Introduction: Historically, small-molecule drug discovery projects have largely focused on the G-protein-coupled receptor, ion-channel and enzyme target classes. More recently, there have been successes demonstrating that protein-protein interactions (PPIs) can be targeted by small-molecules and that this strategy has the potential to provide appropriate specificity and selectivity. However, a disadvantage is that compounds that modulate PPIs are often associated with relatively weak affinities as the targeted interaction surfaces are often relatively large. Moreover, from a small-molecule screening perspective, a large proportion of the initial screening Hits are often false positives and these need to be identified and excluded in order to focus on genuine modulators of the PPI being investigated. Areas covered: The authors review previous efforts on PPI modulator drug discovery. Furthermore, they review assays that can be employed in small-molecule screening and/or Hit validation. The PPI assays are categorized as: i) low-throughput target-based biochemical assays, which are primarily employed for Hit validation at the post-screening stage; ii) high-throughput target-based biochemical assays that are suitable for screening campaigns; and iii) cell-based assays, which are suitable for high-throughput screening campaigns and/or Hit validation. Expert opinion: Modulating the interaction of PPIs offers the potential to develop novel drugs to treat a wide range of diseases. New assay technologies are continually being developed and it is anticipated that these will be able to be directly used for small-molecule screening campaigns in the future.
Silicon(111) surfaces have been functionalized with mixed monolayers consisting of submonolayer coverages of immobilized 4-vinyl-2,2'-bipyridyl (1, vbpy) moieties, with the remaining atop sites of the silicon surface passivated by methyl groups. As the immobilized bipyridyl ligands bind transition metal ions, metal complexes can be assembled on the silicon surface. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) demonstrates that bipyridyl complexes of [Cp*Rh], [Cp*Ir], and [Ru(acac)2] were formed on the surface (Cp* is pentamethylcyclopentadienyl, acac is acetylacetonate). For the surface prepared with Ir, X-ray absorption spectroscopy at the Ir LIII edge showed an edge energy as well as post-edge features that were essentially identical with those observed on a powder sample of [Cp*Ir(bpy)Cl]Cl (bpy is 2,2'-bipyridyl). Charge-carrier lifetime measurements confirmed that the silicon surfaces retain their highly favorable photoelectronic properties upon assembly of the metal complexes. Electrochemical data for surfaces prepared on highly doped, n-type Si(111) electrodes showed that the assembled molecular complexes were redox active. However the stability of the molecular complexes on the surfaces was limited to several cycles of voltammetry.
X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) open up new possibilities for X-ray crystallographic and spectroscopic studies of radiation-sensitive biological samples under close to physiological conditions. To facilitate these new X-ray sources, tailored experimental methods and data-processing protocols have to be developed. The highly radiation-sensitive photosystem II (PSII) protein complex is a prime target for XFEL experiments aiming to study the mechanism of light-induced water oxidation taking place at a Mn cluster in this complex. We developed a set of tools for the study of PSII at XFELs, including a new liquid jet based on electrofocusing, an energy dispersive von Hamos X-ray emission spectrometer for the hard X-ray range and a high-throughput soft X-ray spectrometer based on a reflection zone plate. While our immediate focus is on PSII, the methods we describe here are applicable to a wide range of metalloenzymes. These experimental developments were complemented by a new software suite, cctbx.xfel. This software suite allows for near-real-time monitoring of the experimental parameters and detector signals and the detailed analysis of the diffraction and spectroscopy data collected by us at the Linac Coherent Light Source, taking into account the specific characteristics of data measured at an XFEL.
The dioxygen we breathe is formed by light-induced oxidation of water in photosystem II. O2 formation takes place at a catalytic manganese cluster within milliseconds after the photosystem II reaction centre is excited by three single-turnover flashes. Here we present combined X-ray emission spectra and diffraction data of 2-flash (2F) and 3-flash (3F) photosystem II samples, and of a transient 3F' state (250??s after the third flash), collected under functional conditions using an X-ray free electron laser. The spectra show that the initial O-O bond formation, coupled to Mn reduction, does not yet occur within 250??s after the third flash. Diffraction data of all states studied exhibit an anomalous scattering signal from Mn but show no significant structural changes at the present resolution of 4.5?Å. This study represents the initial frames in a molecular movie of the structural changes during the catalytic reaction in photosystem II.
X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) sources enable the use of crystallography to solve three-dimensional macromolecular structures under native conditions and without radiation damage. Results to date, however, have been limited by the challenge of deriving accurate Bragg intensities from a heterogeneous population of microcrystals, while at the same time modeling the X-ray spectrum and detector geometry. Here we present a computational approach designed to extract meaningful high-resolution signals from fewer diffraction measurements.
