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High-Throughput Screening Uncovers Novel Botulinum Neurotoxin Inhibitor Chemotypes

Bompiani, KM;Cagli, D;Krutein, MC;Benoni, G;Hrones, M;Lairson, LL;Bian, H;Smith, GR;Dickerson, TJ;

Botulism is caused by potent and specific bacterial neurotoxins that infect host neurons and block neurotransmitter release. Treatment for botulism is limited to administration of an antitoxin within a short time window, before the toxin enters neurons. Alternatively, current botulism drug development targets the toxin light chain, which is a zinc-dependent metalloprotease that is delivered into neurons and mediates long-term pathology. Several groups have identified inhibitory small molecules, peptides, or aptamers, although no molecule has advanced to the clinic due to a lack of efficacy in advanced models. Here we used a homogeneous high-throughput enzyme assay to screen three libraries of drug-like small molecules for new chemotypes that modulate recombinant botulinum neurotoxin light chain activity. High-throughput screening of 97088 compounds identified numerous small molecules that activate or inhibit metalloprotease activity. We describe four major classes of inhibitory compounds identified, detail their structure-activity relationships, and assess their relative inhibitory potency. A previously unreported chemotype in any context of enzyme inhibition is described with potent submicromolar inhibition (Ki = 200-300 nM). Additional detailed kinetic analyses and cellular cytotoxicity assays indicate the best compound from this series is a competitive inhibitor with cytotoxicity values around 4-5 M. Given the potency and drug-like character of these lead compounds, further studies, including cellular activity assays and DMPK analysis, are justified.