Biochemical evaluation of virtual screening methods reveals a cell-active inhibitor of the cancer-promoting phosphatases of regenerating liver

Eur J Med Chem. 2014 Dec 17;88:89-100. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2014.08.060. Epub 2014 Aug 20.


Computationally supported development of small molecule inhibitors has successfully been applied to protein tyrosine phosphatases in the past, revealing a number of cell-active compounds. Similar approaches have also been used to screen for small molecule inhibitors for the cancer-related phosphatases of regenerating liver (PRL) family. Still, selective and cell-active compounds are of limited availability. Since especially PRL-3 remains an attractive drug target due to its clear role in cancer metastasis, such compounds are highly demanded. In this study, we investigated various virtual screening approaches for their applicability to identify novel small molecule entities for PRL-3 as target. Biochemical evaluation of purchasable compounds revealed ligand-based approaches as well suited for this target, compared to docking-based techniques that did not perform well in this context. The best hit of this study, a 2-cyano-2-ene-ester and hence a novel chemotype targeting the PRLs, was further optimized by a structure-activity-relationship (SAR) study, leading to a low micromolar PRL inhibitor with acceptable selectivity over other protein tyrosine phosphatases. The compound is active in cells, as shown by its ability to specifically revert PRL-3 induced cell migration, and exhibits similar effects on PRL-1 and PRL-2. It is furthermore suitable for fluorescence microscopy applications, and it is commercially available. These features make it the only purchasable, cell-active and acceptably selective PRL inhibitor to date that can be used in various cellular applications.

Keywords: 2-Cyano-2-ene-esters; Dual specificity phosphatases; Enzyme inhibitors; Phosphatases of regenerating liver; Thienopyridone; Virtual screening methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays*
  • Humans
  • Liver / enzymology*
  • Liver Regeneration*
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases