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High-throughput detection of metal contamination in HTS outputs

SLAS Discovery
March 10, 2022

Large compound libraries utilized for HTS often include metal contaminated compounds which can interfere with assay signal or target biology, and therefore appear as hits. Pursuit of these compounds can divert considerable time and resource away from more propitious hits, yet there is currently no established method of detecting metal impurities in a rapid and effective manner. Here we describe the development and application of a high-throughput method to identify metal contaminants using acoustic mist ionisation mass spectrometry (AMI-MS). Although metals species by themselves are not detectable by AMI-MS, we have identified two compounds that chelate metal ions and enable their detection. 6-(diethylamino)-1,3,5-triazine-2,4(1H,3H)-dithione (DMT) and 1-(3-{[4-(4-cyanophenyl)-1-piperidinyl]carbonyl}-4-methylphenyl)-3-ethylthiourea (TU) can form complexes with a range of metal ions. Using a collection of metal catalysts, we have developed two metal chelator assays that collectively allow for the detection of Ag, Au, Co, Cu, Fe, Pd, Pt and Zn. We employed these assays to profile the hit outputs of a Zn liable target, and a Pd liable target, and identified significant quantities of metal contaminated compounds in the HTS outputs. This work provides a method of rapidly identifying metal impurities in hit compounds and has become part of an established workflow in triaging HTS outputs at AstraZeneca, facilitating faster identification of robust lead series.