Recent Advances in EPAC-Targeted Therapies: A Biophysical Perspective

Alveena Ahmed, Stephen Boulton, Hongzhao Shao, Madoka Akimoto, Amarnath Natarajan, Xiaodong Cheng, Giuseppe Melacini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The universal second messenger cAMP regulates diverse intracellular processes by interacting with ubiquitously expressed proteins, such as Protein Kinase A (PKA) and the Exchange Protein directly Activated by cAMP (EPAC). EPAC is implicated in multiple pathologies, thus several EPAC-specific inhibitors have been identified in recent years. However, the mechanisms and molecular interactions underlying the EPAC inhibition elicited by such compounds are still poorly understood. Additionally, being hydrophobic low molecular weight species, EPAC-specific inhibitors are prone to forming colloidal aggregates, which result in non-specific aggregation-based inhibition (ABI) in aqueous systems. Here, we review from a biophysical perspective the molecular basis of the specific and non-specific interactions of two EPAC antagonists-CE3F4R, a non-competitive inhibitor, and ESI-09, a competitive inhibitor of EPAC. Additionally, we discuss the value of common ABI attenuators (e.g., TX and HSA) to reduce false positives at the expense of introducing false negatives when screening aggregation-prone compounds. We hope this review provides the EPAC community effective criteria to evaluate similar compounds, aiding in the optimization of existing drug leads, and informing the development of the next generation of EPAC-specific inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 19 2019


  • EPAC
  • NMR
  • aggregation-based inhibition
  • allostery
  • cAMP
  • drug design
  • dynamics
  • protein-ligand binding
  • screening
  • signaling

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