State-of-the-art strategies for targeting protein-protein interactions by small-molecule inhibitors

Chem Soc Rev. 2015 Nov 21;44(22):8238-59. doi: 10.1039/c5cs00252d. Epub 2015 Aug 6.


Targeting protein-protein interactions (PPIs) has emerged as a viable approach in modern drug discovery. However, the identification of small molecules enabling us to effectively interrupt their interactions presents significant challenges. In the recent past, significant advances have been made in the development of new biological and chemical strategies to facilitate the discovery process of small-molecule PPI inhibitors. This review aims to highlight the state-of-the-art technologies and the achievements made recently in this field. The "hot spots" of PPIs have been proved to be critical for small molecules to bind. Three strategies including screening, designing, and synthetic approaches have been explored for discovering PPI inhibitors by targeting the "hot spots". Although the classic high throughput screening approach can be used, fragment screening, fragment-based drug design and newly improved virtual screening are demonstrated to be more effective in the discovery of PPI inhibitors. In addition to screening approaches, design strategies including anchor-based and small molecule mimetics of secondary structures involved in PPIs have become powerful tools as well. Finally, constructing new chemically spaced libraries with high diversity and complexity is becoming an important area of interest for PPI inhibitors. The successful cases from the recent five year studies are used to illustrate how these approaches are implemented to uncover and optimize small molecule PPI inhibitors and notably some of them have become promising therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Protein Binding
  • Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Proteins
  • Small Molecule Libraries