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Chemical probes are small molecules with potency and selectivity for a single or small number of protein targets. A good chemical probe engages its target intracellularly and is accompanied by a chemically similar, but inactive molecule to be used as a negative control in cellular phenotypic screening. The utility of these chemical probes is ultimately governed by how well they are developed and characterized. Chemical probes either as single entities, or in chemical probes sets are being increasingly used to interrogate the biological relevance of a target in a disease model. This chapter lays out the core properties of chemical probes, summarizes the seminal and emerging techniques used to demonstrate robust intracellular target engagement. Translation of target engagement assays to disease-relevant phenotypic assays using primary patient-derived cells and tissues is also reviewed. Two examples of epigenetic chemical probe discovery and utility are presented whereby target engagement pointed to novel disease associations elucidated from poorly understood protein targets. Finally, a number of examples are discussed whereby chemical probe sets, or "chemogenomic libraries" are used to illuminate new target-disease links which may represent future directions for chemical probe utility.

Original publication





Publication Date





27 - 58


Cellular assays, Chemical probes, Epigenetics, Patient-derived cellular assays, Target engagement assays, Target identification