The zinc-dependent enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are medicinal targets due to the activity of these enzymes associated with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. The development of most MMP inhibitors (MPIs) has followed a basic design formula: a peptidomimetic backbone is attached to a zinc-binding group (ZBG). MPI backbones have varied enormously and improved with increased knowledge of MMP structure and function while hydroxamic acids have been used as the ZBG in most inhibitors. The problems associated with hydroxamic acid and other current ZBGs have been identified; the incorporation of more potent and selective ZBGs for the active site zinc(II) ion is necessary to improve the development of second-generation inhibitors. Herein, we highlight ZBGs that have been proposed as alternatives to hydroxamic acids. In addition, techniques used to identify new ZBGs are also discussed. New insights from a bioinorganic approach using model complexes of the MMP active site are presented as tools in examining the mode of binding for various known and novel ZBGs. Novel computational methods are highlighted that allow for modeling the drug-protein interactions with non-hydroxamate inhibitors of MMPs. We suggest that significant efforts to augment ZBGs combined with the available information on inhibitor backbone design will accelerate the discovery of improved MPIs. Newly devised drug design methods will help to realize this proposal.
Keywords: drug design, matrix metalloproteinases, metal chelation, model compounds, zinc
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