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Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptNIH Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
J Med Chem. Author manuscript; available in PMC Apr 24, 2009.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2655312
NIHMSID: NIHMS86140

Comprehensive Mechanistic Analysis of Hits from High-Throughput and Docking Screens against β-Lactamase

Abstract

High-throughput screening (HTS) is widely used in drug discovery. Especially for screens of unbiased libraries, false positives can dominate “hit lists”; their origins are much debated. Here we determine the mechanism of every active hit from a screen of 70,563 unbiased molecules against β-lactamase using quantitative HTS (qHTS). Of the 1274 initial inhibitors, 95% were detergent-sensitive and were classified as aggregators. Among the 70 remaining were 25 potent, covalent-acting β-lactams. Mass spectra, counter-screens, and crystallography identified 12 as promiscuous covalent inhibitors. The remaining 33 were either aggregators or irreproducible. No specific reversible inhibitors were found. We turned to molecular docking to prioritize molecules from the same library for testing at higher concentrations. Of 16 tested, 2 were modest inhibitors. Subsequent X-ray structures corresponded to the docking prediction. Analog synthesis improved affinity to 8 µM. These results suggest that it may be the physical behavior of organic molecules, not their reactivity, that accounts for most screening artifacts. Structure-based methods may prioritize weak-but-novel chemotypes in unbiased library screens.

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