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  1. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen, effective medicines that target the life cycle of SARS-CoV-2 are still under development. As more highly infective and dangerous variants of the coronavirus emerge, the protective power of vaccines will decrease or vanish. Thus, the development of drugs, which are free of drug resistance is direly needed. The aim of this study is to identify allosteric binding modulators from a large compound library to inhibit the binding between the Spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2). The binding of the Spike protein to hACE2 is the first step of the infection of host cells by the coronavirus. We first built a compound library containing 77 448 antiviral compounds. Molecular docking was then conducted to preliminarily screen compounds which can potently bind to the Spike protein at two allosteric binding sites. Next, molecular dynamics simulations were performed to accurately calculate the binding affinity between the spike protein and an identified compound from docking screening and to investigate whether the compound can interfere with the binding between the Spike protein and hACE2. We successfully identified two possible drug binding sites on the Spike protein and discovered a series of antiviral compoundsmore »which can weaken the interaction between the Spike protein and hACE2 receptor through conformational changes of the key Spike residues at the Spike–hACE2 binding interface induced by the binding of the ligand at the allosteric binding site. We also applied our screening protocol to another compound library which consists of 3407 compounds for which the inhibitory activities of Spike/hACE2 binding were measured. Encouragingly, in vitro data supports that the identified compounds can inhibit the Spike–ACE2 binding. Thus, we developed a promising computational protocol to discover allosteric inhibitors of the binding of the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 to the hACE2 receptor, and several promising allosteric modulators were discovered.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 16, 2023
  2. Abstract In this study, we developed a novel algorithm to improve the screening performance of an arbitrary docking scoring function by recalibrating the docking score of a query compound based on its structure similarity with a set of training compounds, while the extra computational cost is neglectable. Two popular docking methods, Glide and AutoDock Vina were adopted as the original scoring functions to be processed with our new algorithm and similar improvement performance was achieved. Predicted binding affinities were compared against experimental data from ChEMBL and DUD-E databases. 11 representative drug receptors from diverse drug target categories were applied to evaluate the hybrid scoring function. The effects of four different fingerprints (FP2, FP3, FP4, and MACCS) and the four different compound similarity effect (CSE) functions were explored. Encouragingly, the screening performance was significantly improved for all 11 drug targets especially when CSE = S 4 (S is the Tanimoto structural similarity) and FP2 fingerprint were applied. The average predictive index (PI) values increased from 0.34 to 0.66 and 0.39 to 0.71 for the Glide and AutoDock vina scoring functions, respectively. To evaluate the performance of the calibration algorithm in drug lead identification, we also imposed an upper limit on the structural similaritymore »to mimic the real scenario of screening diverse libraries for which query ligands are general-purpose screening compounds and they are not necessarily structurally similar to reference ligands. Encouragingly, we found our hybrid scoring function still outperformed the original docking scoring function. The hybrid scoring function was further evaluated using external datasets for two systems and we found the PI values increased from 0.24 to 0.46 and 0.14 to 0.42 for A2AR and CFX systems, respectively. In a conclusion, our calibration algorithm can significantly improve the virtual screening performance in both drug lead optimization and identification phases with neglectable computational cost.« less
  3. Abstract Structure-based virtual screenings (SBVSs) play an important role in drug discovery projects. However, it is still a challenge to accurately predict the binding affinity of an arbitrary molecule binds to a drug target and prioritize top ligands from an SBVS. In this study, we developed a novel method, using ligand-residue interaction profiles (IPs) to construct machine learning (ML)-based prediction models, to significantly improve the screening performance in SBVSs. Such a kind of the prediction model is called an IP scoring function (IP-SF). We systematically investigated how to improve the performance of IP-SFs from many perspectives, including the sampling methods before interaction energy calculation and different ML algorithms. Using six drug targets with each having hundreds of known ligands, we conducted a critical evaluation on the developed IP-SFs. The IP-SFs employing a gradient boosting decision tree (GBDT) algorithm in conjunction with the MIN + GB simulation protocol achieved the best overall performance. Its scoring power, ranking power and screening power significantly outperformed the Glide SF. First, compared with Glide, the average values of mean absolute error and root mean square error of GBDT/MIN + GB decreased about 38 and 36%, respectively. Second, the mean values of squared correlation coefficient and predictive index increased aboutmore »225 and 73%, respectively. Third, more encouragingly, the average value of the areas under the curve of receiver operating characteristic for six targets by GBDT, 0.87, is significantly better than that by Glide, which is only 0.71. Thus, we expected IP-SFs to have broad and promising applications in SBVSs.« less