The heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) chaperones represent some 1-2% of all cellular protein and are key players in protein quality control in cells. They are over expressed in many human cancers and the fact that many oncogenic proteins are clients has prompted much recent research on HSP90 inhibitors as new cancer therapeutics. A brief introduction is followed by a detailed review of the various classes of inhibitors, both natural product-based and synthetic, that have emerged over the last decade. The natural products geldanamycin, radicicol and novobiocin have provided the start points for new drugs in this area and their medicinal chemistry is reviewed, including the exciting recent results emerging from clinical trials using geldanamycin analogues. The detailed understanding of the binding mode of these compounds to HSP90 has been significantly enhanced by X-ray crystallography of HSP90 constructs co-crystallised with various ligands. Efforts to replace the natural product inhibitors with more drug-like synthetic compounds have mushroomed over the last 4 years. The purines and the 3,4-diarylpyrazoles have proven to be the most successful and their medicinal chemistry is reviewed with particular emphasis on structure-based design. Protein/ligand co-crystal structures have shown that conserved water molecules in the active site are a vital part of the hydrogen-bonding network established on binding both natural product and synthetic inhibitors. Medicinal chemists have used this information to develop high affinity lead compounds. Recent research provides the platform for exciting developments in the area of HSP90 inhibition over the next few years.
Keywords: natural product, ATPase enzyme assay, 17-DMAG, cycloproparadicicol, Novobiocin
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