Hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication is dependent on a liver-specific microRNA (miRNA), miR-122. A recent clinical trial reported that transient inhibition of miR-122 reduced viral titres in HCV-infected patients. Here we set out to better understand how miR-122 inhibition influences HCV replication over time. Unexpectedly, we observed the emergence of an HCV variant that is resistant to miR-122 knockdown. Next-generation sequencing revealed that this was due to a single nucleotide change at position 28 (G28A) of the HCV genome, which falls between the two miR-122 seed-binding sites. Naturally occurring HCV isolates encoding G28A are similarly resistant to miR-122 inhibition, indicating that subtle differences in viral sequence, even outside the seed-binding site, greatly influence HCV's miR-122 concentration requirement. In addition, we found that HCV itself reduces miR-122's activity in the cell, possibly through binding and sequestering miR-122. Our study provides insight into the interaction between miR-122 and HCV, including viral adaptation to reduced miR-122 bioavailability, and has implications for the development of anti-miR-122-based HCV drugs.
Engineered analog-sensitive (AS) protein kinases have emerged as powerful tools for dissecting phospho-signaling pathways, for elucidating the cellular function of individual kinases, and for deciphering unanticipated effects of clinical therapeutics. A crucial and necessary feature of this technology is a bioorthogonal small molecule that is innocuous toward native cellular systems but potently inhibits the engineered kinase. In order to generalize this method, we sought a molecule capable of targeting divergent AS-kinases. Here we employ X-ray crystallography and medicinal chemistry to unravel the mechanism of current inhibitors and use these insights to design the most potent, selective, and general AS-kinase inhibitors reported to date. We use large-scale kinase inhibitor profiling to characterize the selectivity of these molecules as well as examine the consequences of potential off-target effects in chemical genetic experiments. The molecules reported here will serve as powerful tools in efforts to extend AS-kinase technology to the entire kinome and the principles discovered may help in the design of other engineered enzyme/ligand pairs.
Kinases catalyse the phosphorylation of target substrates on hydroxy group-containing residues as a means to nucleate multi-component complexes or to stabilize unique conformational states. Through this biochemical activity, kinases play critical roles in many signal transduction and disease pathways. Pseudokinases constitute a subclass of these enzymes that were originally predicted as inactive on the basis of mutations of key conserved active-site residues. However, recent biochemical and structural analyses have revealed several enzymatically active pseudokinases, suggesting either that novel mechanisms of phosphorylation are at play or that the constraints for highly conserved active-site residues are looser than originally anticipated. The purpose of the present review is to summarize several of the active pseudokinases, and one in particular termed KSR (kinase suppressor of Ras), which was recently found to possess a kinase activity that can become accelerated through an allosteric mechanism. Utilization of catalytic activity or structural features of the kinase fold may be key to the function of many pseudokinases.
Kinases are highly regulated enzymes with diverse mechanisms controlling their catalytic output. Over time, chemical discovery efforts for kinases have produced ATP-competitive compounds, allosteric regulators, irreversible binders, and highly specific inhibitors. These distinct classes of small molecules have revealed many novel aspects about kinase-mediated signaling, and some have progressed from simple tool compounds into clinically validated therapeutics. This review explores several small-molecule inhibitors for kinases highlighting elaborate mechanisms by which kinase function is modulated. A complete surprise of targeted kinase drug discovery has been the finding of ATP-competitive inhibitors that behave as agonists, rather than antagonists, of their direct kinase target. These studies hint at a connection between ATP-binding site occupancy and networks of communication that are independent of kinase catalysis. Indeed, kinase inhibitors that induce changes in protein localization, protein-protein interactions, and even enhancement of catalytic activity of the target kinase have been found. The relevance of these findings to the therapeutic efficacy of kinase inhibitors and to the future identification of new classes of drug targets is discussed.
In metazoans, the Ras-Raf-MEK (mitogen-activated protein-kinase kinase)-ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) signalling pathway relays extracellular stimuli to elicit changes in cellular function and gene expression. Aberrant activation of this pathway through oncogenic mutations is responsible for a large proportion of human cancer. Kinase suppressor of Ras (KSR) functions as an essential scaffolding protein to coordinate the assembly of Raf-MEK-ERK complexes. Here we integrate structural and biochemical studies to understand how KSR promotes stimulatory Raf phosphorylation of MEK (refs 6, 7). We show, from the crystal structure of the kinase domain of human KSR2 (KSR2(KD)) in complex with rabbit MEK1, that interactions between KSR2(KD) and MEK1 are mediated by their respective activation segments and C-lobe ?G helices. Analogous to BRAF (refs 8, 9), KSR2 self-associates through a side-to-side interface involving Arg?718, a residue identified in a genetic screen as a suppressor of Ras signalling. ATP is bound to the KSR2(KD) catalytic site, and we demonstrate KSR2 kinase activity towards MEK1 by in vitro assays and chemical genetics. In the KSR2(KD)-MEK1 complex, the activation segments of both kinases are mutually constrained, and KSR2 adopts an inactive conformation. BRAF allosterically stimulates the kinase activity of KSR2, which is dependent on formation of a side-to-side KSR2-BRAF heterodimer. Furthermore, KSR2-BRAF heterodimerization results in an increase of BRAF-induced MEK phosphorylation via the KSR2-mediated relay of a signal from BRAF to release the activation segment of MEK for phosphorylation. We propose that KSR interacts with a regulatory Raf molecule in cis to induce a conformational switch of MEK, facilitating MEKs phosphorylation by a separate catalytic Raf molecule in trans.
The complexity of cancer has led to recent interest in polypharmacological approaches for developing kinase-inhibitor drugs; however, optimal kinase-inhibition profiles remain difficult to predict. Using a Ret-kinase-driven Drosophila model of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 and kinome-wide drug profiling, here we identify that AD57 rescues oncogenic Ret-induced lethality, whereas related Ret inhibitors imparted reduced efficacy and enhanced toxicity. Drosophila genetics and compound profiling defined three pathways accounting for the mechanistic basis of efficacy and dose-limiting toxicity. Inhibition of Ret plus Raf, Src and S6K was required for optimal animal survival, whereas inhibition of the anti-target Tor led to toxicity owing to release of negative feedback. Rational synthetic tailoring to eliminate Tor binding afforded AD80 and AD81, compounds featuring balanced pathway inhibition, improved efficacy and low toxicity in Drosophila and mammalian multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 models. Combining kinase-focused chemistry, kinome-wide profiling and Drosophila genetics provides a powerful systems pharmacology approach towards developing compounds with a maximal therapeutic index.
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