Proline-directed phosphorylation at serine or threonine residues (pSer/Thr-Pro) regulates numerous cellular processes, including the cell cycle, transcription, and differentiation. Deregulation of such signaling networks is a hallmark of transformation and oncogenesis. Pin1, a peptidyl-prolyl isomerase, regulates the function and stability of phosphoproteins by catalyzing the cis/trans isomerization of pSer/Thr-Pro motifs. Pin1 is frequently overexpressed in human cancers, including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), and Pin1 is required for activated Ras to induce tumorigenesis. While mutations in KRAS are observed in 90-95% of human PDAC cases, it has historically proven very challenging to develop small molecules that inhibit mutant Ras function. Consequently, drug discovery efforts have turned to targets required for Ras-mediated transformation, such as Pin1. However, existing Pin1 inhibitors lack the potency, selectivity, and/or cell permeability to serve as informative cellular probes. We report a highly potent, cell-permeable Pin1 inhibitor that covalently targets Cys113, a conserved cysteine residue in the Pin1 active site. Through iterative rounds of synthesis and characterization, we developed inhibitor 1b. With a Ki of 15 nM as measured in biochemical binding and isomerase inhibition assays, 1bis currently the most potent Pin1 inhibitor available. Furthermore, in a chemoproteomic study using Covalent Inhibitor Target Site Identification (CITe-Id) to quantify the dose-dependent covalent labeling of 1b to individual cysteines across the proteome, Pin1 Cys113 was the only identified target, highlighting the pronounced selectivity of 1b for Pin1. We show that treatment with 1b diminishes viability of human PDAC cell lines, which can be fully rescued in corresponding Pin1 knockout cells generated using CRISPR/Cas9, showing that this phenotype is on-target. In parallel to inhibitor development, we used CRISPR/Cas9 GFP-dropout screens to further validate the dependence of these cell lines on Pin1. Genetic disruption of Pin1 led to antiproliferative effects, confirming the results of 1b treatment. We also employed the degradation tag (dTAG) approach to assess the effects of rapid and selective targeted Pin1 degradation through generation of FKBP12F36V-Pin1, Pin1-/-human PDAC cell lines. Treatment with a small molecule FKBP12F36V-degrader led to rapid ubiquitination and degradation of FKBP12F36V-Pin1, enabling comparisons of targeted inhibition and Pin1 degradation. Through the development of a selective Pin1 inhibitor coupled with genetic approaches and the chemical-genetic dTAG strategy, we demonstrate that Pin1 inhibition represents a tractable strategy in PDAC.

Citation Format: Benika Pinch, Zainab Doctor, Christopher M. Browne, Hyuk-Soo Seo, Behnam Nabet, Shingo Kozono, Xiaolan Lian, Daniel Zaidman, Dina Daitchman, Nir London, Lu Gong, Theresa Manz, Yujin Chun, Li Tan, Jarrod Marto, Stephen Buratowski, Sirano Dhe-Paganon, Xiao Zhou, Kun Ping Lu, Nathanael S. Gray. Discovery and characterization of covalent Pin1 inhibitors targeted to an active site cysteine [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2019; 2019 Mar 29-Apr 3; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 2757.