Background: Proteins that 'read' the histone code are central elements in epigenetic control and bromodomains, which bind acetyl-lysine motifs, are increasingly recognized as potential mediators of disease states. Notably, the first BET bromodomain-based therapies have entered clinical trials and there is a broad interest in dissecting the therapeutic relevance of other bromodomain-containing proteins in human disease. Typically, drug development is facilitated and expedited by high-throughput screening, where assays need to be sensitive, robust, cost-effective and scalable. However, for bromodomains, which lack catalytic activity that otherwise can be monitored (using classical enzymology), the development of cell-based, drug-target engagement assays has been challenging. Consequently, cell biochemical assays have lagged behind compared to other protein families (e.g., histone deacetylases and methyltransferases). Results: Here, we present a suite of novel chromatin and histone-binding assays using AlphaLISA, in situ cell extraction and fluorescence-based, high-content imaging. First, using TRIM24 as an example, the homogenous, bead-based AlphaScreen technology was modified from a biochemical peptide-competition assay to measure binding of the TRIM24 bromodomain to endogenous histone H3 in cells (AlphaLISA). Second, a target agnostic, high-throughput imaging platform was developed to quantify the ability of chemical probes to dissociate endogenous proteins from chromatin/nuclear structures. While overall nuclear morphology is maintained, the procedure extracts soluble, non-chromatin-bound proteins from cells with drug-target displacement visualized by immunofluorescence (IF) or microscopy of fluorescent proteins. Pharmacological evaluation of these assays cross-validated their utility, sensitivity and robustness. Finally, using genetic and pharmacological approaches, we dissect domain contribution of TRIM24, BRD4, ATAD2 and SMARCA2 to chromatin binding illustrating the versatility/utility of the in situ cell extraction platform. Conclusions: In summary, we have developed two novel complementary and cell-based drug-target engagement assays, expanding the repertoire of pharmacodynamic assays for bromodomain tool compound development. These assays have been validated through a successful TRIM24 bromodomain inhibitor program, where a micromolar lead molecule (IACS-6558) was optimized using cell-based assays to yield the first single-digit nanomolar TRIM24 inhibitor (IACS-9571). Altogether, the assay platforms described herein are poised to accelerate the discovery and development of novel chemical probes to deliver on the promise of epigenetic-based therapies.
- Bromodomain inhibitor
- Bromodomain-histone-binding assays
- Chromatin drug-target displacement
- In situ cell extraction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology