The identification and characterisation of autophagy inhibitors from the published kinase inhibitor sets

Biochem J. 2020 Feb 28;477(4):801-814. doi: 10.1042/BCJ20190846.


Autophagy is a critical cellular homeostatic mechanism, the dysfunction of which has been linked to a wide variety of disease states. It is regulated through the activity of specific kinases, in particular Unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1 (ULK1) and Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase vacuolar protein sorting 34 (VPS34), which have both been suggested as potential targets for drug development. To identify new chemical compounds that might provide useful chemical tools or act as starting points for drug development, we screened each protein against the Published Kinase Inhibitor Set (PKIS), a library of known kinase inhibitors. In vitro screening and analysis of the published selectivity profiles of the hits informed the selection of three relatively potent ATP-competitive inhibitors against each target that presented the least number of off-target kinases in common. Cellular assays confirmed potent inhibition of autophagy in response to two of the ULK1 inhibitors and all three of the VPS34 inhibitors. These compounds represent not only a new resource for the study of autophagy but also potential chemical starting points for the validation or invalidation of these two centrally important autophagy kinases in disease models.

Keywords: autophagy; chemical biology; high-throughput screening; kinases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy*
  • Autophagy-Related Protein-1 Homolog / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Autophagy-Related Protein-1 Homolog / metabolism
  • Bone Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Bone Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Drug Discovery*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Osteosarcoma / drug therapy
  • Osteosarcoma / metabolism
  • Osteosarcoma / pathology*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Autophagy-Related Protein-1 Homolog
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • ULK1 protein, human