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PLoS One. 2019 May 23;14(5):e0216678. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216678. eCollection 2019.

Computational study on new natural compound agonists of stimulator of interferon genes (STING).

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Department of Neurosurgery, the First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China.
Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, the United States of America.
Clinical College, Jilin University, Changchun, China.
Department of Orthopedics, the First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China.
Department of Oncology, the First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China.
College of pharmacy, Jilin University, Changchun, China.



This study aimed to screen lead compounds and medication candidates from drug library (ZINC database) which has potential agonist effect targeting STING protein.


A series of computer-aided virtual screening techniques were utilized to identify potential agonists of STING. Structure-based screening using Libdock was carried out followed by ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion) and toxicity prediction. Molecular docking was performed to demonstrate the binding affinity and mechanism between ligands and STING dimers. Molecular dynamic simulation was utilized to evaluate the stability of ligand-receptor complex. Finally, animal experiment was conducted to validate the effectiveness of selected compounds.


Three novel natural compounds 1,2,3 (ZINC000015149223, ZINC000011616633 and ZINC000001577210, respectively) from the ZINC15 database were found binding to STING with more favorable interaction energy. Also, they were predicted with less ames mutagenicity, rodent carcinogenicity, non-developmental toxic potential and tolerant with cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6). The ligand chemical structure analysis showed the three compounds were inborn axisymmetric, such chemical structures account for combining and activating process of STING protein dimers. The dynamic simulation analysis demonstrated that ZINC000015149223-, ZINC000011616633- and ZINC000001577210-STING dimer complex had more favorable potential energy compared with amidobenzimidazole (ABZI) and they can exist in natural environments stably. Animal experiments also demonstrated that these three compounds could suppress tumor growth.


This study demonstrates that ZINC000015149223, ZINC000011616633 and ZINC000001577210 are potential agonists targeting STING protein. These compounds are safe drug candidates and have a great significance in STING agonists development.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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