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Title: Structure and inhibition of novel cyclin-dependent kinases
Author: Dixon-Clarke, Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 8972
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Protein phosphorylation by members of the cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) family determines the cell cycle and regulates gene transcription. CDK12 and CDK16 are relatively poorly characterised family members containing atypical domain extensions and represent novel targets for structural studies, as well as cancer drug discovery. In this thesis, I developed protocols to express and purify the human CDK12 kinase domain in complex with its obligate partner, CycK. I solved three distinct crystal structures of the complex providing insights into the structural mechanisms determining CycK assembly and kinase activation. These structures revealed a C-terminal kinase extension that folded flexibly across the active site of CDK12 to potentially gate the binding of the substrate ATP. My structures also identified Cys1039 in the C-terminal extension as the binding site for the first selective covalent inhibitor of CDK12, which has enormous potential as a pharmacological probe to investigate the functions of CDK12 in the DNA damage response and cancer. I also identified rebastinib and dabrafenib as potent, clinically-relevant inhibitors of CDK16 and solved a co-crystal structure that defined the extended type II binding mode of rebastinib. Preliminary trials using these relatively non-selective compounds to inhibit CDK16 in melanoma and medulloblastoma cancer cell lines revealed rebastinib as the more efficacious drug causing loss of cell proliferation in the 1-2 micromolar range. Use of the co-crystal structure to design more selective derivatives would be advantageous to further explore the specific role of CDK16. Finally, I identified a D-type viral cyclin from Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus that could bind to the CDK16 kinase domain and interfere with its functional complex with human CycY causing loss of CDK16 activity. These studies provide novel insights into the structural and regulatory mechanisms of two underexplored CDK family subgroups and establish new opportunities for cancer drug development.
Supervisor: Bullock, Alex Sponsor: Nuffield Department of Medicine
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mass spectrometry ; Oncology ; X-ray crystallography ; Protein chemistry ; Medical sciences ; CDK16 (PCTAIRE1/PCTK1) ; Cancer ; Transcriptional CDKs ; THZ531 ; Kinase ; CDK12 ; Cyclin-dependent kinase ; Rebastinib