WaterMap offers a new paradigm for designing optimal ligands based upon their ability to differentially displace and retain specific water molecules in protein binding sites. Mapping the locations and thermodynamic properties of water molecules that solvate protein binding sites offers rich physical insights into the properties of the pocket and quantitatively describes the hydrophobic forces driving the binding of small molecules. WaterMap has been applied with great success to a wide variety of pharmaceutically relevant targets, including those listed below.
Fox JM, Kang K, Sherman W, Héroux A, Sastry GM, Baghbanzadeh M, Lockett MR, and Whitesides GM. Interactions between hofmeister anions and the binding pocket of a protein. J Am Chem Soc, 137 (11), 3859–3866, 2015.
A large number of structurally diverse epigenetic reader proteins specifically recognize methylated lysine residues on histone proteins. Here we describe comparative thermodynamic, structural and computational studies on recognition of the positively charged natural trimethyllysine and its neutral analogues by reader proteins. This work provides experimental and theoretical evidence that reader proteins predominantly recognize trimethyllysine via a combination of favourable cation–π interactions and the release of the high-energy water molecules that occupy the aromatic cage of reader proteins on the association with the trimethyllysine side chain. These results have implications in rational drug design by specifically targeting the aromatic cage of readers of trimethyllysine.
Kamps JJAG, Huang J, Poater J, Xu C, Pieters BJGE, Dong A, Min M, Sherman W, Beuming T, Bickelhaupt FM, Li H, and Mecinović, J. Chemical basis for the recognition of trimethyllysine by epigenetic reader proteins. Nat Commun, 6: 8911, doi:10.1038/ncomms9911, 2015.
In this study we report on the hit optimization of substituted 3,5-diaryl-pyrazin-2(1H)-ones toward potent and effective platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGF-R) β-inhibitors. Originally, the 3,5-diaryl-pyrazin-2-one core was derived from the marine sponge alkaloid family of hamacanthins. In our first series compound 2 was discovered as a promising hit showing strong activity against PDGF-Rβ in the kinase assay (IC50 = 0.5 μM). Furthermore, 2 was shown to be selective for PDGF-Rβ in a panel of 24 therapeutically relevant protein kinases. Molecular modeling studies on a PDGF-Rβ homology model using prediction of water thermodynamics suggested an optimization strategy for the 3,5-diaryl-pyrazin-2-ones as DFG-in binders by using a phenolic OH function to replace a structural water molecule in the ATP binding site. Indeed, we identified compound 38 as a highly potent inhibitor with an IC50 value of 0.02 μM in a PDGF-Rβ enzymatic assay also showing activity against PDGF-R dependent cancer cells.
Horbert R, Pinchuk B, Johannes E, Schlosser J, Schmidt D, Cappel D, Totzke F, Schächtele C, and Peifer C. Optimization of Potent DFG-in Inhibitors of Platelet Derived Growth Factor Receptorβ (PDGF-Rβ) Guided by Water Thermodynamics. J Med Chem, 58 (1): 170–182, 2015.
A new series of peptidomimetic pseudo-prolyl-homophenylalanylketones were designed, synthesized and evaluated for inhibition of the Plasmodium falciparum cysteine proteases falcipain-2 (FP-2) and falcipain-3 (FP-3). In addition, the parasite killing activity of these compounds in human blood-cultured P. falciparum was examined. Of twenty-two (22) compounds synthesized, one peptidomimetic comprising a homophenylalanine-based α-hydroxyketone linked Cbz-protected hydroxyproline (39) showed the most potency (IC50 80nM against FP-2 and 60nM against FP-3). In silico analysis of these peptidomimetic analogs offered important protein-ligand structural insights including the role, by WaterMap, of water molecules in the active sites of these protease isoforms. The pseudo-dipeptide 39 and related compounds may serve as a promising direction forward in the design of competitive inhibitors of falcipains for the effective treatment of malaria.
