The C-H — O hydrogen bond is so well established in structural biology today, that it’s been overlooked that the C-H — O hydrogen bond was first proposed by a woman, June Sutor, in a 1960’s Nature article. Hydrogen bonds were then assumed to be linear (A-H···A’ between 150-180º), and the C-H — O hydrogen bonds proposed by Sutor are frequently nonlinear (C-H···A’ between 102-142º). As Desiraju recounts in a 1996 article on the topic, “her suggestion was drowned in skepticism, if not outright hostility.” It took two decades for the concept to be finally revisited by Robin Taylor and Olga Kennard. This week, outstanding scientists Naomi Rajapaksa and Callie Bryan from Genentech describe their team’s work on IRAK4 inhibitors which bind via a C-H — O interaction (Figure 1) in a special ‘Women in Medicinal Chemistry’ issue of ACS Med. Chem. Lett.
IRAK4 is a kinase that plays an important in multiple proinflammatory signaling pathways, and hence is a target for inflammatory diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The IRAK4 team explain that while they were able to obtain potent, orally bioavailable IRAK4 inhibitors such as dihydrobenzofuran 4, this older generation of compounds were moderately and variably potent in a human whole blood (HWB) assay for IL-6 and IFNα suppression (IC50s ~400 nM ± ~200 nM). The team hypothesized that the whole blood assay issue might be specific to the dihydrobenzofuran scaffold, and thus examined targeting alternate scaffolds. This exploration of dihydrobenzofuran alternatives led to the more efficient benzolactam scaffold present in 19. Gratifyingly, not only did compound 19 have greater activity and less variability than original compound 4 in the human whole blood assay, it also showed significant activity with low variability in vivo. See the article for more about this nice solution to an unexpected biological observation.
For more on recent advances in targeting kinases for the treatment of immunological disorders, see this very helpful review article also by the authors here.
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 Her commentary was well ahead of its time, considering the limited crystallographic data in the early 60’s (the structure of insulin wasn’t solved until 1969 by Dorothy Hodgkin). Adams MJ, Blundell TL, Dodson EJ, Dodson GG, Vijayan M, Baker EN, Harding MM, Hodgkin D, Rimmer B, Sheat S. 1969. “Structure of rhombohedral 2-zinc insulin crystals.” Nature, 224, 3491-495. https://www.nature.com/articles/224491a0
 Desiraju, G. R. “The C-H···O Hydrogen Bond: Structural Implications and Supramolecular Design.” Acc. Chem. Res. 1996, 9, 441-449. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ar950135n
 Taylor, R. Kennard, O. “Crystallographic Evidence for the Existence of C-H···O, C-H···N, and C-H···Cl Hydrogen Bonds.” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1982, 104, 5063-5070. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja00383a012
 Rajapaksa, N. et al. “Discovery of Potent Benzolactam IRAK4 Inhibitors with Robust in Vivo Activity.” ACS Med. Chem. Lett. 2019, doi: 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.9b00380 https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acsmedchemlett.9b00380
 Bryan, M. C. et al. “Development of Potent and Selective Pyrazolopyrimidine IRAK4 Inhibitors.” J. Med. Chem. 2019, 62, 6223-6240. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jmedchem.9b00439
 Bryan, M. C. and Rajapaksa, N. S. “Kinase Inhibitors for the Treatment of Immunological Disorders: Recent Advances.” J. Med. Chem. 2018, 61, 9030-0958. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jmedchem.8b00667