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Title: Small molecule colorimetric and fluorescent probes for specific protein detection
Author: Egleton, James Edward
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 3910
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis describes the design, synthesis, analysis, mechanistic evaluation and optimisation of small molecule probes for the specific detection of proteins, focusing on the target protein human arylamine N-acetyltransferase type 1 (HUMAN(NAT1)) and its murine homologue, mouse arylamine N-acetyltransferase type 2 (MOUSE(NAT2)). The HUMAN(NAT1) gene is reported to be one of the most highly overexpressed genes in estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) breast tumours, leading to its potential use as both a novel diagnostic biomarker and a novel therapeutic target for this disease. Chapter 1 reviews the literature on optical methods for the specific detection of a protein target, exploring strategies both based on biosensors and on chemical probes, before introducing the arylamine N-acetyltransferases as a family of enzymes. In Chapter 2, a family of naphthoquinone inhibitors of HUMAN(NAT1) are introduced, which undergo a colour change from red to blue upon binding specifically to the enzyme. The mechanism of this colour change, a proton transfer-mediated process, is discussed via the synthesis, pharmacological and colorimetric evaluation of close analogues of the hit compound lacking a key acidic sulfonamide-NH proton. During these studies, it was found that direct O-methylation of a sulfonamide is possible under certain conditions; such a reaction has not previously been reported. Furthermore, upon heating in polar solvents the O-methylated sulfonamide was observed to undergo rearrangement, and the mechanism of this process is investigated via NMR and kinetic studies. In Chapter 3, the design, synthesis and evaluation of HUMAN(NAT1) inhibitors with improved pharmacological and colorimetric profiles over the initial hit are described. From this optimisation, structure-activity relationships and an in silico model of interactions between the inhibitors and enzyme are evaluated. Testing of these compounds in cellular environments, however, exposes some limitations of this approach, notably the lack of sensitivity of the probes when dosed at low concentrations in cellular samples. In order to overcome this limitation, in Chapter 4 fluorescent analogues of the hit compound are designed and synthesised. Initial compounds developed in this series possess promising properties, but each compound generated suffers from either a low fluorescent intensity, lack of a pH-dependent switch in fluorescence or a low fluorescence excitation wavelength, which overlaps with those of tryptophan or tyrosine residues in proteins. Insights into the mechanism of molecular fluorescence and application of some simple quantum mechanical principles, however, lead to the design of a species which possesses all the required properties. The fluorescent emission intensity of this probe correlates linearly with [MOUSE(NAT2)] in E. coli cell extracts, and can quantify as little as 0.64% MOUSE(NAT2) in the samples; furthermore, the probe is capable of unambiguously detecting HUMAN(NAT1) within a cell extract from the ER+ breast cancer cell line ZR-75-1; future work on this probe may therefore enable its clinical use in improved early diagnosis of breast tumours. This study also represents, to the best of our knowledge, the first ever example of a small molecule, non-covalent probe capable of quantifying the concentration of a target protein in cellular extracts. In Chapter 5, the series of naphthoquinone probes is further optimised in order to study the roles of HUMAN(NAT1) in a cellular environment. Firstly, structure-activity relationships are utilised to design inhibitors with improved physical properties such as aqueous solubility and cell membrane permeability, in order to test the effect of HUMAN(NAT1) inhibitors in tumour cell models, which could have implications for the future use of a HUMAN(NAT1) inhibitor as a therapeutic agent in oncology. Secondly, the effect of the cofactor folic acid on the function and activity of HUMAN(NAT1) is explored. Finally, in Chapter 6, the conclusions of this study are outlined and a hypothesis as to how the concepts developed in this thesis might be applied to alternative, more ubiquitous biological targets is discussed, paving the way for future investigations.
Supervisor: Russell, Angela ; Sim, Edith Sponsor: Cancer Research UK
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Organic chemistry ; Chemical biology ; Enzymes ; Pharmacology ; colorimetric probe ; fluorescent probe ; protein detection ; arylamine N-acetyltransferase ; breast cancer