High-resolution crystal structure of human asparagine synthetase enables analysis of inhibitor binding and selectivity

Wen Zhu, Ashish Radadiya, Claudine Bisson, Sabine Wenzel, Brian E. Nordin, Francisco Martínez-Márquez, Tsuyoshi Imasaki, Svetlana E. Sedelnikova, Adriana Coricello, Patrick Baumann, Alexandria H. Berry, Tyzoon K. Nomanbhoy, John W. Kozarich, Yi Jin, David W. Rice, Yuichiro Takagi, Nigel G. J. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Expression of human asparagine synthetase (ASNS) promotes metastatic progression and tumor cell invasiveness in colorectal and breast cancer, presumably by altering cellular levels of L-asparagine. Human ASNS is therefore emerging as a bona fide drug target for cancer therapy. Here we show that a slow-onset, tight binding inhibitor, which exhibits nanomolar affinity for human ASNS in vitro, exhibits excellent selectivity at 10 μM concentration in HCT-116 cell lysates with almost no off-target binding. The high-resolution (1.85 Å) crystal structure of human ASNS has enabled us to identify a cluster of negatively charged side chains in the synthetase domain that plays a key role in inhibitor binding. Comparing this structure with those of evolutionarily related AMP-forming enzymes provides insights into intermolecular interactions that give rise to the observed binding selectivity. Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of developing second generation human ASNS inhibitors as lead compounds for the discovery of drugs against metastasis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number345 (2019)
Number of pages14
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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