07 April 2014

It's A Start

As the readers of this blog know, I tend to be harsh on academic "Drug discovery" papers.  Sometimes, there is a really worthwhile academic paper, but by and large I find that they tend to publish things that are barely "drug discovery" and more the For Dummies...of what they think drug discovery is.  Which way will I swing on this paper from researchers Down Under?  

The bacterial Sliding Clamp, aka polymerase 3beta, is a key player in bacterial replication and is an "emerging" target. It interacts with other proteins via LM (Linear Motifs): 4-10 amino acid disordered regions.  This is typically a weak interaction (1-100 uM). These LM exist at termini, but sometimes in loops.  A consensus sequence for the LM that interacts with the Sliding Clamp has been identified: QLx1Lx2F/L (S/D preferred at x1; x2 may be absent).  Two classes of compounds have been identified previously but with >10 uM affinity and no -cidal activity. 

So, these authors went after this target using X-ray as the primary screen.  The Zenobia Fragment Library was used (352 molecules) to soak into crystal in pools of 4 fragments.  Four fragments (below) were found to bind to Subsite I on Chain A.  However, no changes in the main chain density were observed.

They also found several other fragments with weak density, and several that were deemed crystallographic artifacts.  None of these compounds showed significant activity below 1 mM in their competition assay.  So, the story then continues that they "sought to improve binding affinity by identifying fragments that could more completely occupy" the binding site.  

[An aside:  To me, this brings up an important point about the choice of fragment collection.  Fragments that are designed for X-ray soaking tend to be small (10-12 HAC).  Just from a theoretical standpoint, those fragment would have to have an affinity in the 250 uM range (LEAN 0.3).   This was covered in a poll and most most people are happy going < 10 HAC.  My question is how often is a very small fragment found as an active?]

To do this, they noted that the fluoro-phenyl group in 1 was previously reported, leading to investigations with compound 5. It was found to fully occupy the binding site.

They searched ZINC for compounds similar to 1-5.  Their initial purchases failed to find any compounds with activity < 1mM.  Eventually, they landed on the hypothesis that chlorocarbazoles were "promising", leading to compound 6.  At this point, I think Dan's head exploded, Scanners-style.  Yes, that is an epoxide.  The co-crystal structure showed that it was binding in the active, albeit with weak electron density.  Their SAR, wisely, did not include the N-alkyl epoxide. 
Both 7 and 8 show good LE and LLEAT.  Only the R enantiomer of 8 caused movement in the main chain.  It also was the most potent in the replication inhibition assay (64 uM).  It was also the most potent in terms of -cidal activity against both Gram positive and negative microbes. 

So, is this a good or bad paper?  I would say it is a start, but if I had been a reviewer I would have made them change the title "Discovery of Lead Compounds Targeting the Bacterial Sliding Clamp
Using a Fragment-Based Approach" to "Discovery of ACTIVE Compounds Targeting the Bacterial Sliding Clamp Using a Fragment-Based Approach".


Dan Erlanson said...

Although epoxides can certainly be reactive, it is reassuring that the researchers were able to obtain a co-crystal structure in this case, though also wise that they chose to replace it as they moved forward. This does look to be a challenging target, so kudos to them for tackling it.

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