A combination strategy of structure-based virtual screening, MM-GBSA, cross docking, molecular dynamics and metadynamics simulations used to investigate natural compounds as potent and specific inhibitors of tumor linked human carbonic anhydrase IX
Cancer remains a serious health concern representing one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide. The enzyme human carbonic anhydrase IX (hCA IX) is found to be over-expressed in many cancer types and its selective inhibition over its cytosolic off-target isoform, human carbonic anhydrase II (hCA II), represents a potential area of research in the development of novel anticancer compounds. This work is concerned with the use of various in silico tools for the identification of natural product based molecules that can selectively inhibit hCA IX over hCA II. MM-GBSA assisted structure-based virtual screening against hCA IX was performed for nearly 225,000 natural products imported from the ZINC15 database. The obtained hits were checked for their potency by considering acetazolamide, the bound inhibitor of hCA IX, as the reference molecule, and 121 molecules were identified as potent hCA IX inhibitors. After ensuring their potency, cross-docking, followed by MM-GBSA calculations of the hits with hCA II, was performed, and their selectivity was assessed by considering the hCA IX selective compound SLC-0111 as the reference molecule, and 50 natural products were identified as potent as well as selective hCA IX inhibitors. Molecules with the quinoline scaffold showed the highest selectivity, and their selectivity was attributed to the strong electrostatic interactions of the zinc binding group (ZBG) with the active site Zn(II) ion. Furthermore, the stability of the binding modes of the top hCA IX selective hits was ensured by performing molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, which clearly proved that one of the short-listed molecules is truly selective, as it does not interact with the active site Zn(II) ion of hCA II, but interacts strongly with this ion in hCA IX. Bonding pose metadynamics studies revealed that the ligand moves to a more stable binding site from the one predicted by the docking studies and shows stronger interaction with the protein and Zn(II) at this binding site. The ligand is not likely to have issues with bioavailability. As a result, this ligand can be taken for bioassay testing and subsequently used as a feasible therapeutic treatment for a variety of cancer types.
Communicated by Ramaswamy H. Sarma