Structure Activity Relationship Studies on Isoform Selective Sphingosine Kinase Inhibitors

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Virginia Tech


A variety of diseases including Alzheimer's disease, asthma, cancer, fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, and sickle cell disease have been associated with elevated levels of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P). S1P, a pleiotropic lipid mediator involved in a broad range of cellular processes, is synthesized solely by the phosphorylation of sphingosine (Sph) and is catalyzed by the two isoforms of sphingosine kinase (SphK1 and SphK2). Therefore, SphKs are a potential therapeutic target; however, the physiological role of SphK2 is still emerging. In order to determine the role of SphK2 in vivo, more potent and selective small molecule inhibitors of SphK2, as well as dual inhibitors are necessary. Herein, explorations and advancements on the second generation SphK2 selective inhibitor SLR080811 are disclosed.

Investigations into the lipophilic tail region of the hSphK2 inhibitor SLR080811 are detailed. This investigation highlights the dependency of SphK2 selectivity and potency on overall compound length. More importantly, this study identified the internal aryl ring of SLR080811 as a key pharmacophore of the scaffold.

To further probe the significance of the aromatic region, the phenyl ring was replaced by a 2,6-naphthyl ether skeleton. Investigations into the tail region of this scaffold are described in detail. Key discoveries from this structure-activity relationship study include SLC5111312 (hSphK2 Ki = 0.90 μM, dual hSphK inhibitor), SLC5091592 (hSphK2 Ki = 1.02 μM, > 20-fold hSphK2 selective) and SLC5121591 (hSphK2 Ki = 0.61 μM, >16-fold hSphK2 selective). Molecular modeling studies with hSphK2 indicate that the extended aromatic group is able to participate in π-π stacking interactions with Phe548. In silico docking studies indicate that a guanidine hydrogen bond to Asp211 is key for SphK2 selectivity, and incorporation of a 3'-hydroxyl group on the pyrrolidine ring increases hydrogen bonding to Asp308, thereby increasing SphK1 potency and reducing selectivity. Additionally, biological studies employing SLC5111312 have helped to further elucidate the role of SphK2, suggesting that SphK2 has a catalytic role in the regulation of blood S1P levels.

The shape of the hSphK2 binding pocket was probed by introducing an indole moiety in place of the naphthyl ring and varying its substitution pattern. One key discovery from this study is SLC5101465 (hSphK2 Ki = 0.09 μM, > 111 fold SphK2 selective), which has a 1,5-indole substitution pattern with an N-nonyl "tail". Molecular docking simulations highlight the importance of rotatable bonds and a relatively linear orientation between the "head group" and "tail group" to maintain essential hydrogen bond interactions to Asp residues with the guanidine moiety while minimizing steric interactions in the middle of the binding pocket.

Expanding upon the 1,5-indole scaffold of SLC5101465, a series of aryl tail derivatives are examined. This study confirms the necessity of electron withdrawing groups located at the end of the inhibitor scaffold to optimize binding in the tail region of the SphK2 binding pocket.



sphingosine, sphingosine kinase, sphingosine-1-phosphate, structure-activity relationship, molecular docking