A novel Type II kinase inhibitor chemotype has been identified for maternal embryonic leucine zipper kinase (MELK) using structure-based ligand design. The strategy involved structural characterization of an induced DFG-out pocket by protein–ligand X-ray crystallography and incorporation of a slender linkage capable of bypassing a large gate-keeper residue, thus enabling design of molecules accessing both hinge and induced pocket regions. Optimization of an initial hit led to the identification of a low-nanomolar, cell-penetrant Type II inhibitor suitable for use as a chemical probe for MELK.
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Johnson et al. “Structure-Based Design of Type II Inhibitors Applied to Maternal Embryonic Leucine Zipper Kinase.” ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, DOI: 10.1021/ml5001273