Novel inhibitors of eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase: In silico, synthesis and in vitro studies

Ferah Comert Onder, Serdar Durdagi, Nermin Kahraman, Tugce Nur Uslu, Hakan Kandemir, Esen Bellur Atici, Bulent Ozpolat, Mehmet Ay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF2K) is an unusual alpha kinase whose expression is highly upregulated in various cancers and contributes to tumor growth, metastasis, and progression. More importantly, eEF2K expression is associated with poor clinical outcome and shorter patient survival in breast, lung and ovarian cancers. Therefore, eEF2K is an emerging molecular target for development of novel targeted therapeutics and precision medicine in solid cancers. Currently, there are not any available potent and specific eEF2K inhibitors for clinical translation. In this study, we designed and synthesized a series of novel compounds with coumarin scaffold with various substitutions and investigated their effects in inhibiting eEF2K activity using in silico approaches and in vitro studies in breast cancer cells. We utilized an amide substitution at position 3 on the coumarin ring with their pharmacologically active groups containing pyrrolidine, piperidine, morpholine and piperazine groups with [sbnd](CH2)2[sbnd] bridged for aliphatic amides. Due to their ability to form covalent binding to the target enzyme, we also investigated the effects of boron containing groups on functionalized coumarin ring (3 compounds) and designed novel aliphatic and aromatic derivatives of coumarin scaffolds (10 compounds) and phenyl ring with boron groups (4 compounds). The Glide/SP module of the Maestro molecular modeling package was used to perform in silico analysis and molecular docking studies. According to our combined results, structure activity relationship (SAR) was performed in detail. Among the newly designed, synthesized, and tested compounds, our in vitro findings revealed that several compounds displayed a highly effective eEF2K inhibition at submicromolar concentrations in in vitro breast cancer cells. In conclusion, we identified novel compounds that can be used as eEF2K inhibitors and that they should be further evaluated by in vivo preclinical tumor models studies for antitumor efficacy and clinical translation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105296
JournalBioorganic Chemistry
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • 2H-chromene
  • Breast cancer
  • Coumarin carboxamide
  • Coumarin, benzopyran
  • eEF2K
  • Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase
  • Molecular modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry


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