Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) is a key regulator of mitosis and a recognized drug target for cancer therapy. Inhibiting the polo-box domain of PLK1 offers potential advantages of increased selectivity and subsequently reduced toxicity compared with targeting the kinase domain. However, many if not all existing polo-box domain inhibitors have been shown to be unsuitable for further development. In this paper, we describe a novel compound series, which inhibits the protein-protein interactions of PLK1 via the polo-box domain. We combine high throughput screening with molecular modeling and computer-aided design, synthetic chemistry, and cell biology to address some of the common problems with protein-protein interaction inhibitors, such as solubility and potency. We use molecular modeling to improve the solubility of a hit series with initially poor physicochemical properties, enabling biophysical and biochemical characterization. We isolate and characterize enantiomers to improve potency and demonstrate on-target activity in both cell-free and cell-based assays, entirely consistent with the proposed binding model. The resulting compound series represents a promising starting point for further progression along the drug discovery pipeline and a new tool compound to study kinase-independent PLK functions.
- Peptides and proteins Solutbility