Thymidylate synthase structure, function and implication in drug discovery

Curr Med Chem. 2005;12(19):2241-58. doi: 10.2174/0929867054864868.


Recent methodologies applied to the drug discovery process, such as genomics and proteomics, have greatly implemented our basic understanding of drug action and are giving more input to medicinal chemists, in finding genuinely new targets and opportunities for the development of drugs with original mechanisms of action. In this paper, an example of the successful application of some new techniques to the target enzymes with the Thymidylate Synthase (TS) function is given. The improved knowledge of the complex mechanism of the biological pathways in which thymidylate synthase is involved represents a unique chance to find new mechanism-based inhibitors, aimed to treat not only cancerous diseases, but also infectious pathologies. Thymidylate synthase (TS or ThyA) has long been considered as one of the best-known drug targets in the anti-cancer area, after which old and new drugs, such as 5-fluoro uracil and the anti-folate ZD1694, have been introduced into chemotherapy to treat solid tumours. Only a few attempts have been made to find non-classical anti-folate inhibitors that are dissimilar to the folate co-factor, with the aim of finding unshared protein target domains on the enzyme structure, in order to specifically inhibit TS enzymes from pathogens. Only recently from omic studies, a new Thymidylate Synthase Complementing Protein (TSCP or ThyX) has been identified in a number of pathogens, showing a different structure with respect to human TS, thus opening new avenues to specific inhibitions. A depiction of the most recent progress in the study of Thymidylate Synthase enzymes is presented in the following sections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Design
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Thymidylate Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Thymidylate Synthase / chemistry
  • Thymidylate Synthase / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Folic Acid Antagonists
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Thymidylate Synthase
  • Fluorouracil