A Note of Caution on the Role of Halogen Bonds for Protein Kinase/Inhibitor Recognition Suggested by High- And Low-Salt CK2α Complex Structures

ACS Chem Biol. 2015 Jul 17;10(7):1654-60. doi: 10.1021/acschembio.5b00235. Epub 2015 May 15.


CK2 is a Ser/Thr kinase recruited by tumor cells to avoid cell death. 4'-Carboxy-6,8-dibromo-flavonol (FLC26) is a nanomolar CK2 inhibitor reducing the physiological phosphorylation of CK2 biomarkers and inducing cell death. Its binding mode to the ATP site was predicted to depend primarily on noncovalent interactions not comprising halogen bonds. We confirm this by two independent cocrystal structures which additionally show that FLC26 is selective for an open, protein kinase-untypical conformation of the hinge/helix αD region. The structures suggest how the bromo substituents, found previously in lead optimization studies, contribute to the inhibitory efficacy. In this context, one of the complex structures, obtained by crystallization with the kosmotropic salt NaCl, revealed an unconventional π-halogen bond between the 8-bromo substituent of FLC26 and an aromatic side chain which is absent under low-salt conditions. The kosmotropic salt sensitivity of π-halogen bonds is a novel feature which requires attention in structural comparisons and halogen-bond-based explanations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Casein Kinase II / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Casein Kinase II / chemistry
  • Casein Kinase II / metabolism
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Halogenation
  • Humans
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Salts / chemistry


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Salts
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • CSNK2A1 protein, human
  • Casein Kinase II