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PLoS Comput Biol. 2011 Jun;7(6):e1002083. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002083. Epub 2011 Jun 23.

Predicting binding to p-glycoprotein by flexible receptor docking.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.


P-glycoprotein (P-gp) is an ATP-dependent transport protein that is selectively expressed at entry points of xenobiotics where, acting as an efflux pump, it prevents their entering sensitive organs. The protein also plays a key role in the absorption and blood-brain barrier penetration of many drugs, while its overexpression in cancer cells has been linked to multidrug resistance in tumors. The recent publication of the mouse P-gp crystal structure revealed a large and hydrophobic binding cavity with no clearly defined sub-sites that supports an "induced-fit" ligand binding model. We employed flexible receptor docking to develop a new prediction algorithm for P-gp binding specificity. We tested the ability of this method to differentiate between binders and nonbinders of P-gp using consistently measured experimental data from P-gp efflux and calcein-inhibition assays. We also subjected the model to a blind test on a series of peptidic cysteine protease inhibitors, confirming the ability to predict compounds more likely to be P-gp substrates. Finally, we used the method to predict cellular metabolites that may be P-gp substrates. Overall, our results suggest that many P-gp substrates bind deeper in the cavity than the cyclic peptide in the crystal structure and that specificity in P-gp is better understood in terms of physicochemical properties of the ligands (and the binding site), rather than being defined by specific sub-sites.

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