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J Am Chem Soc. 2009 Jun 3;131(21):7390-401. doi: 10.1021/ja900616b.

Multiple independent binding sites for small-molecule inhibitors on the oncoprotein c-Myc.

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Department of Chemistry, Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia 20057, USA.


Deregulation of the c-Myc transcription factor is involved in many types of cancer, making this oncoprotein an attractive target for drug discovery. One approach to its inhibition has been to disrupt the dimeric complex formed between its basic helix-loop-helix leucine zipper (bHLHZip) domain and a similar domain on its dimerization partner, Max. As monomers, bHLHZip proteins are intrinsically disordered (ID). Previously we showed that two c-Myc-Max inhibitors, 10058-F4 and 10074-G5, bound to distinct ID regions of the monomeric c-Myc bHLHZip domain. Here, we use circular dichroism, fluorescence polarization, and NMR to demonstrate the presence of an additional binding site located between those for 10058-F4 and 10074-G5. All seven of the originally identified Myc inhibitors are shown to bind to one of these three discrete sites within the 85-residue bHLHZip domain of c-Myc. These binding sites are composed of short contiguous stretches of amino acids that can selectively and independently bind small molecules. Inhibitor binding induces only local conformational changes, preserves the overall disorder of c-Myc, and inhibits dimerization with Max. NMR experiments further show that binding at one site on c-Myc affects neither the affinity nor the structural changes taking place upon binding to the other sites. Rather, binding can occur simultaneously and independently on the three identified sites. Our results suggest the widespread existence of peptide regions prone to small-molecule binding within ID domains. A rational and generic approach to the inhibition of protein-protein interactions involving ID proteins may therefore be possible through the targeting of ID sequence.

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