Analytical chemistry

Magnetic "fishing" assay to screen small-molecule mixtures for modulators of protein-protein interactions.

PMID 21067198


Protein-protein interactions are an intricate part of biological pathways and have become important targets for drug discovery. Here we present a two-stage magnetic bead assay to functionally screen small-molecule mixtures for modulators of protein-based interactions, with simultaneous affinity-based isolation of active compounds and identification by mass spectrometry. Proteins of interest interact in solution prior to the addition of Ni(II)-functionalized magnetic beads to recover an intact protein-protein complex through affinity capture of a polyhistidine-tagged primary target ("protein-complex fishing"). Protein-complex fishing, utilizing His(6)-tagged calmodulin (CaM) as the primary (bait) protein and melittin (Mel) as the target, was used to screen a mass-encoded library of 1000 bioactive compounds (50 mixtures, 20 compounds each) and successfully identified three known antagonists, three naturally occurring phenolic compounds previously reported to disrupt CaM-activated phosphodiesterase activity, and two newly identified modulators of the CaM-Mel interaction, methylbenzethonium and pempidine tartrate. The ability to produce quantitative inhibition data is also shown through the development of dose-dependent response curves and the determination of inhibition constants (K(I)) for the novel compound methylbenzethonium (K(I) = 14-49 nM) and two known antagonists, calmidazolium (K(I) = 1.7-7.5 nM) and trifluoperazine (K(I) = 1.2-3.0 μM), with the latter two values being in close agreement with literature values.