Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Structure-based discovery of an inhibitor of Arf activation by Sec7 domains through targeting of protein-protein complexes.

PMID 17563369


Small molecules that produce nonfunctional protein-protein complexes are an alternative to competitive inhibitors for the inhibition of protein functions. Here we target the activation of the small GTP-binding protein Arf1, a major regulator of membrane traffic, by the Sec7 catalytic domain of its guanine nucleotide exchange factor ARNO. The crystal structure of the Arf1-GDP/ARNO complex, which initiates the exchange reaction, was used to discover an inhibitor, LM11, using in silico screening of a flexible pocket near the Arf1/ARNO interface. Using fluorescence kinetics and anisotropy, NMR spectroscopy and mutagenesis, we show that LM11 acts following a noncompetitive mechanism in which the inhibitor targets both Arf1-GDP and the Arf1-GDP/ARNO complex and produces a nonfunctional Arf-GDP/ARNO complex whose affinity is similar to that of the native complex. In addition, LM11 recognizes features of both Arf and ARNO near the Arf/Sec7 interface, a characteristic reminiscent of the paradigm interfacial inhibitor Brefeldin A. We then show that LM11 is a cell-active inhibitor that impairs Arf-dependent trafficking structures at the Golgi. Furthermore, LM11 inhibits ARNO-dependent migration of Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells, demonstrating that ARNO is a target of LM11 in cells. Remarkably, LM11 inhibits the activation of Arf1 but not Arf6 in vitro, pointing to a possible synergy between Arf1 and Arf6 activation by ARNO in cell migration. Our design method shows that flexible regions in protein-protein complexes provide drugable sites with the potential to develop novel tools for investigating and inhibiting signaling pathways.