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J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Jul 11;134(27):11168-76. doi: 10.1021/ja3001908. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

Computational discovery of picomolar Q(o) site inhibitors of cytochrome bc1 complex.

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Key Laboratory of Pesticide & Chemical Biology, Ministry of Education, College of Chemistry, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, P. R. China.


A critical challenge to the fragment-based drug discovery (FBDD) is its low-throughput nature due to the necessity of biophysical method-based fragment screening. Herein, a method of pharmacophore-linked fragment virtual screening (PFVS) was successfully developed. Its application yielded the first picomolar-range Q(o) site inhibitors of the cytochrome bc(1) complex, an important membrane protein for drug and fungicide discovery. Compared with the original hit compound 4 (K(i) = 881.80 nM, porcine bc(1)), the most potent compound 4f displayed 20 507-fold improved binding affinity (K(i) = 43.00 pM). Compound 4f was proved to be a noncompetitive inhibitor with respect to the substrate cytochrome c, but a competitive inhibitor with respect to the substrate ubiquinol. Additionally, we determined the crystal structure of compound 4e (K(i) = 83.00 pM) bound to the chicken bc(1) at 2.70 Å resolution, providing a molecular basis for understanding its ultrapotency. To our knowledge, this study is the first application of the FBDD method in the discovery of picomolar inhibitors of a membrane protein. This work demonstrates that the novel PFVS approach is a high-throughput drug discovery method, independent of biophysical screening techniques.

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