Although small-molecule drug discovery efforts have focused largely on enzyme, receptor, and ion-channel targets, there has been an increase in such activities to search for protein-protein interaction (PPI) disruptors by applying high-throughout screening (HTS)-compatible protein-binding assays. However, a disadvantage of these assays is that many primary hits are frequent hitters regardless of the PPI being investigated. We have used the AlphaScreen technology to screen four different robust PPI assays each against 25,000 compounds. These activities led to the identification of 137 compounds that demonstrated repeated activity in all PPI assays. These compounds were subsequently evaluated in two AlphaScreen counter assays, leading to classification of compounds that either interfered with the AlphaScreen chemistry (60 compounds) or prevented the binding of the protein His-tag moiety to nickel chelate (Ni(2+)-NTA) beads of the AlphaScreen detection system (77 compounds). To further triage the 137 frequent hitters, we subsequently confirmed by a time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer assay that most of these compounds were only frequent hitters in AlphaScreen assays. A chemoinformatics analysis of the apparent hits provided details of the compounds that can be flagged as frequent hitters of the AlphaScreen technology, and these data have broad applicability for users of these detection technologies.
The dopant local structure and optical properties of Cu-doped ZnSe (ZnSe:Cu) and Cu and Al co-doped ZnSe (ZnSe:Cu,Al) nanocrystals (NCs) were studied with an emphasis on understanding the impact of introducing Al as a co-dopant. Quantum-confined NCs with zinc blende crystal structure and particle size of 6 ± 0.6 Å were synthesized using a wet chemical route. The local structure of the Cu dopant, studied by extended X-ray absorption fine structure, indicated that Cu in ZnSe:Cu NCs occupies a site that is neither substitutional nor interstitial and is adjacent to a Se vacancy. Additionally, we estimated that approximately 25 ± 8% of Cu was located on the surface of the NC. Al(3+) co-doping aids in Cu doping by accounting for the charge imbalance originated by Cu(+) doping and consequently reduces surface Cu doping. The Cu ions remain distorted from the center of the tetrahedron to one of the triangular faces. The lifetime of the dopant-related photoluminescence was found to increase from 550 ± 60 to 700 ± 60 ns after Al co-doping. DFT calculations were used to obtain the density of states of a model system to help explain the optical properties and dynamics processes observed. This study demonstrates that co-doping using different cations with complementary oxidation states is an effective method to enhance optical properties of doped semiconductor NCs of interest for various photonics applications.
ZnSn1-x Gex N2 direct bandgap semiconductor alloys, with a crystal structure and electronic structure similar to InGaN, are earth-abundant alternatives for efficient, high-quality optoelectronic devices and solar energy conversion. The bandgap is tunable almost monotonically from 2 eV (ZnSnN2 ) to 3.1 eV (ZnGeN2 ) by control of the Sn/Ge ratio.
ATPases, which constitute a major category of ion transporters in the human body, have a variety of significant biological and pathological roles. However, the lack of high throughput assays for ATPases has significantly limited drug discovery in this area. We have recently found that the genetic deletion of the ATP dependent calcium pump PMCA4 (plasma membrane calcium/calmodulin dependent ATPase, isoform 4) results in infertility in male mice due to a selective defect in sperm motility. In addition, recent discoveries in humans have indicated that a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the PMCA4 gene determines the susceptibility towards malaria plasmodium infection. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop specific PMCA4 inhibitors. In the current study, we aim to optimise and validate a high throughput screening compatible assay using recombinantly expressed PMCA4 and the HTRF® Transcreener® ADP (TR-FRET) assay to screen a drug library.
In this study, we report on pyrazin-2(1H)-ones as lead for the development of potent adenosine triphosphate (ATP) competitive protein kinase inhibitors with implications as anti-cancer drugs. Initially, we identified the pyrazin-2(1H)-one scaffold from hamacanthins (deep sea marine sponge alkaloids) by Molecular Modeling studies as core binding motif in the ATP pocket of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK), which are validated drug targets for the treatment of various neoplastic diseases. Structure-based design studies on a human RTK member PDGFR (platelet-derived growth factor receptor) suggested a straight forward lead optimization strategy. Accordingly, we focused on a Medicinal Chemistry project to develop pyrazin-2(1H)-ones as optimized PDGFR binders. In order to reveal Structure-Activity-Relationships (SAR), we established a flexible synthetic route via microwave mediated ring closure to asymmetric 3,5-substituted pyrazin-2(1H)-ones and produced a set of novel compounds. Herein, we identified highly potent PDGFR binders with IC?? values in an enzymatic assay below µM range, and possessing significant activity against PDGFR dependent cancer cells. Thus, marine hamacanthin-derived pyrazin-2(1H)-ones showing interesting properties as lead for their further development towards potent PDGFR-inhibitors.
In situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) is a powerful technique that can be applied to electrochemical systems, with the ability to elucidate the chemical nature of electrocatalysts under reaction conditions. In this study, we perform in situ XAS measurements on a bifunctional manganese oxide (MnOx) catalyst with high electrochemical activity for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). Using X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) and extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS), we find that exposure to an ORR-relevant potential of 0.7 V vs RHE produces a disordered Mn3(II,III,III)O4 phase with negligible contributions from other phases. After the potential is increased to a highly anodic value of 1.8 V vs RHE, relevant to the OER, we observe an oxidation of approximately 80% of the catalytic thin film to form a mixed Mn(III,IV) oxide, while the remaining 20% of the film consists of a less oxidized phase, likely corresponding to unchanged Mn3(II,III,III)O4. XAS and electrochemical characterization of two thin film catalysts with different MnOx thicknesses reveals no significant influence of thickness on the measured oxidation states, at either ORR or OER potentials, but demonstrates that the OER activity scales with film thickness. This result suggests that the films have porous structure, which does not restrict electrocatalysis to the top geometric layer of the film. As the portion of the catalyst film that is most likely to be oxidized at the high potentials necessary for the OER is that which is closest to the electrolyte interface, we hypothesize that the Mn(III,IV) oxide, rather than Mn3(II,III,III)O4, is the phase pertinent to the observed OER activity.
Polysialic acid (PSA) is a major regulator of cell-cell interactions in the developing nervous system and in neural plasticity in the adult. As a polyanionic molecule with high water-binding capacity, PSA increases the intercellular space generating permissive conditions for cell motility. PSA enhances stem cell migration and axon path finding and promotes repair in the lesioned peripheral and central nervous systems, thus contributing to regeneration. As a next step in developing an improved PSA-based approach to treat nervous system injuries, we searched for small organic compounds that mimic PSA and identified as a PSA mimetic 5-nonyloxytryptamine oxalate, described as a selective 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor 1B (5-HT1B ) agonist. Similar to PSA, 5-nonyloxytryptamine binds to the PSA-specific monoclonal antibody 735, enhances neurite outgrowth of cultured primary neurons and process formation of Schwann cells, protects neurons from oxidative stress, reduces migration of astrocytes and enhances myelination in vitro. Furthermore, nonyloxytryptamine treatment enhances expression of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) and its polysialylated form PSA-NCAM and reduces expression of the microtubule-associated protein MAP2 in cultured neuroblastoma cells. These results demonstrate that 5-nonyloxytryptamine mimics PSA and triggers PSA-mediated functions, thus contributing to the repertoire of molecules with the potential to improve recovery in acute and chronic injuries of the mammalian peripheral and central nervous systems. Polysialic acid (PSA) plays important roles in nervous system development, as well as synaptic plasticity and regeneration in the adult. 5-Nonyloxytryptamine oxalate (5-NOT) mimics PSA and triggers PSA-mediated functions in neurons and glial cells. 5-NOT stimulates neuritogenesis, myelination and Schwann cell migration. This study sets the basis to develop a PSA-mediated therapy of acute and chronic nervous system diseases.
Intense femtosecond x-ray pulses produced at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) were used for simultaneous x-ray diffraction (XRD) and x-ray emission spectroscopy (XES) of microcrystals of photosystem II (PS II) at room temperature. This method probes the overall protein structure and the electronic structure of the Mn4CaO5 cluster in the oxygen-evolving complex of PS II. XRD data are presented from both the dark state (S1) and the first illuminated state (S2) of PS II. Our simultaneous XRD-XES study shows that the PS II crystals are intact during our measurements at the LCLS, not only with respect to the structure of PS II, but also with regard to the electronic structure of the highly radiation-sensitive Mn4CaO5 cluster, opening new directions for future dynamics studies.
