Small-molecule covalent bond formation at tyrosine creates a binding site and inhibits activation of Ral GTPases

Khuchtumur Bum-Erdene, Degang Liu, Giovanni Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Mona K. Ghozayel, David Xu, Samy O. Meroueh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Ral (Ras-like) GTPases are directly activated by oncogenic Ras GTPases. Mutant K-Ras (G12C) has enabled the development of covalent K-Ras inhibitors currently in clinical trials. However, Ral, and the overwhelming majority of mutant oncogenic K-Ras, are devoid of a druggable pocket and lack an accessible cysteine for the development of a covalent inhibitor. Here, we report that covalent bond formation by an aryl sulfonyl fluoride electrophile at a tyrosine residue (Tyr-82) inhibits guanine exchange factor Rgl2-mediated nucleotide exchange of Ral GTPase. A high-resolution 1.18-Å X-ray cocrystal structure shows that the compound binds to a well-defined binding site in RalA as a result of a switch II loop conformational change. The structure, along with additional highresolution crystal structures of several analogs in complex with RalA, confirm the importance of key hydrogen bond anchors between compound sulfone oxygen atoms and Ral backbone nitrogen atoms. Our discovery of a pocket with features found on known druggable sites and covalent modification of a bystander tyrosine residue present in Ral and Ras GTPases provide a strategy that could lead to therapeutic agent targeting oncogenic Ras mutants that are devoid of a cysteine nucleophile.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7131-7139
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 31 2020


  • Covalent inhibitors
  • Ral
  • Ras
  • Tyrosine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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