Weldon DJ, Shah F, Chittiboyina AG, Sheri A, Chada RR, Gut J, Rosenthal PJ, Shivakumar D, Sherman W, Desai P, Jung JC, Avery MA. Synthesis, biological evaluation, hydration site thermodynamics, and chemical reactivity analysis of α-keto substituted peptidomimetics for the inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum. Bioorg Med Chem Letts, 24 (5): 1274-1279, 2014.
The mechanism (or mechanisms) of enthalpy–entropy (H/S) compensation in protein–ligand binding remains an area of active research. Here we describe a particularly well-defined system of protein and ligands — human carbonic anhydrase (HCA) and a series of benzothiazole sulfonamide ligands with different patterns of fluorination — that we use to define enthalpy/entropy (H/S) compensation in this system thermodynamically and structurally. The binding affinities of these ligands to HCA are, despite differences in fluorination pattern, indistinguishable; they nonetheless reflect significant and compensating changes in enthalpy and entropy of binding. Analysis using WaterMap reveals that differences in the structure and thermodynamic properties of the waters surrounding the bound ligands are an important contributor to the observed H/S compensation. These results support the hypothesis that the molecules of water filling the active site of a protein, and surrounding the ligand, are as important as the contact interactions between the protein and the ligand for biomolecular recognition, and in determining the thermodynamics of binding.
Breiten B, Lockett MR, Sherman W, Fujita S, Al-Sayah M, Lange H, Bowers CM, Heroux A, Krilov G, Whitesides GM. Water networks contribute to enthalpy/entropy compensation in protein-ligand binding. J Am Chem Soc, 135 (41): 15579–15584, 2013.
In our previous work, we proposed that desolvation and resolvation of the binding sites of proteins can serve as the slowest steps during ligand association and dissociation, respectively, and tested this hypothesis on two protein-ligand systems with known binding kinetics behavior. In the present work, we test this hypothesis on another kinetically-determined protein-ligand system—that of p38α and eight Type II BIRB 796 inhibitor analogs. The kon values among the inhibitor analogs are narrowly distributed (104 ≤ kon ≤ 105 M−1 s−1), suggesting a common rate-determining step, whereas the koff values are widely distributed (10−1 ≤ koff ≤ 10−6 s−1), suggesting a spectrum of rate-determining steps. We calculated the solvation properties of the DFG-out protein conformation using an explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulation and thermodynamic analysis method implemented in WaterMap to predict the enthalpic and entropic costs of water transfer to and from bulk solvent incurred upon association and dissociation of each inhibitor. The results suggest that the rate-determining step for association consists of the transfer of a common set of enthalpically favorable solvating water molecules from the binding site to bulk solvent. The rate-determining step for inhibitor dissociation consists of the transfer of water from bulk solvent to specific binding site positions that are unfavorably solvated in the apo protein, and evacuated during ligand association. Different sets of unfavorable solvation are evacuated by each ligand, and the observed dissociation barriers are qualitatively consistent with the calculated solvation free energies of those sets.
Pearlstein RA, Sherman W, Abel R. Contributions of water transfer energy to protein-ligand association and dissociation barriers: Watermap analysis of a series of p38α MAP kinase inhibitors. Proteins, 81 (9): 1509–1526, 2013.
It's the water that matters. Pairs of benzo- and perfluorobenzoarylsulfonamide ligands bind to human carbonic anhydrase with a conserved binding geometry, an enthalpy-driven binding, and indistinguishable binding affinities. These data support the pervasive theory that the lock-and-key model disregards an important component of binding: the water, which fills the binding pocket of the protein and surrounds the ligand.
Lockett MR, Lange H, Breiten B, Heroux A, Sherman W, Rappoport D, Yau PO, Snyder PW, Whitesides GM. The binding of benzoarylsulfonamide ligands to human carbonic anhydrase is insensitive to formal fluorination of the ligand. Angew Chem Int Ed, 52(30), 7714-7717, 2013.
