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Incorporating Protein Flexibility in Structure-Based Drug Discovery:  Using HIV-1 Protease as a Test Case

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journal contribution
posted on 20.10.2004, 00:00 by Kristin L. Meagher, Heather A. Carlson
We have developed a receptor-based pharmacophore method which utilizes a collection of protein structures to account for inherent protein flexibility in structure-based drug design. Several procedures were systematically evaluated to derive the most general protocol for using multiple protein structures. Most notably, incorporating more protein flexibility improved the performance of the method. The pharmacophore models successfully discriminate known inhibitors from drug-like non-inhibitors. Furthermore, the models correctly identify the bound conformations of some ligands. We used unliganded HIV-1 protease to develop and validate this method. Drug design is always initiated with a protein−ligand structure, and such success with unbound protein structures is remarkable  particularly in the case of HIV-1 protease, which has a large conformational change upon binding. This technique holds the promise of successful computer-based drug design before bound crystal structures are even discovered, which can mean a jump-start of 1−3 years in tackling some medically relevant systems with computational methods.

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