthesis and cellularity in the human adrenal zona glomerulosa (ZG) is sparse and patchy, presumed due to salt excess. The frequency of somatic mutations causing aldosterone-producing adenomas (APA) may be a consequence of protection from cell loss by constitutive aldosterone production. To delineate a process in human ZG which may regulate both aldosterone production and cell turnover. Comparison of 20 pairs of ZG and zona fasciculata (ZF) transcriptomes from adrenals adjacent to an APA (n=13) or a pheochromocytoma (n=7). Over-expression of top ZG gene (LGR5), or stimulation by its ligand (R-spondin-3). 1) Transcriptome profile of ZG and ZF; 2) Aldosterone production, cell kinetic measurements, and Wnt signaling activity of LGR5 transfected or R-spondin-3-stimulated cells. LGR5 was the top gene up-regulated in ZG (25-fold). The gene for its cognate ligand R-spondin-3, RSPO3, was 5-fold up-regulated. In total, 18 genes associated with the Wnt pathway were >2-fold up-regulated. ZG selectivity of LGR5, and its absence in most APAs, were confirmed by qPCR and immunohistochemistry. Both R-spondin-3 stimulation and LGR5 transfection of human adrenal cells suppressed aldosterone production. There was reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis of transfected cells, and the non-canonical AP-1/Jun pathway was stimulated more than the canonical Wnt pathway (3-fold vs. 1.3-fold). ZG of adrenal sections stained positive for apoptosis markers. LGR5 is the most selectively expressed gene in human ZG, and reduces aldosterone production and cell number. Such conditions may favour cells whose somatic mutation reverses aldosterone inhibition and cell loss.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated linear aliphatic dialkynes as a new structural class of i,i+7 linkers for the double-click stapling of p53-based peptides. The optimal combination of azido amino acids and dialkynyl linker length for MDM2 binding was determined. In a direct comparison between aliphatic and aromatic staple scaffolds, the aliphatic staples resulted in superior binding to MDM2 in vitro and superior p53-activating capability in cells when using a diazidopeptide derived from phage display. This work demonstrates that the nature of the staple scaffold is an important factor that can affect peptide bioactivity in cells.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · ChemBioChem
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    ABSTRACT: Stapling peptides for inhibiting the p53/MDM2 interaction is a promising strategy for developing anti-cancer therapeutic leads. We evaluate double-click stapled peptides formed from p53-based diazidopeptides with different staple positions and azido amino acid side-chain lengths, determining the impact of these variations on MDM2 binding and cellular activity. We also demonstrate a K24R mutation, necessary for cellular activity in hydrocarbon-stapled p53 peptides, is not required for analogous 'double-click' peptides.
    No preview · Article · May 2014 · Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry
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    ABSTRACT: Tubulin modulating agents such as the taxanes are among the most effective antimitotic cancer drugs, although resistance and toxicity present significant problems in their clinical use. However, most tubulin modulators are derived from complex natural products, which can make modification of their structure to address these problems difficult. Here, we report the discovery of new antimitotic compounds with simple structures that can be rapidly synthesized, through the phenotypic screening of a diverse compound library for the induction of mitotic arrest. We first identified a compound, which induced mitotic arrest in human cells at submicromolar concentrations. Its simple structure enabled rapid exploration of activity, defining a biphenylacetamide moiety required for activity, A family of analogues was synthesized, yielding optimized compounds that caused mitotic arrest and cell death in the low nanomolar range, comparable to clinically used antimitotic agents. These compounds can be synthesized in 1-3 steps and good yields. We show that one such compound targets tubulin, partially inhibiting colchicine but not vinblastine binding, suggesting that it acts allosterically to the known colchicine-binding site. Thus, our results exemplify the use of phenotypic screening to identify novel antimitotic compounds from diverse chemical libraries and characterize a family of biphenylacetamides (biphenabulins) that show promise for further development.
