Inhibiting receptor tyrosine kinases is commonly achieved by two main strategies targeting either the intracellular kinase domain by low molecular weight compounds or the extracellular ligand-binding domain by monoclonal antibodies. Identifying small molecules able to inhibit RTKs at the extracellular level would be highly desirable to gain exquisite selectivity but is believed to be challenging owing to the size of RTK endogenous ligands (cytokines, growth factors) and the topology of RTK extracellular domains. We here report the high-throughput screening of the French Chemical Library (48K compounds) for extracellular inhibitors of the Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) receptor tyrosine kinase, by a homogeneous time-resolved fluorescence competition assay. A total of 679 small molecular weight ligands (1.4%) were confirmed to strongly inhibit (>75%) the binding of the fluorescent labeled FLT3 ligand (FL cytokine) to FLT3 overexpressed in HEK-293 cells, at two different concentrations (5 and 20 μM). Concentration–response curves, obtained for 111 lead-like molecules, confirmed the unexpected tolerance of the FLT3 extracellular domain for low molecular weight druggable inhibitors exhibiting submicromolar potencies, chemical diversity, and promising pharmacokinetic properties. Further investigation of one hit confirmed inhibitory properties in dorsal root ganglia neurons and in a mouse model of neuropathic pain.
By Romain Hany, Jean-Philippe Leyris, Guillaume Bret, Sylvie Mallié, Chamroeun Sar, Maxime Thouaye, Abdallah Hamze, Olivier Provot, Pierre Sokoloff, Jean Valmier, Pascal Villa & Didier Rognan