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J Biomol Screen. 2006 Oct;11(7):854-63. Epub 2006 Aug 30.

Universal screening methods and applications of ThermoFluor.

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  • 1Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C., Exton, PA 19341, USA. mcumming@prdus.jnj.com


The genomics revolution has unveiled a wealth of poorly characterized proteins. Scientists are often able to produce milligram quantities of proteins for which function is unknown or hypothetical, based only on very distant sequence homology. Broadly applicable tools for functional characterization are essential to the illumination of these orphan proteins. An additional challenge is the direct detection of inhibitors of protein-protein interactions (and allosteric effectors). Both of these research problems are relevant to, among other things, the challenge of finding and validating new protein targets for drug action. Screening collections of small molecules has long been used in the pharmaceutical industry as 1 method of discovering drug leads. Screening in this context typically involves a function-based assay. Given a sufficient quantity of a protein of interest, significant effort may still be required for functional characterization, assay development, and assay configuration for screening. Increasingly, techniques are being reported that facilitate screening for specific ligands for a protein of unknown function. Such techniques also allow for function-independent screening with better characterized proteins. ThermoFluor, a screening instrument based on monitoring ligand effects on temperature-dependent protein unfolding, can be applied when protein function is unknown. This technology has proven useful in the decryption of an essential bacterial enzyme and in the discovery of a series of inhibitors of a cancer-related, protein-protein interaction. The authors review some of the tools relevant to these research problems in drug discovery, and describe our experiences with 2 different proteins.

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