ACS Combinatorial Science
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.