Publication Details

Bodenreider, C., Beer, D., Keller, T., Sonntag, S., Wen, D., Yap, L., Yau, Y., Shocat, S., Huang, D., Zhou, T., Caflisch, A., Su, X., Ozawa, K., Otting, G., Vasudevan, S. G., Lescar, J. & Lim, S. P. (2009). A fluorescence quenching assay to discriminate between specific and non-specific inhibitors of Dengue virus protease. Analytical Biochemistry, 395 (2), 195-204.


In drug discovery, the occurrence of false positives is a major hurdle in the search for lead compounds that can be developed into drugs. A small-molecular-weight compound that inhibits dengue virus protease at low micromolar levels was identified in a screening campaign. Binding to the enzyme was confirmed by isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). However, a structure-activity relationship study that ensued did not yield more potent leads. To further characterize the parental compound and its analogues, we developed a high-speed, low-cost, quantitative fluorescence quenching assay. We observed that specific analogues quenched dengue protease fluorescence and showed variation in IC(50) values. In contrast, nonspecifically binding compounds did not quench its fluorescence and showed similar IC(50) values with steep dose-response curves. We validated the assay using single Trp-to-Ala protease mutants and the competitive protease inhibitor aprotinin. Specific compounds detected in the binding assay were further analyzed by competitive ITC, NMR, and surface plasmon resonance, and the assay's utility in comparison with these biophysical methods is discussed. The sensitivity of this assay makes it highly useful for hit finding and validation in drug discovery. Furthermore, the technique can be readily adapted for studying other protein-ligand interactions.



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