Design of inhibitors of Ras-Raf interaction using a computational combinatorial algorithm

Jun Zeng, Thao Nheu, Anna Zorzet, Bruno Catimel, Ed Nice, Hiroshi Maruta, Antony W. Burgess, Herbert R. Treutlein

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Drugs that inhibit important protein-protein interactions are hard to find either by screening or rational design, at least so far. Most drugs on the market that target proteins today are therefore aimed at well-defined binding pockets in proteins. While computer-aided design is widely used to facilitate the drug discovery process for binding pockets, its application to the design of inhibitors that target the protein surface initially seems to be limited because of the increased complexity of the task. Previously, we had started to develop a computational combinatorial design approach based on the well-known 'multiple copy simultaneous search' (MCSS) procedure to tackle this problem. In order to identify sequence patterns of potential inhibitor peptides, a three-step procedure is employed: first, using MCSS, the locations of specific functional groups on the protein surface are identified; second, after constructing the peptide main chain based on the location of favorite locations of N-methylacetamide groups, functional groups corresponding to amino acid side chains are selected and connected to the main chain Cα atoms; finally, the peptides generated in the second step are aligned and probabilities of amino acids at each position are calculated from the alignment scheme. Sequence patterns of potential inhibitors are determined based on the propensities of amino acids at each Cα position. Here we report the optimization of inhibitor peptides using the sequence patterns determined by our method. Several short peptides derived from our prediction inhibit the Ras-Raf association in vitro in ELISA competition assays, radioassays and biosensor-based assays, demonstrating the feasibility of our approach. Consequently, our method provides an important step towards the development of novel anti-Ras agents and the structure-based design of inhibitors of protein-protein interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalProtein Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Computational combinatorial chemistry
  • Inhibitor design
  • Ras protein

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