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Biochemistry. 2012 Oct 16;51(41):8293-306. doi: 10.1021/bi3009278. Epub 2012 Oct 2.

Identification and characterization of small molecule inhibitors of a plant homeodomain finger.

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Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


A number of histone-binding domains are implicated in cancer through improper binding of chromatin. In a clinically reported case of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a genetic fusion protein between nucleoporin 98 and the third plant homeodomain (PHD) finger of JARID1A drives an oncogenic transcriptional program that is dependent on histone binding by the PHD finger. By exploiting the requirement for chromatin binding in oncogenesis, therapeutics targeting histone readers may represent a new paradigm in drug development. In this study, we developed a novel small molecule screening strategy that utilizes HaloTag technology to identify several small molecules that disrupt binding of the JARID1A PHD finger to histone peptides. Small molecule inhibitors were validated biochemically through affinity pull downs, fluorescence polarization, and histone reader specificity studies. One compound was modified through medicinal chemistry to improve its potency while retaining histone reader selectivity. Molecular modeling and site-directed mutagenesis of JARID1A PHD3 provided insights into the biochemical basis of competitive inhibition.

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