DYRK kinases are involved in alternative pre-mRNA splicing as well as in neuropathological states such as Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome. In this study, we present the design, synthesis, and biological evaluation of indirubins as DYRK inhibitors with enhanced selectivity. Modifications of the bis-indole included polar or acidic functionalities at positions 5′ and 6′ and a bromine or a trifluoromethyl group at position 7, affording analogues that possess high activity and pronounced specificity. Compound 6i carrying a 5′-carboxylate moiety demonstrated the best inhibitory profile. A novel inverse binding mode, which forms the basis for the improved selectivity, was suggested by molecular modeling and confirmed by determining the crystal structure of DYRK2 in complex with 6i. Structure–activity relationships were further established, including a thermodynamic analysis of binding site water molecules, offering a structural explanation for the selective DYRK inhibition.
Myrianthopoulos V, Kritsanida M, Gaboriaud-Kolar N, Magiatis P, Ferandin Y, Durieu E, Lozach O, Cappel D, Soundararajan M, Filippakopoulos P, Sherman W, Knapp S, Meijer L, Mikros E, and Skaltsounis AL. Novel inverse binding mode of indirubin derivatives yields improved selectivity for DYRK kinases. ACS Med Chem Lett, 4 (1), 22-26, 2013.
β-Secretase 1 (BACE-1) is an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Herein, we describe the discovery of a novel class of BACE-1 inhibitors represented by sulfamide 14g, using a medicinal chemistry strategy to optimize central nervous system (CNS) penetration by minimizing hydrogen bond donors (HBDs) and reducing P-glycoprotein (P-gp) mediated efflux. We have also taken advantage of the combination of structure based drug design (SBDD) to guide the optimization of the sulfamide analogues and the in silico tool WaterMap to explain the observed SAR. Compound 14g is a potent inhibitor of BACE-1 with excellent permeability and a moderate P-gp liability. Administration of 14g to mice produced a significant, dose-dependent reduction in central AβX-40 levels at a free drug exposure equivalent to the whole cell IC50 (100 nM). Furthermore, studies of the P-gp knockout mouse provided evidence that efflux transporters affected the amount of Aβ lowering versus that observed in wild-type (WT) mouse at an equivalent dose.
Brodney MA, Barreiro G, Ogilvie K, Hajos-Korcsok E, Murray J, Vajdos F, Ambroise C, Christoffersen C, Fisher K, Lanyon L, Liu J, Nolan CE, Withka JM, Borzilleri KA, Efremov I, Oborski CE, Varghese A, O’Neill BT. Spirocyclic sulfamides as β-secretase 1 (BACE-1) inhibitors for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease: utilization of structure based drug design, WaterMap, and CNS penetration studies to identify centrally efficacious inhibitors. J Med Chem, 55 (21): 9224–9239, 2012.
Poor permeability of the lipopolysaccharide-based outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria is compensated by the existence of protein channels (porins) that selectively admit low molecular weight substrates, including many antibiotics. Improved understanding of the translocation mechanisms of porin substrates could help guide the design of antibiotics capable of achieving high intracellular exposure. Energy barriers to channel entry and exit govern antibiotic fluxes through porins. We have previously reported a hypothesis that the costs of transferring protein solvation to and from bulk medium underlie the barriers to protein-ligand association and dissociation, respectively, concomitant with the gain and loss of protein- ligand interactions during those processes. We have now applied this hypothesis to explain the published rates of entry (association) and exit (dissociation) of six antibiotics to/from reconstituted E. coli porin OmpC. WaterMap was used to estimate the total water transfer energies resulting from transient occupation by each antibiotic. Our results suggest that solvation within the porin cavity is highly energetically favorable, and the observed moderately fast entry rates of the antibiotics are consistent with replacement of protein-water H-bonds. The observed ultrafast exit kinetics is consistent with the lack of intrachannel solvation sites that convey unfavorable resolvation during antibiotic dissociation. These results are aligned with known general relationships between antibiotic efficacy and physicochemical properties, namely unusually low logP, reflecting an abundance of H-bond partners. We conclude that antibiotics figuratively ‘‘melt’’ their way through porin solvation at a rate determined by the cost of exchanging protein-solvent for protein-antibiotic H-bonds.
