Screening of Protein–Protein Interaction Modulators via Sulfo-Click Kinetic Target-Guided Synthesis

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Kinetic target-guided synthesis (TGS) and in situ click chemistry are among unconventional discovery strategies having the potential to streamline the development of protein–protein interaction modulators (PPIMs). In kinetic TGS and in situ click chemistry, the target is directly involved in the assembly of its own potent, bidentate ligand from a pool of reactive fragments. Herein, we report the use and validation of kinetic TGS based on the sulfo-click reaction between thio acids and sulfonyl azides as a screening and synthesis platform for the identification of high-quality PPIMs. Starting from a randomly designed library consisting of 9 thio acids and 9 sulfonyl azides leading to 81 potential acylsulfonamides, the target protein, Bcl-XL, selectively assembled four PPIMs, acylsulfonamides SZ4TA2, SZ7TA2, SZ9TA1, and SZ9TA5, which have been shown to modulate Bcl-XL/BH3 interactions. To further investigate the Bcl-XL templation effect, control experiments were carried out using two mutants of Bcl-XL. In one mutant, phenylalanine Phe131 and aspartic acid Asp133, which are critical for the BH3 domain binding, were substituted by alanines, while arginine Arg139, a residue identified to play a crucial role in the binding of ABT-737, a BH3 mimetic, was replaced by an alanine in the other mutant. Incubation of these mutants with the reactive fragments and subsequent LC/MS-SIM analysis confirmed that these building block combinations yield the corresponding acylsulfonamides at the BH3 binding site, the actual “hot spot” of Bcl-XL. These results validate kinetic TGS using the sulfo-click reaction as a valuable tool for the straightforward identification of high-quality PPIMs.

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ACS Chemical Biology, v. 6, issue 7, p. 724-732