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“Minimalist” Cyclopropene-Containing Photo-Cross-Linkers Suitable for Live-Cell Imaging and Affinity-Based Protein Labeling

Li, Zhengqiu, Wang, Danyang, Li, Lin, Pan, Sijun, Na, Zhenkun, Tan, Chelsea Y. J., Yao, Shao Q.
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2014 v.136 no.28 pp. 9990-9998
bioactive compounds, biomedical research, chemical reactions, drugs, enzymes, epigenetics, image analysis, mammals, monitoring, photoaffinity labeling, proteins, proteome, proteomics, solubility
Target identification of bioactive compounds within the native cellular environment is important in biomedical research and drug discovery, but it has traditionally been carried out in vitro. Information about how such molecules interact with their endogenous targets (on and off) is currently highly limited. An ideal strategy would be one that recapitulates protein–small molecule interactions in situ (e.g., in living cells) and at the same time enables enrichment of these complexes for subsequent proteome-wide target identification. Similarly, small molecule-based imaging approaches are becoming increasingly available for in situ monitoring of a variety of proteins including enzymes. Chemical proteomic strategies for simultaneous bioimaging and target identification of noncovalent bioactive compounds in live mammalian cells, however, are currently not available. This is due to a lack of photoaffinity labels that are minimally modified from their parental compounds, yet chemically tractable using copper-free bioorthogonal chemistry. We have herein developed novel minimalist linkers containing both an alkyl diazirine and a cyclopropene. We have shown chemical probes (e.g., BD-2) made from such linkers could be used for simultaneous in situ imaging and covalent labeling of endogenous BRD-4 (an important epigenetic protein) via a rapid, copper-free, tetrazine-cyclopropene ligation reaction (k₂ > 5 M–¹ s–¹). The key features of our cyclopropenes, with their unique C-1 linkage to BRD-4-targeting moiety, are their tunable reactivity and solubility, relative stability, and synthetic accessibility. BD-2, which is a linker-modified analogue of (+)-JQ1 (a recently discovered nanomolar protein–protein-interaction inhibitor of BRD-4), was subsequently used in a cell-based proteome profiling experiment for large-scale identification of potential off-targets of (+)-JQ1. Several newly identified targets were subsequently confirmed by preliminary validation experiments.