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Aim: The p53 cancer mutation Y220C creates a conformationally unstable protein with a unique elongated surface crevice that can be targeted by molecular chaperones. We report the structure-guided optimization of the carbazole-based stabilizer PK083. Materials & methods: Biophysical, cellular and x-ray crystallographic techniques have been employed to elucidate the mode of action of the carbazole scaffolds. Results: Targeting an unoccupied subsite of the surface crevice with heterocycle-substituted PK083 analogs resulted in a 70-fold affinity increase to single-digit micromolar levels, increased thermal stability and decreased rate of aggregation of the mutant protein. PK9318, one of the most potent binders, restored p53 signaling in the liver cancer cell line HUH-7 with homozygous Y220C mutation. Conclusion: The p53-Y220C mutant is an excellent paradigm for the development of mutant p53 rescue drugs via protein stabilization. Similar rescue strategies may be applicable to other cavity-creating p53 cancer mutations.

Original publication




Journal article


Future Med Chem

Publication Date





2491 - 2504


CRISPR/Cas9 p53 knockout, cancer mutations, cancer therapy, molecular chaperones, p53, protein stabilization, structure-based drug design, tumor suppression, Carbazoles, Humans, Molecular Chaperones, Molecular Structure, Transcriptional Activation, Tumor Cells, Cultured, Tumor Suppressor Protein p53