- SQUIRRELnovo : de novo design of a PPARalpha agonist by bioisosteric replacement (2009)
- Shape complementarity is a compulsory condition for molecular recognition . In our 3D ligand-based virtual screening approach called SQUIRREL, we combine shape-based rigid body alignment  with fuzzy pharmacophore scoring . Retrospective validation studies demonstrate the superiority of methods which combine both shape and pharmacophore information on the family of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). We demonstrate the real-life applicability of SQUIRREL by a prospective virtual screening study, where a potent PPARalpha agonist with an EC50 of 44 nM and 100-fold selectivity against PPARgamma has been identified. SQUIRREL molecular superposition is based on a graph-matching routine  and allows partial matching. We used this advantage for searching for bioisosteric replacement suggestions in a database of molecular fragments derived from a collection of drug-like compounds . The bioisosteric groups suggested by our tool SQURRELnovo, can be used for ligand-based de novo design by a human expert. Using the fibrate derivative GW590735  as query, we designed a novel lead structure by substitution of the acidic head group and hydrophobic tail. The synthesis and following testing in a cell-based reporter gene assay [7,8] revealed that the designed structure activates PPARalpha with an EC50 of 510 nM.
- Pseudoreceptor-based pocket selection in a molecular dynamics simulation of the histamine H4 receptor (2009)
- There is a renewed interest in pseudoreceptor models which enable computational chemists to bridge the gap of ligand- and receptor-based drug design . We developed a pseudoreceptor model for the histamine H4 receptor (H4R) based on five potent antagonists representing different chemotypes. Here we present the selection of potential ligand binding pockets that occur during molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of a homology-based receptor model. We present a method for prioritizing receptor models according to their match with the consensus ligand-binding mode represented by the pseudoreceptor. In this way, ligand information can be transferred to receptor-based modelling. We use Geometric Hashing to match three-dimensional points in Cartesion space . This allows for the rapid translation- and rotation-free comparison of atom coordinates, which also permits partial matching. The only prerequisite is a hash table, which uses distance triplets as hash keys. Each time a distance triplet occurring in the candidate point set which corresponds to an existing key, the match is represented by a vote of the respective key. Finally, the global match of both point sets can be easily extracted by selection of voted distance triplets. The results revealed a preferred ligand-binding pocket in H4R, which would not have been identified using an unrefined homology model of the protein. The key idea was to rely on ligand information by pseudoreceptor modelling.
- Fuzzy virtual ligands for virtual screening (2009)
- A new method to bridge the gap between ligand and receptor-based methods in virtual screening (VS) is presented. We introduce a structure-derived virtual ligand (VL) model as an extension to a previously published pseudo-ligand technique : LIQUID  fuzzy pharmacophore virtual screening is combined with grid-based protein binding site predictions of PocketPicker . This approach might help reduce bias introduced by manual selection of binding site residues and introduces pocket shape information to the VL. It allows for a combination of several protein structure models into a single "fuzzy" VL representation, which can be used to scan screening compound collections for ligand structures with a similar potential pharmacophore. PocketPicker employs an elaborate grid-based scanning procedure to determine buried cavities and depressions on the protein's surface. Potential binding sites are represented by clusters of grid probes characterizing the shape and accessibility of a cavity. A rule-based system is then applied to project reverse pharmacophore types onto the grid probes of a selected pocket. The pocket pharmacophore types are assigned depending on the properties and geometry of the protein residues surrounding the pocket with regard to their relative position towards the grid probes. LIQUID is used to cluster representative pocket probes by their pharmacophore types describing a fuzzy VL model. The VL is encoded in a correlation vector, which can then be compared to a database of pre-calculated ligand models. A retrospective screening using the fuzzy VL and several protein structures was evaluated by ten fold cross-validation with ROC-AUC and BEDROC metrics, obtaining a significant enrichment of actives. Future work will be devoted to prospective screening using a novel protein target of Helicobacter pylori and compounds from commercial providers.