Deconstructing Protein Binding of Sulfonamides and Sulfonamide Analogues

JACS Au. 2023 Aug 25;3(9):2478-2486. doi: 10.1021/jacsau.3c00241. eCollection 2023 Sep 25.


Sulfonamides are one of the most important pharmacophores in medicinal chemistry, and sulfonamide analogues have gained substantial interest in recent years. However, the protein interactions of sulfonamides and especially of their analogues are underexplored. Using FKBP12 as a model system, we describe the synthesis of optically pure sulfenamide, sulfinamide, and sulfonimidamide analogues of a well characterized sulfonamide ligand. This allowed us to precisely determine the binding contributions of each sulfonamide oxygen atom and the consequences of nitrogen replacements. We also present high-resolution cocrystal structures of sulfonamide analogues buried in the pocket of a protein target. This revealed intimate contacts with the protein including an unprecedented hydrogen bond acceptor of sulfonimidamides. The use of sulfonamide analogues enabled new exit vectors that allowed remodeling of a subpocket in FKBP12. Our results illuminate the protein interaction potential of sulfonamides/sulfonamide analogues and will aid in their rational design.