Understanding the roles of noncovalent interactions within the enzyme molecule and between enzyme and substrate or inhibitor is an essential goal of the investigation of active center chemistry and catalytic mechanism. Studies on members of the papain family of cysteine proteinases, particularly papain (EC 18.104.22.168) itself, continue to contribute to this goal. The historic role of the catalytic site Cys/His ion pair now needs to be understood within the context of multiple dynamic phenomena. Movement of Trp177 may be necessary to expose His159 to solvent with consequent decrease in its degree of electrostatic solvation of (Cys25)-S(-). Here we report an investigation of this possibility using computer modeling of quasi-transition states and pH-dependent kinetics using 3,3-dipyridazinyl disulfide, its n-propyl and phenyl derivatives, and 4,4-dipyrimidyl disulfide as reactivity probes that differ in the location of potential hydrogen-bonding acceptor atoms. Those interactions that influence ion pair geometry and thereby catalytic competence, including by transmission of the modulatory effect of a remote ionization with pK(a) 4, were identified. A key result is the correlation between the kinetic influence of the modulatory trigger of pK(a) 4 and disruption of the hydrogen bond donated by the indole N-H of Trp177, the hydrophobic shield of the initial "intimate" ion pair. This hydrogen bond is accepted by the amide O of Gln19-a component of the oxyanion hole that binds the tetrahedral species formed from the substrate during the catalytic act. The disruption would be expected to contribute to the mobility of Trp177 and possibly to the effectiveness of the binding of the developing oxyanion.
Introduction: High-throughput screening (HTS) has been and is likely to remain one of the most widely used tools for Hit identification in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and academic sectors. It has evolved into a highly integrated and automated process enabling the screening of millions of compounds in a timely manner. It is of paramount importance that appropriate biological reagents are utilized in an HTS campaign as their quality and physiological relevance will influence the likelihood of the activities of any identified Hits translating in vivo. Areas covered: This article covers the strategies that can be used to efficiently design and generate biological reagents for the development of kinase assays and their subsequent use in HTS campaigns. The authors describe the variety of molecular biology and expression methodologies available to yield biological reagents of high quality, physiological relevance and amenable to kinase drug discovery. Expert opinion: The techniques now available for gene cloning and protein expression are vast and can be overwhelming. Therefore, we provide guidelines for the most effective route to generate high quality, physiologically relevant biological reagents for kinase drug discovery. The methods available for the generation of biological reagents have undergone significant advances and some of these have been driven by the requirements of HTS campaigns. If the approaches described herein are implemented, it is anticipated they will result in the generation of suitable biological reagents for the development of kinase assays for HTS campaigns.
Histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes modify the acetylation state of histones and other important proteins. Aberrant HDAC enzyme function has been implicated in many diseases, and the discovery and development of drugs targeting these enzymes is becoming increasingly important. In this article, the authors report the evaluation of homogeneous, single-addition, bioluminogenic HDAC enzyme activity assays that offer less assay interference by compounds in comparison to fluorescence-based formats. The authors assessed the key operational assay properties including sensitivity, scalability, reproducibility, signal stability, robustness (Z), DMSO tolerance, and pharmacological response to standard inhibitors against HDAC-1, HDAC-3/NcoR2, HDAC-6, and SIRT-1 enzymes. These assays were successfully miniaturized to a 10 µL assay volume, and their suitability for high-throughput screening was tested in validation experiments using 640 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Hypha Discovery MycoDiverse natural products library, which is a collection of 10 049 extracts and fractions from fermentations of higher fungi and contains compounds that are of low molecular weight and wide chemical diversity. Both of these screening campaigns confirmed that the bioluminogenic assay was high-throughput screening compatible and yielded acceptable performance in confirmation, counter, and compound/extract and fraction concentration-response assays.
Surface ligands of semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) critically influence their properties and functionalities. It is of strong interest to understand the structural characteristics of surface ligands and how they interact with the QDs. Three quantum dot (QD) systems (CdSe, ZnSe, and ZnS) with primary aliphatic amine capping ligands were characterized primarily by FT-IR spectroscopy as well as NMR, UV-vis, and fluorescence spectroscopy, and by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Representative primary amines ranging from 8 to 16 carbons were examined in the vapor phase, KBr pellet, and neat and were compared to the QD samples. The strongest hydrogen-bonding effects of the adsorbed ligands were observed in CdSe QDs with the weakest observed in ZnS QDs. There was an observed splitting of the N-H scissoring mode from 1610 cm(-1) in the neat sample to 1544 and 1635 cm(-1) when bound to CdSe QDs, which had the largest splitting of this type. The splitting is attributed to amine ligands bound to either Cd or Se surface sites, respectively. The effect of exposure of the QDs dispersed in nonpolar medium to methanol as a crashing agent was also examined. In the CdSe system, the Cd-bound scissoring mode disappeared, possibly due to methanol replacing surface cadmium sites. The opposite was observed for ZnSe QDs, in which the Se-bound scissoring mode disappeared. It was concluded that surface coverage and ligand bonding partners could be characterized by FT-IR and that selective removal of surface ligands could be achieved through introduction of competitive binding interactions at the surface.