    No preview · Article · May 2014 · ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters
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    ABSTRACT: The synthesis of diverse three-dimensional libraries has become of paramount importance for obtaining better leads for drug discovery. Such libraries are predicted to fare better than traditional compound collections in phenotypic screens and against difficult targets. Herein we report the diversity-oriented synthesis of a compound library using rhodium carbenoid chemistry to access structurally diverse three-dimensional molecules and show that they access biologically relevant areas of chemical space using cheminformatic analysis. High-content screening of this library for antimitotic activity followed by chemical modification identified 'Dosabulin', which causes mitotic arrest and cancer cell death by apoptosis. Its mechanism of action is determined to be microtubule depolymerization, and the compound is shown to not significantly affect vinblastine binding to tubulin; however, experiments suggest binding to a site vicinal or allosteric to Colchicine. This work validates the combination of diversity-oriented synthesis and phenotypic screening as a strategy for the discovery of biologically relevant chemical entities.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2014 · Nature Communications
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    ABSTRACT: The breast cancer suppressor BRCA2 controls the recombinase RAD51 in the reactions that mediate homologous DNA recombination, an essential cellular process required for the error-free repair of DNA double-stranded breaks. The primary mode of interaction between BRCA2 and RAD51 is through the BRC repeats, which are ∼35 residue peptide motifs that interact directly with RAD51 in vitro. Human BRCA2, like its mammalian orthologues, contains 8 BRC repeats whose sequence and spacing are evolutionarily conserved. Despite their sequence conservation, there is evidence that the different human BRC repeats have distinct capacities to bind RAD51. A previously published crystal structure reports the structural basis of the interaction between human BRC4 and the catalytic core domain of RAD51. However, no structural information is available regarding the binding of the remaining seven BRC repeats to RAD51, nor is it known why the BRC repeats show marked variation in binding affinity to RAD51 despite only subtle sequence variation. To address these issues, we have performed fluorescence polarisation assays to indirectly measure relative binding affinity, and applied computational simulations to interrogate the behaviour of the eight human BRC-RAD51 complexes, as well as a suite of BRC cancer-associated mutations. Our computational approaches encompass a range of techniques designed to link sequence variation with binding free energy. They include MM-PBSA and thermodynamic integration, which are based on classical force fields, and a recently developed approach to computing binding free energies from large-scale quantum mechanical first principles calculations with the linear-scaling density functional code onetep. Our findings not only reveal how sequence variation in the BRC repeats directly affects affinity with RAD51 and provide significant new insights into the control of RAD51 by human BRCA2, but also exemplify a palette of computational and experimental tools for the analysis of protein-protein interactions for chemical biology and molecular therapeutics.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2011 · PLoS Computational Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Picking the pocket: Crystal-packing interactions are present in every macromolecular structure solved with X-ray methods; however, they have not been extensively used to gain insight into molecular recognition. A novel approach is described to utilize these packing interactions for the discovery of a flexible binding site and ligands recognized by it (see picture).
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2011 · Angewandte Chemie International Edition
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    ABSTRACT: There is considerable interest in the structure and function of G-quadruplex nucleic acid secondary structures, their cellular functions, and their potential as therapeutic targets. G-Quadruplex sequence motifs are prevalent in gene promoter regions and it has been hypothesized that G-quadruplex structure formation is associated with the transcriptional status of the downstream gene. Using a functional cell-based assay, we have identified two novel G-quadruplex ligands that reduce the transcription of a luciferase reporter driven from the G-quadruplex-containing c-KIT promoter. We have further shown that endogenous c-KIT expression in a human gastric carcinoma cell line is also reduced on treatment with these molecules. Biophysical analysis using surface plasmon resonance has shown that these molecules preferentially bind with high affinity to one of the two G-quadruplex sequences in the c-KIT promoter over double-stranded DNA. This work highlights the utility of cell-based reporter assays to identify new G-quadruplex binding molecules that modulate transcription and identifies benzo[a]phenoxazine derivatives as potential antitumor agents.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2011 · Journal of the American Chemical Society
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    ABSTRACT: The Polo-Like Kinase 1 (PLK1) acts as a central regulator of mitosis and is over-expressed in a wide range of human tumours where high levels of expression correlate with a poor prognosis. PLK1 comprises two structural elements, a kinase domain and a polo-box domain (PBD). The PBD binds phosphorylated substrates to control substrate phosphorylation by the kinase domain. Although the PBD preferentially binds to phosphopeptides, it has a relatively broad sequence specificity in comparison with other phosphopeptide binding domains. We analysed the molecular determinants of recognition by performing molecular dynamics simulations of the PBD with one of its natural substrates, CDC25c. Predicted binding free energies were calculated using a molecular mechanics, Poisson-Boltzmann surface area approach. We calculated the per-residue contributions to the binding free energy change, showing that the phosphothreonine residue and the mainchain account for the vast majority of the interaction energy. This explains the very broad sequence specificity with respect to other sidechain residues. Finally, we considered the key role of bridging water molecules at the binding interface. We employed inhomogeneous fluid solvation theory to consider the free energy of water molecules on the protein surface with respect to bulk water molecules. Such an analysis highlights binding hotspots created by elimination of water molecules from hydrophobic surfaces. It also predicts that a number of water molecules are stabilized by the presence of the charged phosphate group, and that this will have a significant effect on the binding affinity. Our findings suggest a molecular rationale for the promiscuous binding of the PBD and highlight a role for bridging water molecules at the interface. We expect that this method of analysis will be very useful for probing other protein surfaces to identify binding hotspots for natural binding partners and small molecule inhibitors.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2010 · PLoS Computational Biology