Chemical inhibitors have had a profound impact on many diverse fields of biology. The goal of chemical genetics is to use small molecules to perturb biological systems in a manner conceptually similar to traditional genetics. Key to the advancement of the chemical genetic paradigm is the further development of tools and approaches for the identification of the protein targets of active compounds identified in chemical genetic screens. This review will address historic examples in which forward chemical genetics yielded new insight into a biological problem through successful identification of the target of an active molecule. The approaches covered have been grouped into two broad classes: target identification by affinity-based methods and target identification by deduction. Strengths and shortcomings of each approach as it pertains to their application to modern chemical genetics will be discussed. Finally, a series of new genomic and proteomicbased techniques for target identification will be described. Although a truly general approach to target identification has yet to be developed, these examples illustrate that there are many effective strategies for successfully elucidating the biological targets of active small molecules.
Keywords: chemical genetics, target identification, natural products
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Published on: 01 March, 2012
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