The synthesis and biological activities of a series of sulfonylbenzoyl-nitrostyrene derivatives, a novel class of selective bisubstrate type inhibitors of the EGF-receptor tyrosine protein kinase, are described. The most potent derivatives inhibited the EGF-R tyrosine kinase, using angiotensin II as exogenous substrate, with IC50 values of less than or equal to 1 microM. No inhibition of the v-abl tyrosine kinase or the serine/threonine kinases PKC and PK-A was observed. In addition, active derivatives (compounds 5 and 12) effectively blocked the autophosphorylation of the EGF-R in vitro. Starting from the acids 5, 7, and 9, a series of esters, amides, and peptides was synthesized with the aim of increasing cellular penetration. Amides 14-18 showed potent antiproliferative effects using the EGF-dependent Balb/MK mouse epidermal keratinocyte cell line. Additionally, with the amide 14 inhibition of EGF-R autophosphorylation was demonstrated in the A431 cell line. CAMM studies using a computer-generated model for the transition state of the gamma-phosphoryl transfer from ATP to a tyrosine moiety and fitting experiments using the highly potent derivative 7 (IC50 value = 54 nM) support the hypothesis that the sulfonylbenzoyl group mimics a diphosphate moiety in the transition state. These results demonstrate that the rational design of tyrosine kinase inhibitors, using the inhibitory nitrostyrene moiety as a tyrosine mimic together with the sulfonylbenzoyl moiety as a diphosphate mimic, leads to highly potent and selective multisubstrate type inhibitors.