Review Article | Published:

DNA-encoded chemistry: enabling the deeper sampling of chemical space

Nature Reviews Drug Discovery volume 16, pages 131147 (2017) | Download Citation

This article has been updated

Abstract

DNA-encoded chemical library technologies are increasingly being adopted in drug discovery for hit and lead generation. DNA-encoded chemistry enables the exploration of chemical spaces four to five orders of magnitude more deeply than is achievable by traditional high-throughput screening methods. Operation of this technology requires developing a range of capabilities including aqueous synthetic chemistry, building block acquisition, oligonucleotide conjugation, large-scale molecular biological transformations, selection methodologies, PCR, sequencing, sequence data analysis and the analysis of large chemistry spaces. This Review provides an overview of the development and applications of DNA-encoded chemistry, highlighting the challenges and future directions for the use of this technology.

Key points

  • DNA-encoded chemical library technologies are increasingly being adopted in drug discovery for hit and lead generation. DNA-encoded chemistry enables the exploration of chemical spaces four to five orders of magnitude more deeply than is achievable by traditional high-throughput screening methods.

  • DNA-encoded chemical library technology involves the creation of large mixtures of small molecules that are encoded with sequences or single-stranded or double-stranded DNA. High-affinity hits from such mixtures are identifiable by sequencing the DNA tags associated with each compound.

  • DNA-encoded library technology began with a publication by Brenner and Lerner in 1992. The technology has subsequently evolved to be practised by several large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

  • DNA-directed synthesis is a related approach. In this method, the specificity of DNA base pairing serves for both encoding and synthesis.

  • DNA-encoded library synthesis as it is currently practised is based on reactions that are tolerant to water.

  • The creation of hundreds of millions of DNA-encoded library compounds is less expensive and more feasible than assembling a library of single compounds on milligram scale.

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Change history

  • 30 January 2017

    The details of reference 119 were incorrect and there were also some minor typographical errors. These errors have been corrected in the online version of the article.

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Author information

Author notes

    • Robert A. Goodnow Jr

    Present address: Pharmaron, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts 02451, USA.

Affiliations

  1. Discovery Sciences, Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit, AstraZeneca, Waltham, Massachusetts 02451, USA.

    • Robert A. Goodnow Jr
  2. Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Novartis Pharma AG, Basel 4033, Switzerland.

    • Christoph E. Dumelin
  3. X-Chem, Waltham, Massachusetts 02453, USA.

    • Anthony D. Keefe

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  1. Search for Robert A. Goodnow in:

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Competing interests

At the time of writing this manuscript R.A.G. was an Executive Director at AstraZeneca. C.E.D. is an investigator at Novartis Pharma, and A.D.K. is a Director at X-Chem.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert A. Goodnow Jr.

Glossary

Lead

A hit compound that has been characterized in terms of its drug-like properties and is likely to be a therapeutically useful starting point for improvements in potency, selectivity and pharmacokinetic profile.

High-throughput screening

(HTS). An assay of many compounds in parallel, often by automated means.

Hits

Compounds identified in a primary screen that upon off-DNA resynthesis show reproducible biochemical activity, which is confirmed in an orthogonal assay.

Split-and-pool synthesis

A combinatorial chemistry practice for creating large numbers of compounds. After the separate reaction of a first set of reagents with a common chemical transformation, the products are pooled together, resulting in a mixture of the products. This mixture is then re-arrayed for another round of separate synthesis, followed by pooling, resulting in the combination of all possible products of the two sets of building blocks.

DNA-encoded chemistry

(DEC). Encoded chemistry with encoded information stored in DNA sequences.

DNA-encoded library

(DEL). A collection of variants with distinguishing characteristics encoded in DNA.

Affinity-mediated selection

Enrichment for binding to a target, usually via target immobilization.

PCR amplification

The use of a template-dependent thermostable polymerase enzyme to amplify DNA through recursive cycles of primer binding, primer extension and thermal denaturation.

Off-DNA resynthesis

The resynthesis of compounds identified in a primary screen for the purposes of assessing their biochemical or biophysical activity in the absence of DNA.

DNA encoding

The establishment of a defined relationship between DNA sequence and chemical history.

Building blocks

Chemical reagents containing at least one reactive handle.

DNA tags

Specific sequences of DNA used to encode a specified chemical step.

Encoded self-assembled chemistry

Molecular fragments that are held in co-proximity via the hybridization of complementary DNA.

DEAE sepharose

Sepharose beads covalently linked to diethylaminoethyl groups for the reversible capture of DNA.

Disynthon

A compound library member resulting from the combination of two types of building block.

Rule of 5

A compound is deemed compliant to the Lipinski 'rule of 5' if its molecular weight is not greater than 500 Da, if its logP is not greater than 5 and if its counts of hydrogen bond donors and acceptors are not greater than 5 and 10, respectively

Fragment-based lead discovery

Discovery of near leads through the assembly of small fragments that bind in a highly efficient manner.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nrd.2016.213

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