Molecules 26 (5) 1467 [2021-03-08; online 2021-03-08]
Evasion from programmed cell death (apoptosis) is the main hallmark of cancer and a major cause of resistance to therapy. Many tumors simply ensure survival by over-expressing the cell-protecting (anti-apoptotic) Bcl-2 membrane protein involved in apoptotic regulation. However, the molecular mechanism by which Bcl-2 protein in its mitochondrial outer membrane location protects cells remains elusive due to the absence of structural insight; and current strategies to therapeutically interfere with these Bcl-2 sensitive cancers are limited. Here, we present an NMR-based approach to enable structural insight into Bcl-2 function; an approach also ideal as a fragment-based drug discovery platform for further identification and development of promising molecular Bcl-2 inhibitors. By using solution NMR spectroscopy on fully functional intact human Bcl-2 protein in a membrane-mimicking micellar environment, and constructs with specific functions remaining, we present a strategy for structure determination and specific drug screening of functional subunits of the Bcl-2 protein as targets. Using 19F NMR and a specific fragment library (Bionet) with fluorinated compounds we can successfully identify various binders and validate our strategy in the hunt for novel Bcl-2 selective cancer drug strategies to treat currently incurable Bcl-2 sensitive tumors.