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Allosteric inhibition of Aurora-A kinase by a synthetic VNAR nanobody

By Selena G Burgess, Arkadiusz Oleksy, Tommaso Cavazza, Mark W Richards, Isabelle Vernos, David Matthews, Richard Bayliss

Posted 02 Apr 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/046730 (published DOI: 10.1098/rsob.160089)

The vast majority of clinically-approved protein kinase inhibitors target the ATP binding pocket directly. Consequently, many inhibitors have broad selectivity profiles and most have significant off-target effects. Allosteric inhibitors are generally more selective, but are difficult to identify because allosteric binding sites are often unknown or poorly characterized, and there is no clearly preferred approach to generating hit matter. Aurora-A is activated through binding of TPX2 to an allosteric site on the kinase catalytic domain, and this knowledge could be exploited to generate an inhibitor. However, it is currently unclear how to design such a compound because a small molecule or peptide mimetic of TPX2 would be expected to activate, not inhibit the kinase. Here, we generated an allosteric inhibitor of Aurora-A kinase based on a synthetic, VNAR single domain nanobody scaffold, IgNARV-D01. Biochemical studies and a crystal structure of the Aurora-A/IgNARV-D01 complex show that the nanobody overlaps with the TPX2 binding site. In contrast with the binding of TPX2, which stabilizes an active conformation of the kinase, binding of the nanobody stabilizes an inactive conformation, in which the αC-helix is distorted, the canonical Lys-Glu salt bridge is broken, and the regulatory (R-) spine is disrupted by an additional hydrophobic side chain from the activation loop. These studies illustrate how nanobodies can be used to characterize the regulatory mechanisms of kinases and provide a rational basis for structure-guided design of allosteric Aurora-A kinase inhibitors.

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