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Predicting Binding Affinities for GPCR Ligands Using Free-Energy Perturbation.

ABSTRACT: The rapid growth of structural information for G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) has led to a greater understanding of their structure, function, selectivity, and ligand binding. Although novel ligands have been identified using methods such as virtual screening, computationally driven lead optimization has been possible only in isolated cases because of challenges associated with predicting binding free energies for related compounds. Here, we provide a systematic characterization of the performance of free-energy perturbation (FEP) calculations to predict relative binding free energies of congeneric ligands binding to GPCR targets using a consistent protocol and no adjustable parameters. Using the FEP+ package, first we validated the protocol, which includes a full lipid bilayer and explicit solvent, by predicting the binding affinity for a total of 45 different ligands across four different GPCRs (adenosine A2AAR, ?1 adrenergic, CXCR4 chemokine, and ? opioid receptors). Comparison with experimental binding affinity measurements revealed a highly predictive ranking correlation (average spearman ? = 0.55) and low root-mean-square error (0.80 kcal/mol). Next, we applied FEP+ in a prospective project, where we predicted the affinity of novel, potent adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR) antagonists. Four novel compounds were synthesized and tested in a radioligand displacement assay, yielding affinity values in the nanomolar range. The affinity of two out of the four novel ligands (plus three previously reported compounds) was correctly predicted (within 1 kcal/mol), including one compound with approximately a tenfold increase in affinity compared to the starting compound. Detailed analyses of the simulations underlying the predictions provided insights into the structural basis for the two cases where the affinity was overpredicted. Taken together, these results establish a protocol for systematically applying FEP+ to GPCRs and provide guidelines for identifying potent molecules in drug discovery lead optimization projects.

SUBMITTER: Lenselink EB 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6044636 | BioStudies | 2016-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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