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J Biol Chem. 2018 Feb 2;293(5):1850-1864. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA117.000457. Epub 2017 Dec 8.

Discovery of stimulator binding to a conserved pocket in the heme domain of soluble guanylyl cyclase.

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From the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721 and.
Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142.
From the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721 and


Soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) is the receptor for nitric oxide and a highly sought-after therapeutic target for the management of cardiovascular diseases. New compounds that stimulate sGC show clinical promise, but where these stimulator compounds bind and how they function remains unknown. Here, using a photolyzable diazirine derivative of a novel stimulator compound, IWP-051, and MS analysis, we localized drug binding to the β1 heme domain of sGC proteins from the hawkmoth Manduca sexta and from human. Covalent attachments to the stimulator were also identified in bacterial homologs of the sGC heme domain, referred to as H-NOX domains, including those from Nostoc sp. PCC 7120, Shewanella oneidensis, Shewanella woodyi, and Clostridium botulinum, indicating that the binding site is highly conserved. The identification of photoaffinity-labeled peptides was aided by a signature MS fragmentation pattern of general applicability for unequivocal identification of covalently attached compounds. Using NMR, we also examined stimulator binding to sGC from M. sexta and bacterial H-NOX homologs. These data indicated that stimulators bind to a conserved cleft between two subdomains in the sGC heme domain. L12W/T48W substitutions within the binding pocket resulted in a 9-fold decrease in drug response, suggesting that the bulkier tryptophan residues directly block stimulator binding. The localization of stimulator binding to the sGC heme domain reported here resolves the longstanding question of where stimulators bind and provides a path forward for drug discovery.


guanylate cyclase (guanylyl cyclase); mass spectrometry (MS); nitric oxide; nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR); photoaffinity labeling; protein–drug interaction

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