Protein kinase biochemistry and drug discovery

Bioorg Chem. 2011 Dec;39(5-6):192-210. doi: 10.1016/j.bioorg.2011.07.004. Epub 2011 Aug 3.


Protein kinases are fascinating biological catalysts with a rapidly expanding knowledge base, a growing appreciation in cell regulatory control, and an ascendant role in successful therapeutic intervention. To better understand protein kinases, the molecular underpinnings of phosphoryl group transfer, protein phosphorylation, and inhibitor interactions are examined. This analysis begins with a survey of phosphate group and phosphoprotein properties which provide context to the evolutionary selection of phosphorylation as a central mechanism for biological regulation of most cellular processes. Next, the kinetic and catalytic mechanisms of protein kinases are examined with respect to model aqueous systems to define the elements of catalysis. A brief structural biology overview further delves into the molecular basis of catalysis and regulation of catalytic activity. Concomitant with a prominent role in normal physiology, protein kinases have important roles in the disease state. To facilitate effective kinase drug discovery, classic and emerging approaches for characterizing kinase inhibitors are evaluated including biochemical assay design, inhibitor mechanism of action analysis, and proper kinetic treatment of irreversible inhibitors. As the resulting protein kinase inhibitors can modulate intended and unintended targets, profiling methods are discussed which can illuminate a more complete range of an inhibitor's biological activities to enable more meaningful cellular studies and more effective clinical studies. Taken as a whole, a wealth of protein kinase biochemistry knowledge is available, yet it is clear that a substantial extent of our understanding in this field remains to be discovered which should yield many new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Drug Discovery
  • Kinetics
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Protein Kinases / chemistry*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Protein Kinases