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J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Aug 25;132(33):11727-35. doi: 10.1021/ja104491h.

A coiled-coil enabled split-luciferase three-hybrid system: applied toward profiling inhibitors of protein kinases.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arizona, 1306 East University Boulevard, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


The 518 protein kinases encoded in the human genome are exquisitely regulated and their aberrant function(s) are often associated with human disease. Thus, in order to advance therapeutics and to probe signal transduction cascades, there is considerable interest in the development of inhibitors that can selectively target protein kinases. However, identifying specific compounds against such a large array of protein kinases is difficult to routinely achieve utilizing traditional activity assays, where purified protein kinases are necessary. Toward a simple, rapid, and practical method for identifying specific inhibitors, we describe the development and application of a split-protein methodology utilizing a coiled-coil-assisted three-hybrid system. In this approach, a protein kinase of interest is attached to the C-terminal fragment of split-firefly luciferase and the coiled-coil Fos, which is specific for the coiled-coil Jun, is attached to the N-terminal fragment. Upon addition of Jun conjugated to a pan-kinase inhibitor such as staurosporine, a three-hybrid complex is established with concomitant reassembly of the split-luciferase enzyme. An inhibitor can be potentially identified by the commensurate loss in split-luciferase activity by displacement of the modified staurosporine. We demonstrate that this new three-hybrid approach is potentially general by testing protein kinases from the different kinase families. To interrogate whether this method allows for screening inhibitors, we tested six different protein kinases against a library of 80 known protein kinase inhibitors. Finally, we demonstrate that this three-hybrid system can potentially provide a rapid method for structure/function analysis as well as aid in the identification of allosteric inhibitors.

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