Expanding medicinal chemistry into 3D space: metallofragments as 3D scaffolds for fragment-based drug discovery†
Fragment-based drug discovery (FBDD) is a powerful strategy for the identification of new bioactive molecules. FBDD relies on fragment libraries, generally of modest size, but of high chemical diversity. Although good chemical diversity in FBDD libraries has been achieved in many respects, achieving shape diversity – particularly fragments with three-dimensional (3D) structures – has remained challenging. A recent analysis revealed that >75% of all conventional, organic fragments are predominantly 1D or 2D in shape. However, 3D fragments are desired because molecular shape is one of the most important factors in molecular recognition by a biomolecule. To address this challenge, the use of inert metal complexes, so-called ‘metallofragments’ (mFs), to construct a 3D fragment library is introduced. A modest library of 71 compounds has been prepared with rich shape diversity as gauged by normalized principle moment of inertia (PMI) analysis. PMI analysis shows that these metallofragments occupy an area of fragment space that is unique and highly underrepresented when compared to conventional organic fragment libraries that are comprised of orders of magnitude more molecules. The potential value of this metallofragment library is demonstrated by screening against several different types of proteins, including an antiviral, an antibacterial, and an anticancer target. The suitability of the metallofragments for future hit-to-lead development was validated through the determination of IC50 and thermal shift values for select fragments against several proteins. These findings demonstrate the utility of metallofragment libraries as a means of accessing underutilized 3D fragment space for FBDD against a variety of protein targets.