Real-Time NMR-Based Drug Discovery to Identify Inhibitors against Fatty Acid Synthesis in Living Cancer Cells

01 November 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The aberrant metabolism of fatty acids is recognized as a key driver in the development and progression of tumors. Although numerous inhibitors have been developed to target this pathway, finding drugs with high specificity that do not disrupt normal cellular metabolism remains a formidable challenge. In this manuscript, we introduced a novel real-time NMR-based drug screening technique that operates within living cells. This technique provides a direct way to putatively identify molecular targets involved in specific metabolic processes, making it a powerful tool for cell-based drug screening. Using 2-13C acetate as a tracer, combined with 3D cell clusters and a bioreactor system, our approach enables real-time detection of inhibitors that target fatty acids metabolism within living cells. As a result, we successfully demonstrate the initial application of this method in discovering traditional Chinese medicines that specifically target fatty acid metabolism. Elucidating the mechanisms behind herbal medicines remains challenging due to the complex nature of their compounds and the presence of multiple targets. Remarkably, our findings demonstrate the significant inhibitory effect of Poria cocos on fatty acid synthesis within cells, thereby illustrating the potential of this approach in analyzing fatty acid metabolism events and identifying candidate drugs that selectively inhibit fatty acid synthesis at the cellular level. Moreover, this systematic approach represents a valuable strategy for discovering the intricate effects of herbal medicine.


real-time NMR
Drug discovery
traditional Chinese medicine

Supplementary materials

Supporting information
Identification of metabolites from 2D 1H-13C HSQC spectra


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