Covalent Inhibitors Allosterically Block the Activation of Rho Family Proteins and Suppress Cancer Cell Invasion

Adv Sci (Weinh). 2020 May 13;7(14):2000098. doi: 10.1002/advs.202000098. eCollection 2020 Jul.


The Rho family GTPases are crucial drivers of tumor growth and metastasis. However, it is difficult to develop GTPases inhibitors due to a lack of well-characterized binding pockets for compounds. Here, through molecular dynamics simulation of the RhoA protein, a groove around cysteine 107 (Cys107) that is relatively well-conserved within the Rho family is discovered. Using a combined strategy, the novel inhibitor DC-Rhoin is discovered, which disrupts interaction of Rho proteins with guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) and guanine nucleotide dissociation inhibitors (GDIs). Crystallographic studies reveal that the covalent binding of DC-Rhoin to the Cys107 residue stabilizes and captures a novel allosteric pocket. Moreover, the derivative compound DC-Rhoin04 inhibits the migration and invasion of cancer cells, through targeting this allosteric pocket of RhoA. The study reveals a novel allosteric regulatory site within the Rho family, which can be exploited for anti-metastasis drug development, and also provides a novel strategy for inhibitor discovery toward "undruggable" protein targets.

Keywords: anti‐metastasis activities; crystal structures; inhibitors; novel pockets; rho family proteins.