Strategies for the design of inhibitors of aldose reductase, an enzyme showing pronounced induced-fit adaptations
Aldose reductase is involved in the polyol pathway, catalyzing the reduction of glucose to sorbitol. However, due to pronounced binding site adaptations, the enzyme can operate on a broad palette of structurally diverse substrates ranging from small aliphatic and aromatic aldehydes up to steroid-type ligands. A comparative analysis of the presently accessible crystal structures of aldose reductase complexes reveals four binding-competent protein conformations. Additional relevant conformers are detected through molecular dynamics simulations. They indicate an equilibrium of several conformers which is shifted towards the binding-competent geometries upon ligand binding. Such a manifold system with several alternative binding site conformers requires some tailored concepts in virtual screening. We followed two strategies, both successfully suggesting new micromolar inhibitors. In a first attempt, we concentrated on one preferred conformer and performed a virtual screening, assuming that the binding pocket of aldose reductase adopts only this conformation. In a second approach, we followed a ligand superpositioning method. Ligands were extracted in their bound conformations from three different crystal structures, all accommodating the ligands with different active site conformations. After merging these ligands into one supermolecule, mutual alignments were computed, taking candidate ligands from a screening database. The latter strategy also retrieved several structurally new inhibitors of micromolar potency.
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