PDK1 and PKB/Akt: Ideal targets for development of new strategies to structure-based drug design

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34 Scopus citations


Growth factor binding events to receptor tyrosine kinases result in activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), and activated PI3K generates the membrane-bound second messengers phosphatidylinositol 3,4-diphosphate [PI(3,4)P2] and PI(3,4,5)P3, which mediate membrane translocation of the phosphoinositidedependent kinase-1 (PDK1) and protein kinase B (PKB, also known as Akt). In addition to the kinase domain, PDK1 and PKB contain a pleckstrin homology (PH) domain that binds to the second messenger, resulting in the phosphorylation and activation of PKB by PDK1. Recent evidence indicates that constitutive activation of PKB contributes to cancer progression by promoting proliferation and increased cell survival. The indicating of PDK1 and PKB as primary targets for discovery of anticancer drugs, together with the observations that both PDK1 and PKB contain small-molecule regulatory binding sites that may be in proximity to the kinase active site, make PDK1 and PKB ideal targets for the development of new strategies to structure-based drug design. While X-ray structures have been reported for the kinase domains of PDK1 and PKB, no suitable crystals have been obtained for either PDK1 or PKB with their PH domains intact. In this regard, a novel structure-based strategy is proposed, which utilizes segmental isotopic labeling of the PH domain in combination with site-directed spin labeling of the kinase active site. Then, long-range distance restraints between the 15N-labeled backbone amide groups of the PH domain and the unpaired electron of the active site spin label can be determined from magnetic resonance studies of the enhancement effect that the paramagnetic spin label has on the nuclear relaxation rates of the amide protons. The determination of the structure and position of the PH domain with respect to the known X-ray structure of the kinase active site could be useful in the rational design of potent and selective inhibitors of PDK1 and PKB by 'linking' the free energies of binding of substrate (ATP) analogs with analogs of the inositol polar head group of the phospholipid second messenger. The combined use of X-ray crystallography, segmental isotopic and spin labeling, and magnetic resonance studies can be further extended to the study of other dynamic multidomain proteins and targets for structure-based drug design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalIUBMB life
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003


  • Apoptosis
  • Cancer
  • NMR
  • Paramagnetic relaxation
  • Segmental isotopic labeling
  • Signal transduction
  • Spin label

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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