Deconstructing Noncovalent Kelch-like ECH-Associated Protein 1 (Keap1) Inhibitors into Fragments to Reconstruct New Potent Compounds

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Targeting the protein-protein interaction (PPI) between nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) is a potential therapeutic strategy to control diseases involving oxidative stress. Here, six classes of known small-molecule Keap1-Nrf2 PPI inhibitors were dissected into 77 fragments in a fragment-based deconstruction reconstruction (FBDR) study and tested in four orthogonal assays. This gave 17 fragment hits of which six were shown by X-ray crystallography to bind in the Keap1 Kelch binding pocket. Two hits were merged into compound 8 with a 220-380-fold stronger affinity (Ki = 16 μM) relative to the parent fragments. Systematic optimization resulted in several novel analogues with Ki values of 0.04-0.5 μM, binding modes determined by X-ray crystallography, and enhanced microsomal stability. This demonstrates how FBDR can be used to find new fragment hits, elucidate important ligand-protein interactions, and identify new potent inhibitors of the Keap1-Nrf2 PPI.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)4623–4661
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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