Designing Allele-Specific Inhibitors of Spastin, a Microtubule-Severing AAA Protein

J Am Chem Soc. 2019 Apr 10;141(14):5602-5606. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b13257. Epub 2019 Mar 27.


The bump-hole approach is a powerful chemical biology strategy to specifically probe the functions of closely related proteins. However, for many protein families, such as the ATPases associated with diverse cellular activities (AAA), we lack structural data for inhibitor-protein complexes to design allele-specific chemical probes. Here we report the X-ray structure of a pyrazolylaminoquinazoline-based inhibitor bound to spastin, a microtubule-severing AAA protein, and characterize the residues involved in inhibitor binding. We show that an inhibitor analogue with a single-atom hydrogen-to-fluorine modification can selectively target a spastin allele with an engineered cysteine mutation in its active site. We also report an X-ray structure of the fluoro analogue bound to the spastin mutant. Furthermore, analyses of other mutant alleles suggest how the stereoelectronics of the fluorine-cysteine interaction, rather than sterics alone, contribute to the inhibitor-allele selectivity. This approach could be used to design allele-specific probes for studying cellular functions of spastin isoforms. Our data also suggest how tuning stereoelectronics can lead to specific inhibitor-allele pairs for the AAA superfamily.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Animals
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Drug Design*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Spastin / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Spastin / genetics*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Spastin