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J Chem Theory Comput. 2012 Jul 10;8(7):2435-2447. Epub 2012 Jun 5.

Druggability Assessment of Allosteric Proteins by Dynamics Simulations in the Presence of Probe Molecules.


Druggability assessment of a target protein has emerged in recent years as an important concept in hit-to-lead optimization. A reliable and physically relevant measure of druggability would allow informed decisions on the risk of investing in a particular target. Here, we define "druggability" as a quantitative estimate of binding sites and affinities for a potential drug acting on a specific protein target. In the present study, we describe a new methodology that successfully predicts the druggability and maximal binding affinity for a series of challenging targets, including those that function through allosteric mechanisms. Two distinguishing features of the methodology are (i) simulation of the binding dynamics of a diversity of probe molecules selected on the basis of an analysis of approved drugs and (ii) identification of druggable sites and estimation of corresponding binding affinities on the basis of an evaluation of the geometry and energetics of bound probe clusters. The use of the methodology for a variety of targets such as murine double mutant-2, protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B), lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1, vertebrate kinesin-5 (Eg5), and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase provides examples for which the method correctly captures the location and binding affinities of known drugs. It also provides insights into novel druggable sites and the target's structural changes that would accommodate, if not promote and stabilize, drug binding. Notably, the ability to identify high affinity spots even in challenging cases such as PTP1B or Eg5 shows promise as a rational tool for assessing the druggability of protein targets and identifying allosteric or novel sites for drug binding.

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