Designing BET(ter) Inhibitors to Guide Therapy for Cancer and Inflammatory Diseases

bet proteins brd nanoluc

Transcriptional activation of genes within the nucleus of eukaryotic cells occurs by a variety of mechanisms. Typically, these mechanisms rely on the interaction of regulatory proteins (transcriptional activators or repressors) with specific DNA sequences that control gene expression. Upon DNA binding, regulatory proteins also interact with other proteins that are part of the RNA polymerase II transcriptional complex.

One type of transcriptional activation relies on inducing a conformational change in chromatin, the DNA-protein complex that makes up each chromosome within a cell. In a broad sense, “extended” or loosely wound chromatin is more accessible to transcription factors and can signify an actively transcribed gene. In contrast, “condensed” chromatin hinders access to transcription factors and is characteristic of a transcriptionally inactive state. Acetylation of lysine residues in histones—the primary constituents of the chromatin backbone—results in opening up the chromatin and consequent gene activation. Disruption of histone acetylation pathways is implicated in many types of cancer (1).

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Research Teams Demonstrate Bivalent Binding of a Novel Bromodomain Protein Inhibitor

13305818-cr-da-nanoluc-application_ligundToday’s blog is written by guest blogger Kristin Huwiler from our Cellular Analysis and Proteomics Group.

Two research collaborations, one in Europe and a second in the US, have just published in Nature Chemical Biology (1,2) on the identification of BET inhibitors (bi-BETs) that bind via a bivalent mechanism to both bromodomains of BRD4. These bivalent chemical inhibitors exhibit high cellular potency and affinity relative to their monovalent predecessors. By developing high-affinity ligands that engage both bromodomains simultaneously within BRD4, the authors illustrate a concept that may be applicable in the development of selective, potent ligands for other multi-domain proteins. Here we review the work presented in the Waring et al. paper using the Promega NanoBRET™ Technologies to characterize the mechanism of action of their bivalent probe.

The bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) sub-family are some of the most studied bromodomain-containing proteins (3). The BET subfamily of proteins contain two separate bromodomains. BRD4 is one well studied member of the BET sub-family. Several small molecule inhibitors that target BRD4 have been developed as potential therapeutics for various cancers with promising initial studies (4), but to date are all monovalent, binding each bromodomain of the BET family members separately (2).
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