Developing dynamic combinatorial chemistry as a platform for drug discovery
Ekström, Alexander Gösta
Dynamic combinatorial chemistry (DCC) is a powerful tool to identify new ligands for biological targets. In the technique, library synthesis and hit identification are neatly combined into a single step. A labile functionality between fragments allows the biological target to self-select binders from a dynamic combinatorial library (DCL) of interconverting building blocks. The scope of suitable reversible reactions that proceed under thermodynamic control in physiological conditions has been gradually expanded over the last decades, however DCC has thus far failed to gain traction as a technique appropriate for drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry. The constraints placed on library size by validated analytical techniques, and the effort-intensive reality of this academically elegant concept have not allowed DCC to develop into a broad-platform technique to compete with the high-throughput screening campaigns favoured by medicinal chemists. This thesis seeks to develop DCL analysis techniques, in an effort to increase the library size and accelerate the analysis of DCC experiments. Using a 19F-labelled core scaffold, we constructed a DCL that could be monitored non-invasively by 19F NMR. Building on NMR techniques developed by fragment screening and non-biological DCC campaigns, the method was developed to circumvent the undesired equilibrium-perturbing side effects arising from sample-consuming analytical methods. The N-acylhydrazone (NAH) DCL equilibrated rapidly at pH 6.2 using 4-amino-L-phenylalanine (4-APA) as a novel, physiologically benign, nucleophilic catalyst. The DCL was designed to target b-ketoacyl-ACP synthase III (FabH), an essential bacterial enzyme and antibiotic target. From the 5-membered DCL, a single combination was identified as a privileged structure by our 19F NMR method. The result correlated well with an in vitro assay, validating 19F NMR as a tool for DCL screening. During the 19F NMR study we identified an established antimicrobial compound, 4,5- dichloro-1,2-dithiole-3-one (HR45), to have potential as a core scaffold from which to develop future DCLs targeting FabH. Despite the potentially tractable chemistry of HR45 for DCC, lack of knowledge around the inhibitory mechanism of the compound prevented us from proceeding. Thus, we used mass spectrometry, NMR and molecular modelling to show that HR45 acts by forming a covalent adduct with S. aureus FabH. The 5-chloro substituent directs attack from the nucleophilic thiol side chain of the essential active site cysteine-112 residue via a Michael-type addition elimination mechanism. Although interesting, this mechanism disfavoured the use of HR45 as a core scaffold for NAH exchange in a DCC campaign. Electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) is a powerful technique that allows for larger DCLs by eliminating the size-limitations imposed by the need for spectral or chromatographic resolution of DCL members. We developed a 4-APAcatalysed NAH library targeting the pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP) dependent enzyme 7,8-diaminopelargonic acid synthase (BioA), an essential enzyme in the biotin biosynthesis pathway. We exploited the aldehyde moiety of PLP to form an NAH DCL with a panel of hydrazides, and used the BioA isozymes from M. tuberculosis (Mtb) and E. coli to template the library. A combination of buffer exchange and denaturing ESI-MS allowed us to conduct a DCC experiment with a 29-member DCL. Hits from the DCC experiment correlated well with differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF) results. Of these hits, 5 compounds were selected for further study. In vivo activity was displayed by 2 compounds against E. coli and the ESKAPE pathogen A. baumannii. The identification of compounds with antibacterial activity from a DCL further validates ESI-MS as a platform technology for drug discovery.