A DNA-encoded chemical library based on chiral 4-amino-proline enables stereospecific isozyme-selective protein recognition

Nat Chem. 2023 Oct;15(10):1431-1443. doi: 10.1038/s41557-023-01257-3. Epub 2023 Jul 3.


DNA-encoded chemical libraries (DELs) consist of large chemical compound collections individually linked to DNA barcodes, facilitating pooled construction and screening. However, screening campaigns often fail if the molecular arrangement of the building blocks is not conducive to an efficient interaction with a protein target. Here we postulated that the use of rigid, compact and stereo-defined central scaffolds for DEL synthesis may facilitate the discovery of very specific ligands capable of discriminating between closely related protein targets. We synthesized a DEL comprising 3,735,936 members, featuring the four stereoisomers of 4-aminopyrrolidine-2-carboxylic acid as central scaffolds. The library was screened in comparative selections against pharmaceutically relevant targets and their closely related protein isoforms. Hit validation results revealed a strong impact of stereochemistry, with large affinity differences between stereoisomers. We identified potent isozyme-selective ligands against multiple protein targets. Some of these hits, specific to tumour-associated antigens, demonstrated tumour-selective targeting in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, constructing DELs with stereo-defined elements contributed to high library productivity and ligand selectivity.