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Transformation of a Metal Chelate into a Catch and Anchor Inhibitor of Botulinum A Protease

Lin, L;Patel, E;Nielsen, A;Turner, L;Tepp, W;Nguyen, K;Pellett, S;Janda, K;

Targeting the botulinum neurotoxin light chain (LC) metalloprotease using small-molecule metal chelate inhibitors is a promising approach to counter the effects of the lethal toxin. However, to overcome the pitfalls associated with simple reversible metal chelate inhibitors, it is crucial to investigate alternative scaffolds/strategies. In conjunction with Atomwise Inc., in silico and in vitro screenings were conducted, yielding a number of leads, including a novel 9-hydroxy-4H-pyrido [1,2-a]pyrimidin-4-one (PPO) scaffold. From this structure, an additional series of 43 derivatives were synthesized and tested, resulting in a lead candidate with a Ki of 150 nM in a BoNT/A LC enzyme assay and 17 µM in a motor neuron cell-based assay. These data combined with structure-activity relationship (SAR) analysis and docking led to a bifunctional design strategy, which we termed “catch and anchor” for the covalent inhibition of BoNT/A LC. Kinetic evaluation was conducted on structures prepared from this catch and anchor campaign, providing kinact/Ki values, and rationale for inhibition seen. Covalent modification was validated through additional assays, including an FRET endpoint assay, mass spectrometry, and exhaustive enzyme dialysis. The data presented support the PPO scaffold as a novel candidate for targeted covalent inhibition of BoNT/A LC.