The structure of inosine 5'-monophosphate dehydrogenase and the design of novel inhibitors.

PMID 10878288


The enzyme IMPDH is a homotetramer of approximately 55 kDa subunits and consists of a (beta/alpha)(8) barrel core domain and a smaller subdomain. The active site has binding pockets for the two substrates IMP and NAD. The enzymatic reaction of oxidation of IMP to XMP proceeds through a covalent mechanism involving an active site cysteine residue. This enzyme is a target for immunosuppressive agents because it catalyzes a key step in purine nucleotide biosynthesis which is important for the proliferation of lymphocytes. Several X-ray structures of inhibitors bound to IMPDH have been published. The uncompetitive IMPDH inhibitor MPA is the active metabolite of the immunosuppressive agent mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept(R)) which is approved for the prevention of acute rejection after kidney and heart transplantation. The bicyclic ring system of MPA packs underneath the hypoxanthine ring of XMP*, thereby trapping this covalent intermediate of the enzymatic reaction. Ribavirin monophosphate, the active metabolite of the antiviral agent ribavirin, is a substrate mimic of IMP. The structure of the two inhibitors 6-Cl-IMP and SAD binding in the IMP and NAD pockets of IMPDH, respectively, gives information for the binding mode of the di-nucleotide cofactor to the enzyme. At Vertex Pharmaceuticals a structure-based drug design program for the design of IMPDH inhibitors was initiated. Several new lead compound classes unrelated to other IMPDH inhibitors were found. Integrating structural information into an iterative drug-design process led to the design of VX-497. VX-497 is a potent uncompetitive enzyme inhibitor of IMPDH. The phenyl-oxazole moiety of the molecule packs underneath XMP*, analogous to MPA. VX-497 also makes several new interactions that are not observed in the binding of MPA. VX-497 is a potent immunosuppressive agent in vitro and in vivo. A Phase I clinical trial has been successfully concluded and the compound is currently in Phase II trials in psoriasis and hepatitis C. The rapid progress from initiation of the drug design program to a compound entering clinical trials illustrates the power of structure-based drug design to accelerate the drug discovery process. The structural information on IMPDH has also significantly increased our knowledge about the mechanistic details of this fascinating enzyme.