• FAAH;
  • fluorine NMR screening;
  • fragment-based approach;
  • membrane proteins


Despite the recognized importance of membrane proteins as pharmaceutical targets, the reliable identification of fragment hits that are able to bind these proteins is still a major challenge. Among different 19F NMR spectroscopic methods, n-fluorine atoms for biochemical screening (n-FABS) is a highly sensitive technique that has been used efficiently for fragment screening, but its application for membrane enzymes has not been reported yet. Herein, we present the first successful application of n-FABS to the discovery of novel fragment hits, targeting the membrane-bound enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), using a library of fluorinated fragments generated based on the different local environment of fluorine concept. The use of the recombinant fusion protein MBP-FAAH and the design of compound 11 as a suitable novel fluorinated substrate analogue allowed n-FABS screening to be efficiently performed using a very small amount of enzyme. Notably, we have identified 19 novel fragment hits that inhibit FAAH with a median effective concentration (IC50) in the low mM–μM range. To the best of our knowledge, these results represent the first application of a 19F NMR fragment-based functional assay to a membrane protein.