A truly collaborative work – new paper on DsbA

Not one but five CFBD members from our three nodes published a paper on DsbA titled “Identification and characterization of two drug-like fragments that bind to the same cryptic binding pocket of Burkholderia pseudomallei DsbA” in Acta Crystallographica Section D.


Disulfide-bond-forming proteins (Dsbs) play a crucial role in the pathogenicity of many Gram-negative bacteria. Disulfide-bond-forming protein A (DsbA) catalyzes the formation of the disulfide bonds necessary for the activity and stability of multiple substrate proteins, including many virulence factors. Hence, DsbA is an attractive target for the development of new drugs to combat bacterial infections. Here, two fragments, bromophenoxy propanamide (1) and 4-methoxy-N-phenylbenzenesulfonamide (2), were identified that bind to DsbA from the pathogenic bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis. The crystal structures of oxidized B. pseudomallei DsbA (termed BpsDsbA) co-crystallized with 1 or 2 show that both fragments bind to a hydrophobic pocket that is formed by a change in the side-chain orientation of Tyr110. This conformational change opens a `cryptic’ pocket that is not evident in the apoprotein structure. This binding location was supported by 2D-NMR studies, which identified a chemical shift perturbation of the Tyr110 backbone amide resonance of more than 0.05 p.p.m. upon the addition of 2 mM fragment 1 and of more than 0.04 p.p.m. upon the addition of 1 mM fragment 2. Although binding was detected by both X-ray crystallography and NMR, the binding affinity (Kd) for both fragments was low (above 2 mM), suggesting weak interactions with BpsDsbA. This conclusion is also supported by the crystal structure models, which ascribe partial occupancy to the ligands in the cryptic binding pocket. Small fragments such as 1 and 2 are not expected to have a high energetic binding affinity due to their relatively small surface area and the few functional groups that are available for intermolecular interactions. However, their simplicity makes them ideal for functionalization and optimization. The identification of the binding sites of 1 and 2 to BpsDsbA could provide a starting point for the development of more potent novel antimicrobial compounds that target DsbA and bacterial virulence.

Read the full article here.

First Author paper for PhD student Sarah Müller

Congratulations to PhD student Sarah Müller from Griffith University who published a paper as first author. 

The Glitazone Class of Drugs as Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors—A Spin-Off Discovery from Fragment Screening

Most of the drugs we know target the activity of specific proteins that play an important role in the disease being treated. One of the big challenges in the discovery of new drugs is finding molecules that bind specifically to one target and not bind to other proteins too. This is necessary to avoid causing treatment side effects. Hence, drug discovery researchers are always on the lookout for ways to find better lead molecules.
We identified an old drug class called glitazones that target a new protein known as carbonic anhydrase II, an enzyme that helps to maintain pH levels in cells. Carbonic anhydrase comes in many different forms and has been a successful target for drug development for various diseases like glaucoma, heart failure and epilepsy.
The glitazone drugs, such as rosiglitazone, are used to treat Type II diabetes. However, because of the severe side effects caused by the use of glitazones they were taken off the market. Our findings suggest that the unintended targeting of carbonic anhydrase may be one reason for the side effects of these drugs. This shows how important it is to carry out research to fully understand the effect of drugs and can help future researchers in drug discovery.

The paper was published in Molecules in May 2021.

New paper out by PhD student Karoline Sanches

Congratulations to PhD student Karoline Sanches from Monash University who published a paper as first author. The paper was published in Toxicon in October 2021.

Conformational dynamics in peptide toxins: Implications for receptor interactions and molecular design

Karoline Sanchesa,b,1, Dorothy C.C. Waia,1, Raymond S. Nortona,b
aMedicinal Chemistry, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Parkville, Victoria, 3052, Australia
bARC Centre for Fragment-Based Design, Monash University, Parkville, Victoria, 3052, Australia
1These authors contributed equally

Peptide toxins are often potent and selective blockers of ion channels and are therefore of significant interest to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. For example, an analogue of the sea anemone peptide ShK, which targets the voltage-gated potassium channel Kv1.3, is currently in clinical trials for the treatment of autoimmune disorders. Studying the structure-function relationship and the dynamics of these peptides is pivotal to understanding their binding to receptors, as well as to designing new drugs. In this article, we highlight the important contribution of NMR to characterising peptide toxin dynamics. It is shown that even disulphide-rich peptides display dynamics in various timescales, the characterisation of which through NMR is crucial for understanding their receptor interactions.