New computer simulation technique could speed up drug discovery process

Published on April 15, 2010 at 7:33 AM · No Comments

Scientists here are taking the trial and error out of drug design by using powerful computers to identify molecular structures that have the highest potential to serve as the basis for new medications.

Most drugs are designed to act on proteins that somehow malfunction in ways that lead to damage and disease in the body. The active ingredient in these medicines is typically a single molecule that can interact with a protein to stop its misbehavior.

Finding such a molecule, however, is not easy. It ideally will be shaped and configured in a way that allows it to bind with a protein on what are known as "hot spots" on the protein surface - and the more hot spots it binds to, the more potential it has to be therapeutic.

To accomplish this, many drug molecules are composed of units called fragments that are linked through chemical bonds. An ideal drug molecule for a specific protein disease target should be a combination of fragments that fit into each hot spot in the best possible way.

Previous methods to identify these molecules have emphasized searching for fragments that can attach to one hot spot at a time. Finding structures that attach to all of the required hot spots is tedious, time-consuming and error-prone.

Ohio State University researchers, however, have used computer simulations to identify molecular fragments that attach simultaneously to multiple hot spots on proteins. The technique is a new way to tackle the fragment-based design strategy.

"We use the massive computing power available to us to find only the good fragments and link them together," said Chenglong Li, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at Ohio State and senior author of a study detailing this work.

Li likens the molecular fragments to birds flying around in space, looking for food on the landscape: the protein surface. With this technique, he creates computer programs that allow these birds - or molecular fragments - to find the prime location for food, or the protein hot spots. The algorithm is originated from a computation technique called particle swarm optimization.

"Each bird can see the landscape individually, and it can sense other birds that inform each other about where the foods are," Li said. "That's how this method works. Each fragment is like a bird finding food on the landscape. And that's how we place the fragments and obtain the best fragment combination for specific protein binding sites."

Li verified that the technique works by comparing a molecular structure he designed to the molecular base of an existing cancer medication that targets a widely understood protein.

"My method reconstructed what pharmaceutical companies have already done," he said. "In the future, we'll apply this technique to protein targets for diseases that remain challenging to treat with currently available therapies."

The research appears online and is scheduled for later print publication in the Journal of Computational Chemistry.

Li said this new computer modeling method of drug design has the potential to complement and increase efficiency of more time-consuming methods like nuclear magnetic resonance and X-ray crystallography. For example, he said, X-ray fragment crystallography can be hard to interpret because of "noise" created by fragments that don't bind well to proteins.

With this new computer simulation technique, called multiple ligand simultaneous docking, Li instructs molecular fragments to interact with each other before the actual experimental trials, removing weak and "noisy" fragments so only the promising ones are left.

Read in | English | Português | Italiano | 日本語 | 한국어 | 简体中文 | Русский | Svenska
Comments
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
Post a new comment
Post