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Transglutaminase 2 as potential target for functional tumour imaging – development of assay methods and inhibitors for this enzyme

Wodtke, R.


Transglutaminase 2 (TGase 2) is a unique multifunctional enzyme whose best-characterised function is the crosslinking of proteins, which has implications not only in physiological but also in a variety of pathological conditions including fibrotic and neoplastic processes. In this context, it becomes more and more apparent that TGase 2 is a key player for the progression of several kinds of cancer and elevated levels of TGase 2 expression are directly correlated with poor prognostic indicators for survival, e.g. metastatic phenotype and drug resistance of the cancer cells. Consequently, this enzyme is considered as a promising target for the diagnosis and therapy of these diseases. According to the motivation to develop radiotracers for TGase 2 imaging by positron emission tomography (PET), which will provide insight into the importance of the crosslinking function as well as the targeting of that enzyme in vivo, the PhD project was focused on two different goals.
Within the first part, a reliable fluorimetric assay method was established as prerequisite for the identification and characterisation of TGase 2-reactive molecules. The assay is based on the measurement of an increase in fluorescence due to the release of a coumarine derivative upon TGase 2-catalysed hydrolysis or aminolysis of the fluorogenic acyl donor. However, the fluorogenic acyl donors known from the literature are characterised by a low solubility in water, which limits their applicability (1). Therefore, a series of water-soluble small peptidic acyl donors were synthesised and kinetically characterised towards TGase 2. Finally, Z-Glu(HMC)-Gly-OH turned out to have the most favourable substrate properties (2). Additionally, this compound is also a suitable substrate for other TGases, which facilitates selectivity studies.
The second part was focused on irreversible inhibitors for TGase 2 as appropriate starting point for the development of radiotracers. Based on the Nε-acryloyllysine piperazides chemotype of TGase 2 inhibitors, a library of >50 inhibitors were synthesised and their inhibitory capacity towards TGase 2 and other TGases were determined on the basis of their inactivation constants kinact/KI. Structural modifications were focused on the introduction of fluorine but also other chemical groups were considered. Kinetic investigations have uncovered important structure-activity relationships, which in combination with in silico molecular docking shed light on the binding mode for this class of inhibitors. Evaluation of selected compounds at other TGases highlighted a favourable selectivity profile towards TGase 2. Regarding an initial pharmacokinetic profiling, the potential membrane permeability of the inhibitors were determined using the PAMPA method. Considering the determined inhibitory potencies in combination with these pharmacokinetic in vitro data will provide valuable hints for the development of radiotracers for TGase 2 imaging.

(1) Gillet, S. M.; Pelletier, J. N.; Keillor, J. W. Anal. Biochem. 2005, 347, 221.
(2) Wodtke et al. ChemBioChem 2016, 17, 1263.

  • Invited lecture (Conferences)
    Frontiers in Medicinal Chemistry, Verleihung Promotionspreis der GDCh-Fachgruppe Medizinische Chemie, 11.-14.03.2018, Jena, Deutschland


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