Halogen Atoms in the Protein-Ligand System. Structural and Thermodynamic Studies of the Binding of Bromobenzotriazoles by the Catalytic Subunit of Human Protein Kinase CK2

J Phys Chem B. 2021 Mar 18;125(10):2491-2503. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.0c10264. Epub 2021 Mar 9.


Binding of a family of brominated benzotriazoles to the catalytic subunit of human protein kinase CK2 (hCK2α) was used as a model system to assess the contribution of halogen bonding to protein-ligand interaction. CK2 is a constitutively active pleiotropic serine/threonine protein kinase that belongs to the CMGC group of eukaryotic protein kinases (EPKs). Due to the addiction of some cancer cells, CK2 is an attractive and well-characterized drug target. Halogenated benzotriazoles act as ATP-competitive inhibitors with unexpectedly good selectivity for CK2 over other EPKs. We have characterized the interaction of bromobenzotriazoles with hCK2α by X-ray crystallography, low-volume differential scanning fluorimetry, and isothermal titration calorimetry. Properties of free ligands in solution were additionally characterized by volumetric and RT-HPLC measurements. Thermodynamic data indicate that the affinity increases with bromo substitution, with greater contributions from 5- and 6-substituents than 4- and 7-substituents. Except for 4,7-disubstituted compounds, the bromobenzotriazoles adopt a canonical pose with the triazole close to lysine 68, which precludes halogen bonding. More highly substituted benzotriazoles adopt many additional noncanonical poses, presumably driven by a large hydrophobic contribution to binding. Some noncanonical ligand orientations allow the formation of halogen bonds with the hinge region. Consistent with a predominantly hydrophobic interaction, the isobaric heat capacity decreases upon ligand binding, the more so the higher the substitution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Casein Kinase II* / metabolism
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Halogens*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Protein Binding
  • Thermodynamics


  • Halogens
  • Ligands
  • Casein Kinase II