Tran QT, Williams S, Farid R, Erdemli G, Pearlstein R. The translocation kinetics of antibiotics through porin OmpC: Insights from structure-based solvation mapping using watermap. Proteins, 81 (2), 291-299, 2012.
Falcipains (FPs) are hemoglobinases of Plasmodium falciparum that are validated targets for the development of antimalarial chemotherapy. A combined ligand- and structure-based virtual screening of commercial databases was performed to identify structural analogs of virtual screening hits previously discovered in our laboratory. A total of 28 low micromolar inhibitors of FP-2 and FP-3 were identified and the structure-activity relationship (SAR) in each series was elaborated. The SAR of the compounds was unusually steep in some cases and could not be explained by a traditional analysis of the ligand-protein interactions (van der Waals, electrostatics, and hydrogen bonds). To gain further insights, a statistical thermodynamic analysis of explicit solvent in the ligand binding domains of FP-2 and FP-3 was carried out to understand the roles played by water molecules in binding of these inhibitors. Indeed, the energetics associated with the displacement of water molecules upon ligand binding explained some of the complex trends in the SAR. Furthermore, low potency of a subset of FP-2 inhibitors that could not be understood by the water energetics was explained in the context of poor chemical reactivity of the reactive centers of these compounds. The present study highlights the importance of considering energetic contributors to binding beyond traditional ligand-protein interactions.
Shah F, Gut J, Legac J, Shivakumar D, Sherman W, Rosenthal RJ, Avery MA. Computer-aided drug design of falcipain inhibitors: Virtual screening, structure-activity relationships, hydration site thermodynamics, and reactivity analysis. J Chem Inf Model, 52: 696-710, 2012.
Water plays an essential role in determining the structure and function of all biological systems. Recent methodological advances allow for an accurate and efficient estimation of the thermodynamic properties of water molecules at the surface of proteins. In this work, we characterize these thermodynamic properties and relate them to various structural and functional characteristics of the protein. We find that high-energy hydration sites often exist near protein motifs typically characterized as hydrophilic, such as backbone amide groups. We also find that waters around alpha helices and beta sheets tend to be less stable than waters around loops. Furthermore, we find no significant correlation between the hydration site-free energy and the solvent accessible surface area of the site. In addition, we find that the distribution of high-energy hydration sites on the protein surface can be used to identify the location of binding sites and that binding sites of druggable targets tend to have a greater density of thermodynamically unstable hydration sites. Using this information, we characterize the FKBP12 protein and show good agreement between fragment screening hit rates from NMR spectroscopy and hydration site energetics. Finally, we show that water molecules observed in crystal structures are less stable on average than bulk water as a consequence of the high degree of spatial localization, thereby resulting in a significant loss in entropy. These findings should help to better understand the characteristics of waters at the surface of proteins and are expected to lead to insights that can guide structure-based drug design efforts.
Beuming T, Che Y, Abel R, Kim B, Shanmugasundaram V, Sherman W. Thermodynamic analysis of water molecules at the surface of proteins and applications to binding site prediction and characterization. Proteins, 80: 871-83, 2012.
The hydrophobic effect—a rationalization of the insolubility of nonpolar molecules in water—is centrally important to biomolecular recognition. Despite extensive research devoted to the hydrophobic effect, its molecular mechanisms remain controversial, and there are still no reliably predictive models for its role in protein–ligand binding. Here we describe a particularly well-defined system of protein and ligands—carbonic anhydrase and a series of structurally homologous heterocyclic aromatic sulfonamides—that we use to characterize hydrophobic interactions thermodynamically and structurally. In binding to this structurally rigid protein, a set of ligands (also defined to be structurally rigid) shows the expected gain in binding free energy as hydrophobic surface area is added. Isothermal titration calorimetry demonstrates that enthalpy determines these increases in binding affinity, and that changes in the heat capacity of binding are negative. X-ray crystallography and molecular dynamics simulations are compatible with the proposal that the differences in binding between the homologous ligands stem from changes in the number and organization of water molecules localized in the active site in the bound complexes, rather than (or perhaps in addition to) release of structured water from the apposed hydrophobic surfaces. These results support the hypothesis that structured water molecules—including both the molecules of water displaced by the ligands and those reorganized upon ligand binding—determine the thermodynamics of binding of these ligands at the active site of the protein. Hydrophobic effects in various contexts have different structural and thermodynamic origins, although all may be manifestations of the differences in characteristics of bulk water and water close to hydrophobic surfaces.
