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Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2000;16(2):99-121.

Interaction energy analyses of folate analog binding to human dihydrofolate reductase: contribution of the antifolate substructural regions to complex stability.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, D.C. 20059, USA.


The three-dimensional structure of the human dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), methotrexate tetrazole, and NADPH ternary complex was used to model the corresponding ternary complexes with methotrexate tetrazole replaced by methotrexate, methotrexate-polyglutamate with three glutamyl residues, and 5,10-deazaaminopterin, respectively. Each complex was solvated in a 60-angstrom cube of explicit water and subjected to structural minimization followed by interaction energy analyses. Interaction energy calculations were performed for the antifolate interaction with water, NADPH, the DHFR binding site residues, the entire DHFR protein, and the solvated NADPH:DHFR complex. These studies revealed that methotrexate-polyglutamate exhibited the most stable interactions and that approximately one half of antifolate:DHFR stability could be accounted for by the interaction of the antifolate with the binding site residues. The antifolate structures were also subdivided into heterocyclic, phenyl, and glutamyl substructural regions. Interaction energies were subsequently calculated for the interactions of the subregions with water, NADPH, the DHFR binding site residues, the DHFR protein, and the solvated NADPH:DHFR complex. The glutamyl substructural region showed the greatest contribution to overall antifolate binding stability due to its interaction with the DHFR protein. The heterocyclic and phenyl substructural regions generally showed much less stable interactions. These results suggest that the primary stabilizing factor of the antifolate interaction is the interaction of glutamyl with the DHFR protein. Additionally, interaction energy analyses were performed for specific groups of atoms within the substructural regions. These studies indicated that the stability of the glutamyl interaction is due to the interaction of glutamyl oxygen atoms with the DHFR protein. In the case of the methotrexate tetrazole complex, the tetrazole nitrogens also contribute significantly to the stability of the glutamyl interaction. The carbon atoms of the heterocyclic and phenyl groups both showed more stable interactions with NADPH than with water, while the nitrogen atoms showed more stable interactions with water than with NADPH. Collectively, these results indicate that the glutamyl region is the most important in antifolate binding stability.

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