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  1. MscL is a highly conserved mechanosensitive channel found in the majority of bacterial species, including pathogens. It functions as a biological emergency release valve, jettisoning solutes from the cytoplasm upon acute hypoosmotic stress. It opens the largest known gated pore and has been heralded as an antibacterial target. Although there are no known endogenous ligands, small compounds have recently been shown to specifically bind to and open the channel, leading to decreased cell growth and viability. Their binding site is at the cytoplasmic/membrane and subunit interfaces of the protein, which has been recently been proposed to play an essential role in channel gating. Here, we have targeted this pocket using in silico screening, resulting in the discovery of a new family of compounds, distinct from other known MscL-specific agonists. Our findings extended the study of this functional region, the progression of MscL as a viable drug target, and demonstrated the power of in silico screening for identifying and improving the design of MscL agonists.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. 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
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 8, 2023
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  5. Although the 3D structures of active and inactive cannabinoid receptors type 2 (CB2) are available, neither the X-ray crystal nor the cryo-EM structure of CB2-orthosteric ligand-modulator has been resolved, prohibiting the drug discovery and development of CB2 allosteric modulators (AMs). In the present work, we mainly focused on investigating the potential allosteric binding site(s) of CB2. We applied different algorithms or tools to predict the potential allosteric binding sites of CB2 with the existing agonists. Seven potential allosteric sites can be observed for either CB2-CP55940 or CB2-WIN 55,212-2 complex, among which sites B, C, G and K are supported by the reported 3D structures of Class A GPCRs coupled with AMs. Applying our novel algorithm toolset-MCCS, we docked three known AMs of CB2 including Ec2la (C-2), trans-β-caryophyllene (TBC) and cannabidiol (CBD) to each site for further comparisons and quantified the potential binding residues in each allosteric binding site. Sequentially, we selected the most promising binding pose of C-2 in five allosteric sites to conduct the molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Based on the results of docking studies and MD simulations, we suggest that site H is the most promising allosteric binding site. We plan to conduct bio-assay validations in the future.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  6. 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
  7. TMEM120A, also named as TACAN, is a novel membrane protein highly conserved in vertebrates and was recently proposed to be a mechanosensitive channel involved in sensing mechanical pain. Here we present the single-particle cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of human TMEM120A, which forms a tightly packed dimer with extensive interactions mediated by the N-terminal coiled coil domain (CCD), the C-terminal transmembrane domain (TMD), and the re-entrant loop between the two domains. The TMD of each TMEM120A subunit contains six transmembrane helices (TMs) and has no clear structural feature of a channel protein. Instead, the six TMs form an α-barrel with a deep pocket where a coenzyme A (CoA) molecule is bound. Intriguingly, some structural features of TMEM120A resemble those of elongase for very long-chain fatty acids (ELOVL) despite the low sequence homology between them, pointing to the possibility that TMEM120A may function as an enzyme for fatty acid metabolism, rather than a mechanosensitive channel.