Real-Time Biological Annotation of Synthetic Compounds

Kevin Booker-Milburn, Jonathan Knowles, Christopher Gerry, Bruce Hua, Mathias Wawer, Paul Clemens, Shawn Nelson, Oscar Verho, Sivaraman Dandapani, Bridget Wagner, Zarko Boskovic, Stuart Schreiber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
486 Downloads (Pure)


Organic chemists are able to synthesize molecules in greater number and chemical complexity than ever before. Yet, a majority of these compounds go untested in biological systems, and those that do are often tested long after the chemist can incorporate the results into synthetic planning. We propose the use of high-dimensional “multiplex” assays, which are capable of measuring thousands of cellular features in one experiment, to annotate rapidly and inexpensively the biological activities of newly synthesized compounds. This readily accessible and inexpensive “real-time” profiling method can be used in a prospective manner to facilitate, for example, the efficient construction of performance-diverse small-molecule libraries that are enriched in bioactives. Here, we demonstrate this concept by synthesizing ten triads of constitutionally isomeric compounds via complexity-generating photochemical and thermal rearrangements and measuring compound-induced changes in cellular morphology via an imaging-based “cell painting” assay. Our results indicate that real-time biological annotation can inform optimization efforts and library syntheses by illuminating trends relating to biological activity that would be difficult to predict if only chemical structure were considered. We anticipate that probe and drug discovery will benefit from the use of optimization efforts and libraries that implement this approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8920–8927
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number28
Early online date11 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2016


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