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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jan 8;105(1):100-5. Epub 2007 Dec 27.

Synthetic heterovalent inhibitors targeting recognition E3 components of the N-end rule pathway.

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Center for Pharmacogenetics, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


Multivalent binding allows high selectivity and affinity in a ligand-protein interaction. The N-end rule pathway is a ubiquitin (Ub)-dependent proteolytic system in which specific E3s, called N-recognins, mediate ubiquitylation through the recognition of types 1 and 2, destabilizing N-terminal residues of substrates. We recently identified a set of E3 Ub ligases (named UBR1-UBR7) containing the 70-residue UBR box, and we demonstrated that UBR1, UBR2, UBR4, and UBR5 can bind to destabilizing N-terminal residues. To explore a model of heterovalent interaction to the N-recognin family, we synthesized the small-molecule compound RF-C11, which bears two heterovalent ligands designed to target N-recognins, together with control molecules with two homovalent ligands. We demonstrate that heterovalent ligands of RF-C11 selectively and cooperatively bind cognate-binding sites of multiple N-recognins and thereby inhibit both types 1 and 2 N-end rule activities. Furthermore, the efficacy of heterovalent RF-C11 was substantially higher than homovalent inhibitors, which can target either a type 1 or type 2 site, providing the molecular basis of designing multivalent inhibitors for the control of specific intracellular pathways. In addition, RF-C11 exhibited higher efficacy and stability, compared with dipeptides bearing destabilizing N-terminal residues, which are known competitive inhibitors of the pathway. We also used the heterovalent compound to study the function of N-recognins in cardiac signaling. Using mouse and rat cardiomyocytes, we demonstrate that the N-end rule pathway has a cell-autonomous function in cardiac proliferation and hypertrophy, explaining our earlier results implicating the pathway in cardiac development and proteolysis of multiple cardiovascular regulators.

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