Development of a Selective Cell-Permeable Protein Phosphatase 1 Inhibitor
Selective ‘super-specific’ inhibitors of Protein Phosphatase 1 (PP1) are not available. Several natural product toxins possessing marginal selectivity between PP1 and the closely related Protein Serine/Threonine Phosphatase (PSTP), Protein Phosphatase 2A (PP2A) have been used to study the role of PP1 and PP2A in cellular signaling processes, such as the cyclic peptide inhibitors (microcystins and nodularins); terpenoid (cantharidin); polyketides (okadaic acid, calyculin, and tautomycin). The organic molecule tautomycetin is a natural product which has the highest selectivity for PP1 compared to the closely related PSTP PP2A, albeit slightly so (about 39 times more selective). Calyculin A is equally selective to PP1 and PP2A. On the other hand, okadaic acid is about 100 times more selective towards PP2A compared to PP1. Specific protein inhibitors are not suitable for cell-based assay due to low, intrinsic cellular permeability of proteins. A si-RNA mediated knockdown approach though feasible, is not ‘fast-acting’. The knockdown often lasts for an extended time period and cannot be modulated (turned on or off) as desired. Also, analysis of knockdown data is complex as the system can regulate itself in complex ways, making any effort to interpret the data liable to misinterpretation. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a cell-permeable, potent, and selective inhibitor for PP1 (which does not target the related protein phosphatases PP2A, PP2B and PP5) whose activity inside cells can be modulated as desired so that spatiotemporal control over the activity of PP1 can be achieved. Development of such an inhibitor can be used as a chemical tool to study the cellular signaling of PP1 and not by the related PSTP PP2A. To address the problem of a lack of inhibitor targeting Protein Phosphatase 1 selectively over the closely related PSTP, PP2A; design of a peptide based inhibitor has been envisioned which targets the acidic groove and hydrophobic groove of Protein Phosphatase 1 in addition to targeting the active site (triple approach combination). The parent peptide (V6.2.10) of this study has been designed using a co-crystal structure of rat PP1cγ complexed with mouse inhibitor-2 (PDB ID: 2O8A). The parent peptide V6.2.10 has an IC50 value of 4.2 µM, which has been confirmed in the present study. A combination of single site mutations has been made using N-terminus arginine scanning, C-terminus arginine scanning, active site mutations, cyclohexylalanine scanning, and miscellaneous site-specific mutations. A hydrophobic pocket present in Protein Phosphatase 1 has been probed using ortho and meta fluorophenyalanine residue to increase potency and metabolic stability of the peptide. The rationale for such mutations was based upon a combination of approaches: mutagenesis in PyMOL, calculation of binding energies in FoldX, suitability of parent residues to be mutated, and how important are parent and substituent residues for cellular permeability and metabolic stability. Several peptides were identified from single-site mutations which had lower (improved) IC50 compared to the parent peptide of the study, V6.2.10. Several double mutations combining potent single-mutant peptides identified from this study has lower (improved) IC50 values than either of the single mutant peptides. #30 (combination of #15 and #4.2) has an IC50 value of about 334 nM and #36 (combination of #15 and 4-Fluoro Phenylalanine at the F5 position) has an IC50 value of 531 nM. #30 is the optimized peptide inhibitor from this study which is currently being utilized for crystallization trails in the laboratory. Far UV Circular dichroism study of #4.2 peptide shows mostly random coil conformation along with contributions from other secondary structures. Moreover, #4.2 is capable of adopting an alpha helical conformation in the presence of the well-known helix inducer chemical trifluoroethanol. Purification of PP1α protein using affinity chromatography has been optimized in order to increase the yield of pure protein phosphatase 1. Attempts to express and purify PP1α protein in BL21 (DE3) bacterial cells gave low yield. Thus, expression and purification of PP1α protein derived from human genomic sequence has been attempted in BL21 (RIL) codon-optimized cells which resulted in increased production of pure protein.
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