Uracil DNA glycosylase (UNG) is an important DNA repair enzyme that recognizes and excises uracil bases in DNA using an extrahelical recognition mechanism. It is emerging as a desirable target for small-molecule inhibitors given its key role in a wide range of biological processes including the generation of antibody diversity, DNA replication in a number of viruses, and the formation of DNA strand breaks during anticancer drug therapy. To accelerate the discovery of inhibitors of UNG we have developed a uracil-directed ligand tethering strategy. In this efficient approach, a uracil aldehyde ligand is tethered via alkyloxyamine linker chemistry to a diverse array of aldehyde binding elements. Thus, the mechanism of extrahelical recognition of the uracil ligand is exploited to target the UNG active site, and alkyloxyamine linker tethering is used to randomly explore peripheral binding pockets. Since no compound purification is required, this approach rapidly identified the first small-molecule inhibitors of human UNG with micromolar to submicromolar binding affinities. In a surprising result, these uracil-based ligands are found not only to bind to the active site but also to bind to a second uncompetitive site. The weaker uncompetitive site suggests the existence of a transient binding site for uracil during the multistep extrahelical recognition mechanism. This very general inhibitor design strategy can be easily adapted to target other enzymes that recognize nucleobases, including other DNA repair enzymes that recognize other types of extrahelical DNA bases.
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