Gastropod mollusks have been used for over 2500 years to produce the "Tyrian purple" dye made famous by the Phoenicians. This dye is constituted of mixed bromine-substituted indigo and indirubin isomers. Among these, the new natural product 6-bromoindirubin and its synthetic, cell-permeable derivative, 6-bromoindirubin-3′-oxime (BIO), display remarkable selective inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3). Cocrystal structure of GSK-3β/BIO and CDK5/p25/indirubin-3′-oxime were resolved, providing a detailed view of indirubins' interactions within the ATP binding pocket of these kinases. BIO but not 1-methyl-BIO, its kinase inactive analog, also inhibited the phosphorylation on Tyr276/216, a GSK-3α/β activation site. BIO but not 1-methyl-BIO reduced β-catenin phosphorylation on a GSK-3-specific site in cellular models. BIO but not 1-methyl-BIO closely mimicked Wnt signaling in Xenopus embryos. 6-bromoindirubins thus provide a new scaffold for the development of selective and potent pharmacological inhibitors of GSK-3.
Meijer, L., Skaltsounis, A. L., Magiatis, P., Polychronopoulos, P., Knockaert, M., Leost, M., … Greengard, P. (2003). GSK-3-Selective Inhibitors Derived from Tyrian Purple Indirubins. Chemistry and Biology, 10(12), 1255–1266. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chembiol.2003.11.010