Recent progress in covalent warheads for in vivo targeting of endogenous proteins

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Covalent drugs exert potent and durable activity by chemical modification of the endogenous target protein in vivo. To maximize the pharmacological efficacy while alleviating the risk of toxicity due to nonspecific off-target reactions, current covalent drug discovery focuses on the development of targeted covalent inhibitors (TCIs), wherein a reactive group (warhead) is strategically incorporated onto a reversible ligand of the target protein to facilitate specific covalent engagement. Various aspects of warheads, such as intrinsic reactivity, chemoselectivity, mode of reaction, and reversibility of the covalent engagement, would affect the target selectivity of TCIs. Although TCIs clinically approved to date largely rely on Michael acceptor-type electrophiles for cysteine targeting, a wide array of novel warheads have been devised and tested in TCI development in recent years. In this short review, we provide an overview of recent progress in chemistry for selective covalent targeting of proteins and their applications in TCI designs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116386
JournalBioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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