Targeting Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase-Activated Protein Kinase 2 (MAPKAPK2, MK2): Medicinal Chemistry Efforts To Lead Small Molecule Inhibitors to Clinical Trials

J Med Chem. 2016 Apr 28;59(8):3609-34. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.5b01457. Epub 2015 Nov 9.


The p38/MAPK-activated kinase 2 (MK2) pathway is involved in a series of pathological conditions (inflammation diseases and metastasis) and in the resistance mechanism to antitumor agents. None of the p38 inhibitors entered advanced clinical trials because of their unwanted systemic side effects. For this reason, MK2 was identified as an alternative target to block the pathway but avoiding the side effects of p38 inhibition. However, ATP-competitive MK2 inhibitors suffered from low solubility, poor cell permeability, and scarce kinase selectivity. Fortunately, non-ATP-competitive inhibitors of MK2 have been already discovered that allowed circumventing the selectivity issue. These compounds showed the additional advantage to be effective at lower concentrations in comparison to the ATP-competitive inhibitors. Therefore, although the significant difficulties encountered during the development of these inhibitors, MK2 is still considered as an attractive target to treat inflammation and related diseases to prevent tumor metastasis and to increase tumor sensitivity to chemotherapeutics.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Crystallization
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Small Molecule Libraries*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • MAP-kinase-activated kinase 2
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases