Discovery of Selective Small-Molecule Inhibitors for the ENL YEATS Domain

J Med Chem. 2021 Aug 12;64(15):10997-11013. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.1c00367. Epub 2021 Jul 19.


Eleven-nineteen leukemia (ENL) protein is a histone acetylation reader essential for disease maintenance in acute leukemias, in particular, the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL)-rearranged leukemia. In this study, we carried out high-throughput screening of a small-molecule library to identify inhibitors for the ENL YEATS domain. Structure-activity relationship studies of the hits and structure-based inhibitor design led to two compounds, 11 and 24, with IC50 values below 100 nM in inhibiting the ENL-acetyl-H3 interaction. Both compounds, and their precursor compound 7, displayed strong selectivity toward the ENL YEATS domain over all other human YEATS domains. Moreover, 7 exhibited on-target inhibition of ENL in cultured cells and a synergistic effect with the bromodomain and extraterminal domain inhibitor JQ1 in killing leukemia cells. Together, we have developed selective chemical probes for the ENL YEATS domain, providing the basis for further medicinal chemistry-based optimization to advance both basic and translational research of ENL.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology
  • Molecular Structure
  • Protein Domains / drug effects
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemical synthesis
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Transcriptional Elongation Factors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Transcriptional Elongation Factors / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • ELL protein, human
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Transcriptional Elongation Factors