Fragment-Based Discovery of Nonpeptidic BACE-1 Inhibitors Using Tethering

BACE-1 (β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme), a prominent target in Alzheimer’s disease drug discovery efforts, was surveyed using Tethering technology to discover small molecule fragment ligands that bind to the enzyme active site. Screens of a library of >15000 thiol-containing fragments versus a panel of BACE-1 active site cysteine mutants under redox-controlled conditions revealed several novel amine-containing fragments that could be selectively captured by subsets of the tethering sites. For one such hit class, defined by a central aminobenzylpiperidine (ABP) moiety, X-ray crystal structures of BACE mutant−disulfide conjugates revealed that the fragment bound by engaging both catalytic aspartates with hydrogen bonds. The affinities of ABP fragments were improved by structure-guided chemistry, first for conjugation as thiol-containing fragments and then for stand-alone, noncovalent inhibition of wild-type (WT) BACE-1 activity. Crystallography confirmed that the inhibitors bound in exactly the same mode as the disulfide-conjugated fragments that were originally selected from the screen. The ABP ligands represent a new type of nonpeptidic BACE-1 inhibitor motif that has not been described in the aspartyl protease literature and may serve as a starting point for the development of BACE-1-directed Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics.