The TRAF2 and NCK interacting kinase (TNIK) has been proposed to play a role in cytoskeletal organization and synaptic plasticity and has been linked, among others, to neurological disorders. However, target validation efforts for TNIK have been hampered by the limited kinase selectivity of small molecule probes and possible functional compensation in mouse models. Both issues are at least in part due to its close homology to the kinases MINK1 (or MAP4K6) and MAP4K4 (or HGK). As part of our interest in validating TNIK as a therapeutic target for neurological diseases, we set up a panel of biochemical and cellular assays, which are described herein. We then examined the activity of known amino-pyridine-based TNIK inhibitors (1, 3) and prepared structurally very close analogs that lack the ability to inhibit the target. We also developed a structurally orthogonal, naphthyridine-based TNIK inhibitor (9) and an inactive control molecule of the same chemical series. These validated small-molecule probes will enable dissection of the function of TNIK family in the context of human disease biology.
Keywords: Kinase selectivity; Schizophrenia; Tool inhibitors; X-ray.
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