Targeting AMACR to treat castrate-resistant prostate cancer

  • Guat Ling Lee

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Levels of the enzyme α-methylacyl-CoA racemase (AMACR) are increased ca. 9-fold in prostate cancer cells. AMACR is a very promising novel drug target as reducing AMACR levels converts castrate-resistant prostate cancer cells to androgen-dependent cells which will respond to androgen-deprivation. Despite the importance of AMACR in prostate and other cancers, there are very limited numbers of AMACR inhibitors described to-date. This is mainly due to the absence of a high-throughput assay for the screening of inhibitors against AMACR. The active-site residues and catalytic mechanism of human AMACR are still unknown, which make the rational design of drugs targeting AMACR very difficult. A range of novel potential inhibitors were synthesised using a rational drug design approach to explore the structure-activity relationship (SAR) on the side-chains of AMACR inhibitors. Their potencies were assessed using the fluoride elimination assay based on 1H and 19F NMR. Potency, mode of binding and kinetic parameters of these inhibitors were assessed using the multi-well colorimetric assay, which is the first AMACR high-throughput continuous assay reported to-date. A site-directed mutagenesis study was carried out to identify the active-site residues and catalytic mechanism of human AMACR. His-122, Asp-152, Met-184 and Glu-237 were identified as potential active-site residues, so the cDNA was mutated and expressed. The activity of wild-type and mutant AMACR enzymes were assessed using the deuterium wash-in, fluoride elimination and multi-well colorimetric assays. Results from these assays showed that human AMACR does not operate using a ‘two-base’ mechanism. Instead, it operates using a ‘one-base’ mechanism, most likely via water molecules acting as intermediaries within the hydrogen-bondings network in the active site. The knowledge obtained from this research informs rational drug design for this castrate-resistant prostate cancer target.
Date of Award26 May 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMatthew Lloyd (Supervisor) & Tim Woodman (Supervisor)


  • castrate-resistant prostate cancer
  • site-directed mutagenesis
  • AMACR inhibitors

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