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Keywords:

  • enzymes;
  • inhibitors;
  • protein structure;
  • quinones;
  • redox chemistry

Abstract

A role for the flavoprotein NRH:quinone oxidoreductase 2 (NQO2, QR2) in human diseases such as malaria, leukemia and neurodegeneration has been proposed. In order to explore the potential of NQO2 as a therapeutic target, we have developed potent and selective mechanism-based inhibitors centered on the indolequinone pharmacophore. The compounds show remarkable selectivity for NQO2 over the closely related flavoprotein NQO1, with small structural changes defining selectivity. Biochemical studies confirmed the mechanism-based inhibition, whereas X-ray crystallography and mass spectrometry revealed the nature of the inhibitor interaction with the protein. These indolequinones represent the first mechanism-based inhibitors of NQO2, and their novel mode of action involving alkylation of the flavin cofactor, provides significant advantages over existing competitive inhibitors in terms of potency and irreversibility, and will open new opportunities to define the role of NQO2 in disease.