Targeting NF-κB p65 with a Helenalin Inspired Bis-electrophile
The canonical NF-κB signaling pathway is a mediator of the cellular inflammatory response and a target for developing therapeutics for multiple human diseases. The furthest downstream proteins in the pathway, the p50/p65 transcription factor heterodimer, have been recalcitrant toward small molecule inhibition despite the substantial number of compounds known to inhibit upstream proteins in the activation pathway. Given the roles of many of these upstream proteins in multiple biochemical pathways, targeting the p50/p65 heterodimer offers an opportunity for enhanced on-target specificity. Toward this end, the p65 protein presents two nondisulfide cysteines, Cys38 and Cys120, at its DNA-binding interface that are amenable to targeting by covalent molecules. The natural product helenalin, a sesquiterpene lactone, has been previously shown to target Cys38 on p65 and ablate its DNA-binding ability. Using helenalin as inspiration, simplified helenalin analogues were designed, synthesized, and shown to inhibit induced canonical NF-κB signaling in cell culture. Moreover, two simplified helenalin probes were proficient at forming covalent protein adducts, binding to Cys38 on recombinant p65, and targeting p65 in HeLa cells without engaging canonical NF-κB signaling proteins IκBα, p50, and IKKα/β. These studies further support that targeting the p65 transcription factor–DNA interface with covalent small molecule inhibitors is a viable approach toward regulating canonical NF-κB signaling. Graphic Abstract ACS Electronic Supporting Info
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