Membrane-bound transporter proteins are involved in cell signal transduction and metabolism as well as influencing key pharmacological properties such as drug bioavailability. The functional activity of transporters that belong to the group of electrically active membrane proteins can be directly monitored using the solid-supported membrane-based SURFE(2)R™ technology (SURFace Electrogenic Event Reader; Scientific Devices Heidelberg GmbH, Heidelberg, Germany). The method makes use of membrane fragments or vesicles containing transport proteins adsorbed onto solid-supported membrane-covered electrodes and allows the direct measurement of their activity. This technology has been used to develop a robust screening compatible assay for Complex I/Complex III, key components of the respiratory chain in 96-well microtiter plates. The assay was screened against 1,000 compounds from the ComGenex Lead-like small molecule library to ascertain whether mitochondrial liabilities might be an underlying, although undesirable feature of typical commercial screening libraries. Some 105 hits (compounds exhibiting >50% inhibition of Complex I/Complex III activity at 10??M) were identified and their activities were subsequently confirmed in duplicate, yielding a confirmation rate of 68%. Analysis of the confirmed hits also provided evidence of structure-activity relationships and two compounds from one structural class were further evaluated in dose-response experiments. This study provides evidence that profiling of compounds for potential mitochondrial liabilities, even at an early stage of drug discovery, may be a necessary additional quality filter that should be considered during the compound screening and profiling cascade.
Importance of the field: Despite the advances in the understanding of biological processes, significant challenges still face those engaged in small molecule drug discovery. To complicate matters further, researchers are often overwhelmed with a range of off-the-shelf as well as bespoke assay formats to choose from when initiating a drug discovery programme. Although fluorescence intensity based assays have traditionally been adopted in drug discovery programmes for a wide range of target classes, it is essential to fully validate the chosen readouts to confirm that they accurately reflect the underlying biological mechanism under investigation. Areas covered in this review: This review exemplifies the challenges that are often encountered with fluorescence intensity based assays and particular attention is paid to compound interference, the protease, deacetylating enzyme and kinase enzyme target classes. What the reader will gain: Designing a critical path in early stage drug discovery, which combines several diverse and minimally overlapping readout modes, will maximise the chance that compound activities will translate between the primary assay (utilised in the initial screening campaign) and secondary assay (utilised to evaluate the confirmed hits identified in the primary assay, usually a cell based assay) formats in a meaningful way. However, this is not always the case as is amply demonstrated across both academia and the pharmaceutical industry. Paying insufficient attention to these points can lead to the early termination of drug discovery programmes, not for want of resources or confidence in the rationale underlying the target, but instead because decision making has been driven by assay data originating from a different biological mechanism than the one under investigation. Take home message: Although fluorescence intensity based assays are likely to remain popular for many target classes in drug discovery, in particular in small molecule screening campaigns, it is essential that at the outset they are sufficiently well validated so that compounds are likely to exhibit profiles that are confirmed in subsequent assays.
The identification of novel, potent, non-steroidal/small molecule functional GR antagonist GSK1564023A selective over PR is described. Associated structure-activity relationships and the process of optimisation of an initial HTS hit are also described.
Identification of small-molecule inhibitors by high-throughput screening necessitates the development of robust, reproducible and cost-effective assays. The assay approach adopted may utilize isolated proteins or whole cells containing the target of interest. To enable protein-based assays, the baculovirus expression system is commonly used for generation and isolation of recombinant proteins. We have applied the baculovirus system into a cell-based assay format using NIK [NF-kappaB (nuclear factor kappaB)-inducing kinase] as a paradigm. We illustrate the use of the insect-cell-based assay in monitoring the activity of NIK against its physiological downstream substrate IkappaB (inhibitor of NF-kappaB) kinase-1. The assay was robust, yielding a signal/background ratio of 2:1 and an average Z value of >0.65 when used to screen a focused compound set. Using secondary assays to validate a selection of the hits, we identified a compound that (i) was non-cytotoxic, (ii) interacted directly with NIK, and (iii) inhibited lymphotoxin-induced NF-kappaB p52 translocation to the nucleus. The insect cell assay represents a novel approach to monitoring kinase inhibition, with major advantages over other cell-based systems including ease of use, amenability to scale-up, protein expression levels and the flexibility to express a number of proteins by infecting with numerous baculoviruses.
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