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AbstractThe reversible phosphorylation of proteins plays a key role in nearly every aspect of cell life. This essential post-translational modification controls a myriad of cellular events from cell survival, differentiation, and migration to apoptosis. Two classes of enzymes, kinases and phosphatases, tightly control all phosphorylation events. Perturbation in the activity of any member of these classes of enzymes has been linked to numerous diseases including cancer, metabolic disorders, immune disorders and neurological disorders. Therefore, there is a great interest among the scientific community to develop methods to selectively modulate the activity of kinases and phosphatases not only for therapeutic purposes but also to understand the fundamental role of these enzymes in signaling events. The more than 500 kinases encoded in the human genome share a common catalytic fold and most inhibitors target the ATP binding site. Therefore selective targeting of a single kinase by an inhibitor at the highly conserved ATP binding site is one of the main concerns for designing probes or drugs. Our group has taken advantage of the potency and possible selectivity imparted by bivalent inhibitors and developed an in vitro selection approach to discover bivalent ligands. The strategy involves the use of an ATP-competitive small molecule warhead and a library of cyclic peptides displayed on phage that interact with the kinase of interest in a dynamic selection. The selection for a kinase binding peptide is carried out until consensus peptides are found and bivalent ligands are constructed by linking the selected cyclic peptide with the small molecule warhead through a synthetic linker. Using this approach a potent and selective bivalent inhibitor was found for PKA, a serine/threonine kinase. To interrogate the generality of this approach, a kinase closely related to PKA (PRKX) was used for which a very potent and selective bivalent ligand was found. The same selection strategy was further extended to the two kinases Lyn and Brk, which belong to the tyrosine kinase family. Though peptides were isolated that bound the desired kinase, potent bivalent inhibitors were not discovered. More generally, these experiments in sum are building a library of information regarding how to best design selections of potent and selective bivalent inhibitors. We further explored modulation of the activity of kinases and phosphatases by employing a ligand-gated split-protein approach. The small molecule gated spatial and temporal control of these enzymes should allow the study of signaling events in a controlled manner. The strategy employed consists in the identification of possible fragmentation sites within the catalytic domain of kinases and phosphatases by a sequence dissimilarity approach. Loop insertion mutants at the selected sites were tested for catalytic activity. Successful insertion mutants were further split into two catalytically inactive fragments, which were appended to two conditionally interacting protein domains. Upon addition of a small molecule, the two conditionally interacting domains reassemble the catalytic domain of the enzyme and restore catalytic activity. Using this approach we were able to modulate the activity of the tyrosine kinases Lyn, Fak and Src and the AGC kinase PKA. We also extended the approach to gate the activity of tyrosine phosphatases PTP1B, SHP1 and PTPH1. Finally, these ligand-gated split-kinases and phosphatases were validated in-cellulo. Thus, this work resulted in a new method for designing split-proteins and provided a palette of kinases and phosphatases that can be turned-on by small molecules. In total, these efforts describe two alternative routes that can be used to modulate phosphorylation events in a selective and controlled manner.
Degree ProgramGraduate College