Celastrol Analogues as Inducers of the Heat Shock Response. Design and Synthesis of Affinity Probes for the Identification of Protein Targets

The natural product celastrol (<b>1</b>) possesses numerous beneficial therapeutic properties and affects numerous cellular pathways. The mechanism of action and cellular target(s) of celastrol, however, remain unresolved. While a number of studies have proposed that the activity of celastrol is mediated through reaction with cysteine residues, these observations have been based on studies with specific proteins or by <i>in vitro</i> analysis of a small fraction of the proteome. In this study, we have investigated the spatial and structural requirements of celastrol for the design of suitable affinity probes to identify cellular binding partners of celastrol. Although celastrol has several potential sites for modification, some of these were not synthetically amenable or yielded unstable analogues. Conversion of the carboxylic acid functionality to amides and long-chain analogues, however, yielded bioactive compounds that induced the heat shock response (HSR) and antioxidant response and inhibited Hsp90 activity. This led to the synthesis of biotinylated celastrols (<b>23</b> and <b>24</b>) that were used as affinity reagents in extracts of human Panc-1 cells to identify Annexin II, eEF1A, and β-tubulin as potential targets of celastrol.