AI-Assisted chemical probe discovery for the understudied Calcium-Calmodulin Dependent Kinase, PNCK

PLoS Comput Biol. 2023 May 26;19(5):e1010263. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1010263. eCollection 2023 May.


PNCK, or CAMK1b, is an understudied kinase of the calcium-calmodulin dependent kinase family which recently has been identified as a marker of cancer progression and survival in several large-scale multi-omics studies. The biology of PNCK and its relation to oncogenesis has also begun to be elucidated, with data suggesting various roles in DNA damage response, cell cycle control, apoptosis and HIF-1-alpha related pathways. To further explore PNCK as a clinical target, potent small-molecule molecular probes must be developed. Currently, there are no targeted small molecule inhibitors in pre-clinical or clinical studies for the CAMK family. Additionally, there exists no experimentally derived crystal structure for PNCK. We herein report a three-pronged chemical probe discovery campaign which utilized homology modeling, machine learning, virtual screening and molecular dynamics to identify small molecules with low-micromolar potency against PNCK activity from commercially available compound libraries. We report the discovery of a hit-series for the first targeted effort towards discovering PNCK inhibitors that will serve as the starting point for future medicinal chemistry efforts for hit-to-lead optimization of potent chemical probes.

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Calcium*
  • Calmodulin*


  • Calcium
  • Calmodulin