Protein kinase inhibitor design by targeting the Asp-Phe-Gly (DFG) motif: the role of the DFG motif in the design of epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors

J Med Chem. 2013 May 23;56(10):3889-903. doi: 10.1021/jm400072p. Epub 2013 May 10.


The Asp-Phe-Gly (DFG) motif plays an important role in the regulation of kinase activity. Structure-based drug design was performed to design compounds able to interact with the DFG motif; epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) was selected as an example. Structural insights obtained from the EGFR/2a complex suggested that an extension from the meta-position on the phenyl group (ring-5) would improve interactions with the DFG motif. Indeed, introduction of an N,N-dimethylamino tail resulted in 4b, which showed almost 50-fold improvement in inhibition compared to 2a. Structural studies confirmed this N,N-dimethylamino tail moved toward the DFG motif to form a salt bridge with the side chain of Asp831. That the interactions with the DFG motif greatly contribute to the potency of 4b is strongly evidenced by synthesizing and testing compounds 2a, 3g, and 4f: when the charge interactions are absent, the inhibitory activity decreased significantly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Drug Design
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation
  • Oligopeptides / chemical synthesis*
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemical synthesis*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • DFG peptide
  • Oligopeptides
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors