For cancer cells to survive and proliferate, they must escape normal immune destruction. One mechanism by which this is accomplished is through immune suppression effected by up-regulation of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO1), a heme enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of tryptophan to N-formylkynurenine. On deformylation, kynurenine and downstream metabolites suppress T cell function. The importance of this immunosuppressive mechanism has spurred intense interest in the development of clinical IDO1 inhibitors. Herein, we describe the mechanism by which a class of compounds effectively and specifically inhibits IDO1 by targeting its apo-form. We show that the in vitro kinetics of inhibition coincide with an unusually high rate of intrinsic enzyme-heme dissociation, especially in the ferric form. X-ray crystal structures of the inhibitor-enzyme complexes show that heme is displaced from the enzyme and blocked from rebinding by these compounds. The results reveal that apo-IDO1 serves as a unique target for inhibition and that heme lability plays an important role in posttranslational regulation.
Keywords: IDO1; cancer; heme; kynurenine.
Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.