Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Keith C. Ellis


Cyclic-AMP dependent protein kinase (PKA) is a key intracellular signal transduction kinase that is modulated by Gs- and Gi-coupled GPCRs. Under normal physiological conditions, PKA exists as an inactive holoenzyme made up of two catalytic subunits and two regulatory subunits. Upon cAMP binding to the regulatory subunits, the catalytic subunits (PKACa) are released to perform various downstream phosphorylation events. However, aberrant PKA activation can cause various diseases including Cushing’s Syndrome, which is an endocrine disorder caused by the overproduction of cortisol by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal hormone system. This disorder can be caused by pituitary adenomas that release unregulated amounts of ACTH, adrenal adenomas that release unregulated amounts of cortisol without ACTH stimulation, and ectopic tumors outside the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis that produce ACTH. In recent genomic studies of patients with ACTH-independent Cushing’s Syndrome, the L205R-PKACamutant has been discovered. Through various studies on the mutant enzyme multiple research groups learned that the single point mutation causes a loss in sensitivity to cAMP signaling, a loss in binding to PKA regulatory subunits, and unregulated phosphorylation of PKACasubstrates, which ultimately leads to the increased cortisol biosynthesis in these patients.

The first part of this work describes the enzymology and inhibition studies of known inhibitors against both wt- and L205R-PKACa. Early in the enzymology studies we developed at medium throughput endpoint assay that used Rhodamine-kemptide as the substrate and as a chromophore separating substrate and phosphorylated product using a reverse-phase HPLC method. The analysis of the substrate peptide against both wild-type and mutant enzyme showed a 6-fold decrease in the KMand a 2-fold decrease in kcat, and a similar but lower order of magnitude effect was observed for the studies with ATP. The inhibition studies were performed using the substrate competitive inhibitor PKI(5-24), which showed a 253-fold higher potency towards the wild-type enzyme over the mutant while the ATP-competitive inhibitor was determined to be equipotent. Using this information we used modeling studies to aid in the development of mutant selective functional inhibitors for the substrate-binding pocket. Additionally, we begun to explore the use of Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras, or PROTACs, as another means for targeting the L205R mutant enzyme.


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