Metallohelices that kill Gram-negative pathogens using intracellular antimicrobial peptide pathways
A range of new water-compatible optically pure metallohelices – made by self-assembly of simple non-peptidic organic components around Fe ions – exhibit similar architecture to some natural cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) and are found to have high, structure-dependent activity against bacteria, including clinically problematic Gram-negative pathogens. A key compound is shown to freely enter rapidly dividing E. coli cells without significant membrane disruption, and localise in distinct foci near the poles. Several related observations of CAMP-like mechanisms are made via biophysical measurements, whole genome sequencing of tolerance mutants and transcriptomic analysis. These include: high selectivity for binding of G-quadruplex DNA over double stranded DNA; inhibition of both DNA gyrase and topoisomerase I in vitro; curing of a plasmid that contributes to the very high virulence of the E. coli strain used; activation of various two-component sensor/regulator and acid response pathways; and subsequent attempts by the cell to lower the net negative charge of the surface. This impact of the compound on multiple structures and pathways corresponds with our inability to isolate fully resistant mutant strains, and supports the idea that CAMP-inspired chemical scaffolds are a realistic approach for antimicrobial drug discovery, without the practical barriers to development that are associated with natural CAMPS.
Remarkable pharmacological behaviours of metallohelices reported by Scott group: 2019 Chemical Science HOT Article Collection
Discovery of selective, antimetastatic and anti-cancer stem cell metallohelices via post-assembly modification
Helicates and related metallofoldamers, synthesised by dynamic self-assembly, represent an area of chemical space inaccessible by traditional organic synthesis, and yet with potential for discovery of new classes of drug. Here we report that water-soluble, optically pure Fe(II)- and even Zn(II)-based triplex metallohelices are an excellent platform for post-assembly click reactions. By these means, the in vitro anticancer activity and most importantly the selectivity of a triplex metallohelix Fe(II) system is dramatically improved. For one compound, a remarkable array of mechanistic and pharmacological behaviours is discovered: inhibition of Na+/K+ ATPase with potency comparable to the drug ouabain, antimetastatic properties (including inhibition of cell migration, re-adhesion and invasion), cancer stem cell targeting, and finally colonosphere inhibition competitive with the drug salinomycin.
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Macrocyclisation of Small Peptides Enabled by Oxetane Incorporation
Cyclic peptides are an important source of new drugs but are challenging to produce synthetically. We show that head-to-tail peptide macrocyclisations are greatly improved, as measured by isolated yields, reaction rates and product distribution, by substitution of one of the backbone amide C=O bonds with an oxetane ring. The cyclisation precursors are easily made by standard solution- or solid-phase peptide synthesis techniques. Macrocyclisations across a range of challenging ring sizes (tetra-, penta- and hexapeptides) are enabled by incorporation of this turn-inducing element. Oxetane incorporation is shown to be superior to other established amino acid modifications such as N-methylation. The positional dependence of the modification on cyclisation efficiency is mapped using a cyclic peptide of sequence LAGAY. We provide the first direct experimental evidence that oxetane modification induces a turn in linear peptide backbones, through the observation of dNN (i, i+2) and dαN (i, i+2) NOEs, which offers an explanation for these improvements. For cyclic peptide, cLAGAY, a combination of NMR derived distance restraints and molecular dynamics simulations are used to show that this modification alters the backbone conformation in proximity to the oxetane, with the flexibility of the ring reduced and a new intramolecular H-bond established. Finally, we incorporated an oxetane into a cyclic pentapeptide inhibitor of Aminopeptidase N, a transmembrane metalloprotease overexpressed on the surface of cancer cells. The inhibitor, cCNGRC, displayed similar IC50 values in the presence or absence of an oxetane at the Gly residue, indicating that bioactivity is fully retained upon amide C=O bond replacement.
RxCelerate, one of the leading out-sourced drug discovery and development platforms in the United Kingdom, announced today it has opened UK-based chemistry operations at The University of Warwick. The new operation will be led by Dr Nigel Ramsden, who joins RxCelerate on a full-time basis as Executive Vice President, Chemistry Operations, working closely with Dr David Fox in the Department of Chemistry at Warwick.