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Structural modeling of HCV NS3/4A serine protease drug-resistance mutations using end-point continuum solvation and side-chain flexibility calculations.

  • Hotiana, Hajira Ahmed1
  • Haider, Muhammad Kamran
  • 1 Undergraduate Program in Science, Department of Biology, Syed Babar Ali School of Science and Engineering, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore 54792, Pakistan. , (Pakistan)
Published Article
Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling
American Chemical Society
Publication Date
Feb 25, 2013
DOI: 10.1021/ci3004754
PMID: 23305404


Computational methods of modeling protein-ligand interactions have gained widespread application in modern drug discovery. In continuum solvation-based methods of binding affinity estimation, limited description of solvent environment and protein flexibility is traded for a time scale that fits medicinal chemistry test cycles. The results of this speed-accuracy trade-off have been promising in terms of modeling structure-activity relationships of ligand series against protein targets. The potential of these approaches in recapitulating structural and energetic effects of resistance mutations, which involve large changes in binding affinity, remains relatively unexplored. We used continuum solvation binding affinity predictions and graph theory-based flexibility calculations to model thirteen drug resistance mutations in HCV NS3/4A serine protease, against three small-molecule inhibitors, with a 2-fold objective: quantitative assessment of binding energy predictions against experimental data and elucidation of structural/energetic determinants of resistance. The results show statistically significant correlation between predicted and experimental binding affinities, with R(2) and predictive index of up to 0.83 and 0.91, respectively. The level of accuracy was consistent with what has been reported for the inverse problem of binding affinity estimation of congeneric ligands against the same target. The quality of predictions was poor for mutations involving induced-fit effects, primarily, because of the lack of entropy terms. Flexibility analysis explained this discrepancy by indicating characteristic changes in side-chain mobility of a key binding site residue. The combined results from two approaches provide novel insights regarding the molecular mechanism of resistance. NS3/4A inhibitors, with large P2 substituents, derive high affinity with optimal van der Waals interactions in the S2 subsite, in order to overcome unfavorable desolvation and entropic cost of induced-fit effects. High-level resistance mutations tend to increase the desolvation and/or entropic barrier to ligand binding. The lead optimization strategies should, therefore, address the balance of these opposing energetic contributions in both the wild-type and mutant target.

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