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Mimicking H3 Substrate Arginine in the Design of G9a Lysine Methyltransferase Inhibitors for Cancer Therapy: A Computational Study for Structure-Based Drug Design

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posted on 23.02.2021, 01:44 by M. Ramya Chandar Charles, Mu-Chun Li, Hsing-Pang Hsieh, Mohane Selvaraj Coumar
G9a protein methyltransferase is a potential epigenetic drug target in different cancers and other disease conditions overexpressing the enzyme. G9a is responsible for the H3K9 dimethylation mark, which epigenetically regulates gene expression. Arg8 and Lys9 of the H3 substrate peptide are the two crucial residues for substrate-specific recognition and methylation. Several substrate competitive inhibitors are reported for the potent inhibition of G9a by incorporating lysine mimic groups in the inhibitor design. In this study, we explored the concept of arginine mimic strategy. The hydrophobic segment of the reported inhibitors BIX-01294 and UNC0638 was replaced by a guanidine moiety (side-chain moiety of arginine). The newly substituted guanidine moieties of the inhibitors were positioned similar to the Arg8 of the substrate peptide in molecular docking. Additionally, improved reactivity of the guanidine-substituted inhibitors was observed in density functional theory studies. Molecular dynamics, molecular mechanics Poisson–Boltzmann surface area binding free energy, linear interaction energy, and potential mean force calculated from steered molecular dynamics simulations of the newly designed analogues show enhanced conformational stability and improved H-bond potential and binding affinity toward the target G9a. Moreover, the presence of both lysine and arginine mimics together shows a drastic increase in the binding affinity of the inhibitor towards G9a. Hence, we propose incorporating a guanidine group to imitate the substrate arginine’s side chain in the inhibitor design to improve the potency of G9a inhibitors.