Exploratory computational assessment of possible binding modes for small molecule inhibitors of the CD40-CD154 co-stimulatory interaction

L. Ganesan, D. Vidović, Stephan C Schuerer, Peter Buchwald

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3 Scopus citations


Protein-protein interactions (PPI) tend to involve extensive, flat, and featureless interfaces that are difficult to disrupt by small molecule binding. However, recently, PPIs are being recognized as increasingly valuable 'druggable' targets. We have identified several small molecule inhibitors of the immunologically relevant CD40-CD154 co-stimulatory interaction that bind to the homotrimeric CD154, a member of the tumor necrosis factor superfamily (TNFSF). Recently, on the basis of the co-crystal structure of CD154 with another small molecule (BIO8898), it has been suggested that these PPIs could be particularly susceptible to small molecule blockade due to a subunit fracture mechanism resulting in a distortion of the trimeric structure. To investigate whether this mechanism can occur with our organic dye-related inhibitors, we performed exploratory computational docking experiments. Possible druggable pockets that can serve as binding sites for small molecule inhibitors were identified with the FFT map algorithm both along the CD154-CD40 binding interface (competitive, orthosteric model) and in the interior core of the CD154 trimer corresponding to the BIO8898 binding site (allosteric model). Docking experiments (using Glide) were performed at these sites using the PDB ID: 3QD6 (CD40-CD154) and 3LKJ (BIO8898-CD154) co-crystal structures, respectively. The docking algorithm was able to better discriminate binders from non-binders at the deeper allosteric site than at the competitive site. Accordingly, an allosteric inhibitory mechanism that involves intercalation between monomeric subunits seems feasible for our small molecules making the constitutively trimeric CD154 a likely druggable target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-379
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 21 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science

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