Snyder PW, Mecinović J, Moustakas DT, Thomas III SW, Harder M, Mack ET, Lockett MR, Héroux A, Sherman W, Whitesides GM. Mechanism of the hydrophobic effect in the biomolecular recognition of arylsulfonamides by carbonic anhydrase. PNAS, 108: 17889-17894, 2011.
The prevention of blood coagulation is important in treating thromboembolic disorders and several serine proteases involved in the coagulation cascade have been classified as pharmaceutically relevant. While structure-based drug design has contributed to the development of some serine protease inhibitors, traditional computational methods have not been able to fully describe structure-activity relationships (SAR). Here, we study SAR for a number of serine protease series using a method that calculates the thermodynamic properties (enthalpy and entropy) of the water solvating the active site. We show that the displacement of water from specific subpockets (e.g. S1-4, and the ester binding pocket) of the active site by the ligand can govern potency, especially in cases where small chemical changes (a methyl or halogen) result in a substantial increase in potency. Furthermore, we describe how relative binding free energies can be estimated by combining the water displacement energy with complementary terms from an implicit solvent molecular mechanics description of the binding event.
Abel R, Salam NK, Shelley J, Farid R, Friesner RA, and Sherman W. Contribution of explicit solvent effects to the binding affinity of small-molecule inhibitors in blood coagulation factor serine proteases. Chem Med Chem, 6: 1049-1066, 2011.
Kinases remain an important drug target class within the pharmaceutical industry; however, the rational design of kinase inhibitors is plagued by the complexity of gaining selectivity for a small number of proteins within a family of more than 500 related enzymes. Herein we show how a computational method for identifying the location and thermodynamic properties of water molecules within a protein binding site can yield insight into previously inexplicable selectivity and structure-activity relationships. Four kinase systems (Src family, Abl/c-Kit, Syk/ZAP-70, and CDK2/4) were investigated, and differences in predicted water molecule locations and energetics were able to explain the experimentally observed binding selectivity profiles. The successful predictions across the range of kinases studied here suggest that this methodology could be generally applicable for predicting selectivity profiles in related targets.
A series of triazolylpurine analogues show interesting and unintuitive structure-activity relationships against the A2A adenosine receptor. As the 2-substituted aliphatic group is initially increased to methyl and isopropyl, there is a decrease in potency; however, extending the substituent to n-butyl and n-pentyl results in a significant gain in potency. This trend cannot be readily explained by ligand-receptor interactions, steric effects, or differences in ligand desolvation. Here, we show that a novel method for characterizing solvent thermodynamics in protein binding sites correctly predicts the trend in binding affinity for this series based on the differential water displacement patterns. In brief, small unfavorable substituents occupy a region in the A2A adenosine receptor binding site predicted to contain stable waters, while the longer favorable substituents extend to a region that contains several unstable waters. The predicted binding energies associated with displacing water within these hydration sites correlate well with the experimental activities.
LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) is cleared from plasma via cellular uptake and internalization processes that are largely mediated by the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol receptor (LDL-R). LDL-R is targeted for lysosomal degradation by association with proprotein convertase subtilisin-kexin type 9 (PCSK9). Gain of function mutations in PCSK9 can result in excessive loss of receptors and dyslipidemia. On the other hand, receptor-sparing phenomena, including loss-of-function mutations or inhibition of PCSK9, can lead to enhanced clearance of plasma lipids. We hypothesize that desolvation and resolvation processes, in many cases, constitute rate-determining steps for protein–ligand association and dissociation, respectively. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed and compared the predicted desolvation properties of wild-type versus gain-of-function mutant Asp374Tyr PCSK9 using WaterMap, a new in silico method for predicting the preferred locations and thermodynamic properties of water solvating proteins (“hydration sites”). We compared these results with binding kinetics data for PCSK9, full-length LDL-R ectodomain, and isolated EGF-A repeat. We propose that the fast kon and entropically driven thermodynamics observed for PCSK9-EGF-A binding stem from the functional replacement of water occupying stable PCSK9 hydration sites (i.e., exchange of PCSK9 H-bonds from water to polar EGF-A groups). We further propose that the relatively fast koff observed for EGF-A unbinding stems from the limited displacement of solvent occupying unstable hydration sites. Conversely, the slower koff observed for EGF-A and LDL-R unbinding from Asp374Tyr PCSK9 stems from the destabilizing effects of this mutation on PCSK9 hydration sites, with a concomitant increase in the persistence of the bound complex.
Pearlstein RA, Hu QY, Zhou J, Yowe D, Levell J, Dale B, Kaushik VK, Daniels D, Hanrahan S, Sherman W, and Abel R. New hypotheses about the structure-function of proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9: Analysis of the epidermal growth factor-like repeat A docking site using WaterMap. Proteins, 78: 2571-2586, 2010.
PDZ domains have well known binding preferences for distinct C-terminal peptide motifs. For most PDZ domains, these motifs are of the form [S/T]-W-[I/L/V]. Although the preference for S/T has been explained by a specific hydrogen bond interaction with a histidine in the PDZ domain and the (I/L/V) is buried in a hydrophobic pocket, the mechanism for Trp specificity at the second to last position has thus far remained unknown. Here, we apply a method to compute the free energies of explicit water molecules and predict that potency gained by Trp binding is due to a favorable release of high-energy water molecules into bulk. The affinities of a series of peptides for both wild-type and mutant forms of the PDZ domain of Erbin correlate very well with the computed free energy of binding of displaced waters, suggesting a direct relationship between water displacement and peptide affinity. Finally, we show a correlation between the magnitude of the displaced water free energy and the degree of Trp-sensitivity among subtypes of the HTRA PDZ family, indicating a water-mediated mechanism for specificity of peptide binding.
Understanding the underlying physics of the binding of small-molecule ligands to protein active sites is a key objective of computational chemistry and biology. It is widely believed that displacement of water molecules from the active site by the ligand is a principal (if not the dominant) source of binding free energy. Although continuum theories of hydration are routinely used to describe the contributions of the solvent to the binding affinity of the complex, it is still an unsettled question as to whether or not these continuum solvation theories describe the underlying molecular physics with sufficient accuracy to reliably rank the binding affinities of a set of ligands for a given protein. Here we develop a novel, computationally efficient descriptor of the contribution of the solvent to the binding free energy of a small molecule and its associated receptor that captures the effects of the ligand displacing the solvent from the protein active site with atomic detail. This descriptor quantitatively predicts (R(2) = 0.81) the binding free energy differences between congeneric ligand pairs for the test system factor Xa, elucidates physical properties of the active-site solvent that appear to be missing in most continuum theories of hydration, and identifies several features of the hydration of the factor Xa active site relevant to the structure-activity relationship of its inhibitors.
The thermodynamic properties and phase behavior of water in confined regions can vary significantly from that observed in the bulk. This is particularly true for systems in which the confinement is on the molecular-length scale. In this study, we use molecular dynamics simulations and a powerful solvent analysis technique based on inhomogenous solvation theory to investigate the properties of water molecules that solvate the confined regions of protein active sites. Our simulations and analysis indicate that the solvation of protein active sites that are characterized by hydrophobic enclosure and correlated hydrogen bonds induce atypical entropic and enthalpic penalties of hydration. These penalties apparently stabilize the protein-ligand complex with respect to the independently solvated ligand and protein, which leads to enhanced binding affinities. Our analysis elucidates several challenging cases, including the super affinity of the streptavidin-biotin system.