Multiplexed experimental strategies for fragment library screening against challenging drug targets using SPR biosensors

SLAS Discov. 2024 Jan;29(1):40-51. doi: 10.1016/j.slasd.2023.09.001. Epub 2023 Sep 14.


Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor methods are ideally suited for fragment-based lead discovery. However, generally applicable experimental procedures and detailed protocols are lacking, especially for structurally or physico-chemically challenging targets or when tool compounds are not available. Success depends on accounting for the features of both the target and the chemical library, purposely designing screening experiments for identification and validation of hits with desired specificity and mode-of-action, and availability of orthogonal methods capable of confirming fragment hits. The range of targets and libraries amenable to an SPR biosensor-based approach for identifying hits is considerably expanded by adopting multiplexed strategies, using multiple complementary surfaces or experimental conditions. Here we illustrate principles and multiplexed approaches for using flow-based SPR biosensor systems for screening fragment libraries of different sizes (90 and 1056 compounds) against a selection of challenging targets. It shows strategies for the identification of fragments interacting with 1) large and structurally dynamic targets, represented by acetyl choline binding protein (AChBP), a Cys-loop receptor ligand gated ion channel homologue, 2) targets in multi protein complexes, represented by lysine demethylase 1 and a corepressor (LSD1/CoREST), 3) structurally variable or unstable targets, represented by farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase (FPPS), 4) targets containing intrinsically disordered regions, represented by protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B), and 5) aggregation-prone proteins, represented by an engineered form of human tau (tau K18M). Practical considerations and procedures accounting for the characteristics of the proteins and libraries, and that increase robustness, sensitivity, throughput and versatility are highlighted. The study shows that the challenges for addressing these types of targets is not identification of potentially useful fragments per se, but establishing methods for their validation and evolution into leads.

Keywords: Biophysics; Biosensors; Fragment-based drug discovery; SPR.

MeSH terms

  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Humans
  • Proteins
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance* / methods


  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins