Cell-permeable cyclic peptides from synthetic libraries inspired by natural products

J Am Chem Soc. 2015 Jan 21;137(2):715-21. doi: 10.1021/ja508766b. Epub 2015 Jan 8.


Drug design efforts are turning to a new generation of therapeutic targets, such as protein-protein interactions (PPIs), that had previously been considered "undruggable" by typical small molecules. There is an emerging view that accessing these targets will require molecules that are larger and more complex than typical small molecule drugs. Here, we present a methodology for the discovery of geometrically diverse, membrane permeable cyclic peptide scaffolds based on the synthesis and permeability screening of a combinatorial library, followed by deconvolution of membrane-permeable scaffolds to identify cyclic peptides with good to excellent passive cell permeabilities. We use a combination of experimental and computational approaches to investigate structure-permeability relationships in one of these scaffolds, and uncover structural and conformational factors that govern passive membrane diffusion in a related set of cyclic peptide diastereomers. Further, we investigate the dependency of permeability on side-chain identity of one of these scaffolds through single-point diversifications to show the adaptability of these scaffolds toward development of permeability-biased libraries suitable for bioactivity screens. Overall, our results demonstrate that many novel, cell permeable scaffolds exist beyond those found in extant natural products, and that such scaffolds can be rapidly identified using a combination of synthesis and deconvolution which can, in principle, be applied to any type of macrocyclic template.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products*
  • Biomimetics*
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cell Membrane Permeability*
  • Combinatorial Chemistry Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Peptides, Cyclic / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation


  • Biological Products
  • Peptides, Cyclic