14 February 2012

Slow-off, albeit tight, fragments

Practical Fragments recently discussed binding kinetics, and that got me wondering whether any fragments have slow off-rates. Turns out some do: a January 2012 review of protein-ligand energetics and kinetics in Drug Discovery Today by Sara Núñez and colleagues at Abbott summarized a paper published last October in Eur. J. Med. Chem. by Jos Lange et al. In it, Lange and colleagues extensively characterize six inhibitors of the enzyme D-amino acid oxidase (DAAO), a potential target for schizophrenia.

The researchers use biochemical assays, surface plasmon resonance (SPR), and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) to characterize the thermodynamics and kinetics of their inhibitors binding to DAAO. Although all six molecules are fragment-sized, these are not your typical fragments: the weakest has a Kd better than 1 micromolar, and all have ligand efficiencies of 0.79 kcal/mol/atom or better! Three of them are shown below, along with their dissociation constants (determined by ITC) and their dissociation rate constants (determined by SPR).

One interesting aspect of the kinetics is that compound 6 dissociates from the enzyme roughly 50-fold more slowly than compound 3, even though it binds only about 3-fold more tightly. As an interesting aside, compound 1 has a slower on-rate than any of the other molecules, a phenomenon the researchers attribute to tautomerization around the pyrazole.

The researchers go on to measure a number of other properties of these molecules, including Log P, pKa, thermodynamic and kinetic solubility, cell membrane permeability, and in vivo pharmacokinetics. There is a tremendous amount of data here, and it’s a lot of fun to dig into.

With a predicted half-life of more than 2 hours, compound 6 certainly classifies as a slow-off fragment. So is it a better drug? Well, it’s not orally bioavailable, in contrast to some of the other compounds, and it has faster clearance in rodents. Unfortunately the researchers do not report in vivo target modulation, but one has to assume that a schizophrenia drug would need to be oral. Chemists can optimize affinity, thermodynamics, kinetics, and drug-like properties all we want, but the body still has the final say.

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