Probing Akt-inhibitor interaction by chemical cross-linking and mass spectrometry

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2009 Aug;20(8):1504-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jasms.2009.04.004. Epub 2009 Apr 16.


The serine/threonine kinase Akt is a critical enzyme that regulates cell survival. As high Akt activity has been shown to contribute to the pathogenesis of various human malignancies, inhibition of Akt activation is a promising therapeutic strategy for cancers. We have previously demonstrated that changes in Akt interdomain arrangements from a closed to open conformation occur upon Akt-membrane interaction, which in turn allows Akt phosphorylation/activation. In the present study, we demonstrate a novel strategy to discern mechanisms for Akt inhibition based on Akt conformational changes using chemical cross-linking and (18)O labeling mass spectrometry. By quantitative comparison of two interdomain cross-linked peptides, which represent the proximity of the domains involved, we found that the binding of Akt to an inhibitor (PI analog) caused the open interdomain conformation where the PH and regulatory domains moved away from the kinase domain, even before interacting with membranes, subsequently preventing translocation of Akt to the plasma membrane. In contrast, the interdomain conformation remained unchanged after incubating with another type of inhibitor (peptide TCL1). Subsequent interaction with unilamellar vesicles suggested that TCL1 impaired particularly the opening of the PH domain for exposing T308 for phosphorylation at the plasma membrane. This novel approach based on the conformation-based molecular interaction mechanism should be potentially useful for drug discovery efforts for specific Akt inhibitors or anti-tumor agents.

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / chemistry
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Mapping
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / ultrastructure*


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt