The NIH Chemical Genomics Center, which is based in NHGRI's Division of Intramural Research, is part of an NIH-supported nationwide research consortium of 10 groups, called the Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network. The network has established a collection of 100,000 chemicals from a class of compounds known as small molecules. Such chemicals can serve as valuable probes in molecular, cellular and whole organism studies of biological functions. Furthermore, most medications used today are small molecules, and this class of chemicals is likely to offer attractive targets for future drug development.
Christopher P. Austin, M.D., the center's director and senior author of the study, explained what motivated his team to develop the new approach. "Traditional high-throughput screening frequently produces false positives and false negatives, and requires extensive follow-up testing. Furthermore, traditional methods often fail to detect compounds that exhibit partial activity or low efficacy, even though such compounds may represent important modulators of biological activity," Dr. Austin said. "To achieve our aim of speeding the discovery of biological probes and drug targets, we needed a method that offered far greater precision coupled with the capacity to identify chemicals with a wide spectrum of biological activities."
In their study published in PNAS, researchers from the NIH Chemical Genomics Center used quantitative high-throughput screening to test the activity of varying concentrations of more than 60,000 chemical compounds against pyruvate kinase, a well-characterized enzyme involved in energy metabolism that is deficient in a form of anemia and also implicated in cancer. The compounds were classified as either activators or inhibitors of the enzyme, with the degree of
Contact: Geoff Spencer
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute