Improving virtual screening of G protein-coupled receptors via ligand-directed modeling.
ABSTRACT: G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) play crucial roles in cell physiology and pathophysiology. There is increasing interest in using structural information for virtual screening (VS) of libraries and for structure-based drug design to identify novel agonist or antagonist leads. However, the sparse availability of experimentally determined GPCR/ligand complex structures with diverse ligands impedes the application of structure-based drug design (SBDD) programs directed to identifying new molecules with a select pharmacology. In this study, we apply ligand-directed modeling (LDM) to available GPCR X-ray structures to improve VS performance and selectivity towards molecules of specific pharmacological profile. The described method refines a GPCR binding pocket conformation using a single known ligand for that GPCR. The LDM method is a computationally efficient, iterative workflow consisting of protein sampling and ligand docking. We developed an extensive benchmark comparing LDM-refined binding pockets to GPCR X-ray crystal structures across seven different GPCRs bound to a range of ligands of different chemotypes and pharmacological profiles. LDM-refined models showed improvement in VS performance over origin X-ray crystal structures in 21 out of 24 cases. In all cases, the LDM-refined models had superior performance in enriching for the chemotype of the refinement ligand. This likely contributes to the LDM success in all cases of inhibitor-bound to agonist-bound binding pocket refinement, a key task for GPCR SBDD programs. Indeed, agonist ligands are required for a plethora of GPCRs for therapeutic intervention, however GPCR X-ray structures are mostly restricted to their inactive inhibitor-bound state.
Project description:The recent increase in the number of X-ray crystal structures of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) has been enabling for structure-based drug design (SBDD) efforts. These structures have revealed that GPCRs are highly dynamic macromolecules whose function is dependent on their intrinsic flexibility. Unfortunately, the use of static structures to understand ligand binding can potentially be misleading, especially in systems with an inherently high degree of conformational flexibility. Here, we show that docking a set of dopamine D3 receptor compounds into the existing eticlopride-bound dopamine D3 receptor (D3R) X-ray crystal structure resulted in poses that were not consistent with results obtained from site-directed mutagenesis experiments. We overcame the limitations of static docking by using large-scale high-throughput molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and Markov state models (MSMs) to determine an alternative pose consistent with the mutation data. The new pose maintains critical interactions observed in the D3R/eticlopride X-ray crystal structure and suggests that a cryptic pocket forms due to the shift of a highly conserved residue, F6.52. Our study highlights the importance of GPCR dynamics to understand ligand binding and provides new opportunities for drug discovery.
Project description:Structure based drug discovery on GPCRs harness atomic detail X-ray binding pockets and large libraries of potential drug lead candidates in virtual screening (VS) to identify novel lead candidates. Relatively small conformational differences between such binding pockets can be critical to the success of VS. Retrospective VS on GPCR/ligand co-crystal structures revealed stark differences in the ability of different structures to identify known ligands, despite being co-crystallized with the same ligand. When using the OpenEye toolkit and the ICM modeling package, we identify criteria associated with the predictive power of binding pockets in VS that consists of a combination of ligand/receptor interaction pattern and predicted ligand/receptor interaction strength. These findings can guide the selection and refinement of GPCR binding pockets for use in SBDD programs and may also provide a potential framework for evaluating the ability of computational GPCR binding pocket refinement tools in improving the predictive power of binding pockets.
Project description:Rational structure-based drug design (SBDD) relies on the availability of a large number of co-crystal structures to map the ligand-binding pocket of the target protein and use this information for lead-compound optimization via an iterative process. While SBDD has proven successful for many drug-discovery projects, its application to G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) has been limited owing to extreme difficulties with their crystallization. Here, a method is presented for the rapid determination of multiple co-crystal structures for a target GPCR in complex with various ligands, taking advantage of the serial femtosecond crystallography approach, which obviates the need for large crystals and requires only submilligram quantities of purified protein. The method was applied to the human ?2-adrenergic receptor, resulting in eight room-temperature co-crystal structures with six different ligands, including previously unreported structures with carvedilol and propranolol. The generality of the proposed method was tested with three other receptors. This approach has the potential to enable SBDD for GPCRs and other difficult-to-crystallize membrane proteins.
Project description:G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) mediate transmembrane signaling. Before ligand binding, GPCRs exist in a basal state. Crystal structures of several GPCRs bound with antagonists or agonists have been solved. However, the crystal structure of the ligand-free basal state of a GPCR, the starting point of GPCR activation and function, had not yet been determined. Here we report the X-ray crystal structure of the ligand-free basal state of a GPCR in a lipid membrane-like environment. Oligomeric turkey ?1-adrenergic receptors display two dimer interfaces. One interface involves the transmembrane domain (TM) 1, TM2, the C-terminal H8 and extracellular loop 1. The other interface engages residues from TM4, TM5, intracellular loop 2 and extracellular loop 2. Structural comparisons show that this ligand-free state is in an inactive conformation. This provides the structural basis of GPCR dimerization and oligomerization.
Project description:G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) respond to a diverse array of ligands, mediating cellular responses to hormones and neurotransmitters, as well as the senses of smell and taste. The structures of the GPCR rhodopsin and several G proteins have been determined by x-ray crystallography, yet the organization of the signaling complex between GPCRs and G proteins is poorly understood. The observations that some GPCRs are obligate heterodimers, and that many GPCRs form both homo- and heterodimers, has led to speculation that GPCR dimers may be required for efficient activation of G proteins. However, technical limitations have precluded a definitive analysis of G protein coupling to monomeric GPCRs in a biochemically defined and membrane-bound system. Here we demonstrate that a prototypical GPCR, the beta2-adrenergic receptor (beta2AR), can be incorporated into a reconstituted high-density lipoprotein (rHDL) phospholipid bilayer particle together with the stimulatory heterotrimeric G protein, Gs. Single-molecule fluorescence imaging and FRET analysis demonstrate that a single beta2AR is incorporated per rHDL particle. The monomeric beta2AR efficiently activates Gs and displays GTP-sensitive allosteric ligand-binding properties. These data suggest that a monomeric receptor in a lipid bilayer is the minimal functional unit necessary for signaling, and that the cooperativity of agonist binding is due to G protein association with a receptor monomer and not receptor oligomerization.
Project description:G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are a key drug target class. They account for over one-third of current pharmaceuticals, and both drugs that inhibit and promote receptor function are important therapeutically; in some cases, the same GPCR can be targeted with agonists and inhibitors, depending upon disease context. There have been major breakthroughs in understanding GPCR structure and drug binding through advances in X-ray crystallography, and membrane protein stabilization. Nonetheless, these structures have predominately been of inactive receptors bound to inhibitors. Efforts to capture structures of fully active GPCRs, in particular those in complex with the canonical, physiological transducer G protein, have been limited via this approach. Very recently, advances in cryo-electron microscopy have provided access to agonist:GPCR:G protein complex structures. These promise to revolutionize our understanding of GPCR:G protein engagement and provide insight into mechanisms of efficacy and coupling selectivity and how these might be controlled by biased agonists. Here we review what we have currently learned from the new GPCR:Gs and GPCR:Gi/o complex structures.
Project description:G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are integral membrane proteins that have an essential role in human physiology, yet the molecular processes through which they bind to their endogenous agonists and activate effector proteins remain poorly understood. So far, it has not been possible to capture an active-state GPCR bound to its native neurotransmitter. Crystal structures of agonist-bound GPCRs have relied on the use of either exceptionally high-affinity agonists or receptor stabilization by mutagenesis. Many natural agonists such as adrenaline, which activates the ?2-adrenoceptor (?2AR), bind with relatively low affinity, and they are often chemically unstable. Using directed evolution, we engineered a high-affinity camelid antibody fragment that stabilizes the active state of the ?2AR, and used this to obtain crystal structures of the activated receptor bound to multiple ligands. Here we present structures of the active-state human ?2AR bound to three chemically distinct agonists: the ultrahigh-affinity agonist BI167107, the high-affinity catecholamine agonist hydroxybenzyl isoproterenol, and the low-affinity endogenous agonist adrenaline. The crystal structures reveal a highly conserved overall ligand recognition and activation mode despite diverse ligand chemical structures and affinities that range from 100?nM to ?80?pM. Overall, the adrenaline-bound receptor structure is similar to the others, but it has substantial rearrangements in extracellular loop three and the extracellular tip of transmembrane helix 6. These structures also reveal a water-mediated hydrogen bond between two conserved tyrosines, which appears to stabilize the active state of the ?2AR and related GPCRs.
Project description:Here we report an efficient method to generate multiple co-structures of the A2A G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) with small-molecules from a single preparation of a thermostabilised receptor crystallised in Lipidic Cubic Phase (LCP). Receptor crystallisation is achieved following purification using a low affinity "carrier" ligand (theophylline) and crystals are then soaked in solutions containing the desired (higher affinity) compounds. Complete datasets to high resolution can then be collected from single crystals and seven structures are reported here of which three are novel. The method significantly improves structural throughput for ligand screening using stabilised GPCRs, thereby actively driving Structure-Based Drug Discovery (SBDD).
Project description:Ligand-induced activation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) is a key mechanism permitting communication between cells and organs. Enormous progress has recently elucidated the structural and dynamic features of GPCR transmembrane signaling. Nanobodies, the recombinant antigen-binding fragments of camelid heavy-chain-only antibodies, have emerged as important research tools to lock GPCRs in particular conformational states. Active-state stabilizing nanobodies have elucidated several agonist-bound structures of hormone-activated GPCRs and have provided insight into the dynamic character of receptors. Nanobodies have also been used to stabilize transient GPCR transmembrane signaling complexes, yielding the first structural insights into GPCR signal transduction across the cellular membrane. Beyond their in vitro uses, nanobodies have served as conformational biosensors in living systems and have provided novel ways to modulate GPCR function. Here, we highlight several examples of how nanobodies have enabled the study of GPCR function and give insights into potential future uses of these important tools.
Project description:The understanding of binding interactions between any protein and a small molecule plays a key role in the rationalization of affinity and selectivity and is essential for an efficient structure-based drug discovery (SBDD) process. Clearly, to begin SBDD, a structure is needed, and although there has been fantastic progress in solving G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) crystal structures, the process remains quite slow and is not currently feasible for every GPCR or GPCR-ligand complex. This situation significantly limits the ability of X-ray crystallography to impact the drug discovery process for GPCR targets in 'real-time' and hence there is still a need for other practical and cost-efficient alternatives. We present here an approach that integrates our previously described hierarchical GPCR modelling protocol (HGMP) and the fragment molecular orbital (FMO) quantum mechanics (QM) method to explore the interactions and selectivity of the human orexin-2 receptor (OX2R) and its recently discovered nonpeptidic agonists. HGMP generates a 3D model of GPCR structures and its complexes with small molecules by applying a set of computational methods. FMO allowsab initioapproaches to be applied to systems that conventional QM methods would find challenging. The key advantage of FMO is that it can reveal information on the individual contribution and chemical nature of each residue and water molecule to the ligand binding that normally would be difficult to detect without QM. We illustrate how the combination of both techniques provides a practical and efficient approach that can be used to analyse the existing structure-function relationships (SAR) and to drive forward SBDD in a real-world example for which there is no crystal structure of the complex available.