A non-peptide mimetic of Ras-CAAX: Selective inhibition of farnesyltransferase and Ras processing

Andreas Vogt, Yimin Qian, Michelle A. Blaskovich, Renae D. Fossum, Andrew D. Hamilton, Said M. Sebti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cysteine farnesylation of the carboxyl-terminal tetrapeptide CAAX (C = Cys, A = Leu, Ile, or Val, X = Met or Ser) of the oncogene product Ras is required for its malignant transformation activity. As a consequence farnesyltransferase (FTase), the enzyme responsible for this lipid modification, has become one of the most sought-after targets for anticancer drug development. We have recently designed peptide mimics of the COOH- terminal Cys-Val-Ile-Met of K(B)-Ras where the dipeptide Val-Ile was replaced by aminobenzoic acid derivatives. Although these peptidomimetics are potent inhibitors of FTase in vitro, they retain several undesirable peptide features that hamper their use in vivo. We report here the design, synthesis, and biological activity of the first non-peptide mimetics of CAAX where the tripeptide AAX was replaced by biphenyl derivatives. (R)-4-[N-(3-mercapto-2- aminopropyl)]amino-3'-carboxybiphenyl, where the cysteine is linked to the biphenyl derivative through a secondary amine, contains no amino acids, lacks peptidic features, and has no hydrolyzable bonds. This peptidomimetic is a potent inhibitor of FTase in vitro (IC50 = 50-150 nM) and disrupts Ras processing in whole cells. Furthermore, this non-peptide mimetic of CAAX is highly selective for FTase (666-fold) relative to the closely related geranylgeranyl-transferase I. This selectivity is also respected in vivo since the processing of Ras but not the geranylgeranylated Rap1A was disrupted in whole cells. Structure activity relationship studies revealed that FTase recognition and inhibitory potency of CAAX peptidomimetics require free thiol and carboxylate groups separated by a hydrophobic moiety, and that precise positioning of these functional groups must correspond to that of the parent CAAX. The true CAAX peptidomimetic described in this manuscript has several desirable features for further development as a potential anticancer agent. It is not metabolically inactivated by FTase, does not require a pro- drug strategy for inhibition in vivo, and is selective for farnesylation relative to geranylgeranylation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)660-664
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 13 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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