Emerging Approaches for the Identification of Protein Targets of Small Molecules - A Practitioners' Perspective

J Med Chem. 2018 Oct 11;61(19):8504-8535. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.7b01921. Epub 2018 Jun 6.


Small-molecule (SM) leads in the early drug discovery pipeline are progressed primarily based on potency against the intended target(s) and selectivity against a very narrow slice of the proteome. So, why is there a tendency to wait until SMs are matured before probing for a deeper mechanistic understanding? For one, there is a concern about the interpretation of complex -omic data outputs and the resources needed to test these hypotheses. However, with recent advances in broad endpoint profiling assays that have companion reference databases and refined technology integration strategies, we argue that data complexity can translate into meaningful decision-making. This same strategy can also prioritize phenotypic screening hits to increase the likelihood of accessing unprecedented target space. In this Perspective. we will highlight a cohesive process that supports SM hit prosecution, providing a data-driven rationale and a suite of methods for direct identification of SM targets driving relevant biological end points.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Discovery*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Proteome / drug effects*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology*


  • Proteome
  • Small Molecule Libraries