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ACS Omega. 2018 Sep 30;3(9):11407-11414. doi: 10.1021/acsomega.8b01524. Epub 2018 Sep 19.

Molecular Dynamics Simulations of the Interactions between Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Family Receptor GFRα1 and Small-Molecule Ligands.

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Institute of Chemistry, University of Tartu, Ravila 14A, 50411 Tartu, Estonia.
Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience, Institute of Biotechnology, HiLIFE, University of Helsinki, Viikinkaari 5D, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.


The glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family ligands (GFLs) support the survival and functioning of various neuronal populations. Thus, they could be attractive therapeutic agents against a multitude of neurodegenerative diseases caused by progressive death of GFLs responsive neurons. Small-molecule ligands BT13 and BT18 show an effect on GDNF family receptor GFRα1 and RET receptor tyrosine kinase RetA function. Thus, their potential binding sites and interactions were explored in the GDNF-GFRα1-RetA complex using molecular docking calculations as well as molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Three possible regions were examined: the interface between GDNF and GFRα1 (region A), the RetA interface with GFRα1 (region B), and a possible allosteric site in GFRα1 (region C). The results obtained by the docking calculations and the MD simulations indicate that the preferable binding occurs at the allosteric site. A less preferable binding site was detected on the RetA surface interfacing GFRα1. In the membrane-bound state of RetA this can enable compounds BT13 and BT18 to act as direct RetA agonists. The analysis of the MD simulations shows hydrogen bonds for BT13 and significant hydrophobic interactions with GFRα1 for BT13 and BT18 at the allosteric site.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing financial interest.

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