Exner, Thomas E.
Setting the stage for next-generation risk assessment with non-animal approaches : the EU-ToxRisk project experience
2020-10, Moné, Martijn J., Pallocca, Giorgia, Escher, Sylvia E., Exner, Thomas E., Herzler, Matthias, Bennekou, Susanne Hougaard, Kamp, Hennicke, Kroese, E. Dinant, Leist, Marcel, Steger-Hartmann, Thomas
In 2016, the European Commission launched the EU-ToxRisk research project to develop and promote animal-free approaches in toxicology. The 36 partners of this consortium used in vitro and in silico methods in the context of case studies (CSs). These CSs included both compounds with a highly defined target (e.g. mitochondrial respiratory chain inhibitors) as well as compounds with poorly defined molecular initiation events (e.g. short-chain branched carboxylic acids). The initial project focus was on developing a science-based strategy for read-across (RAx) as an animal-free approach in chemical risk assessment. Moreover, seamless incorporation of new approach method (NAM) data into this process (= NAM-enhanced RAx) was explored. Here, the EU-ToxRisk consortium has collated its scientific and regulatory learnings from this particular project objective. For all CSs, a mechanistic hypothesis (in the form of an adverse outcome pathway) guided the safety evaluation. ADME data were generated from NAMs and used for comprehensive physiological-based kinetic modelling. Quality assurance and data management were optimized in parallel. Scientific and Regulatory Advisory Boards played a vital role in assessing the practical applicability of the new approaches. In a next step, external stakeholders evaluated the usefulness of NAMs in the context of RAx CSs for regulatory acceptance. For instance, the CSs were included in the OECD CS portfolio for the Integrated Approach to Testing and Assessment project. Feedback from regulators and other stakeholders was collected at several stages. Future chemical safety science projects can draw from this experience to implement systems toxicology-guided, animal-free next-generation risk assessment.
Nanodiscs for INPHARMA NMR Characterization of GPCRs: Ligand Binding to the Human A2A Adenosine Receptor
2017, Fredriksson, Kai, Lottmann, Philip, Hinz, Sonja, Onila, Iounut, Shymanets, Aliaksei, Harteneck, Christian, Müller, Christa E., Griesinger, Christian, Exner, Thomas E.
G-protein-coupled-receptors (GPCRs) are of fundamental importance for signal transduction through cell membranes. This makes them important drug targets, but structure-based drug design (SBDD) is still hampered by the limitations for structure determination of unmodified GPCRs. We show that the interligand NOEs for pharmacophore mapping (INPHARMA) method can provide valuable information on ligand poses inside the binding site of the unmodified human A2A adenosine receptor reconstituted in nanodiscs. By comparing experimental INPHARMA spectra with back-calculated spectra based on ligand poses obtained from molecular dynamics simulations, a complex structure for A2A R with the low-affinity ligand 3-pyrrolidin-1-ylquinoxalin-2-amine was determined based on the X-ray structure of ligand ZM-241,358 in complex with a modified A2A R.
Accurate ab initio prediction of NMR chemical shifts of nucleic acids and nucleic acids/protein complexes
2014, Victora, Andrea, Möller, Heiko M., Exner, Thomas E.
NMR chemical shift predictions based on empirical methods are nowadays indispensable tools during resonance assignment and 3D structure calculation of proteins. However, owing to the very limited statistical data basis, such methods are still in their infancy in the field of nucleic acids, especially when non-canonical structures and nucleic acid complexes are considered. Here, we present an ab initio approach for predicting proton chemical shifts of arbitrary nucleic acid structures based on state-of-the-art fragment-based quantum chemical calculations. We tested our prediction method on a diverse set of nucleic acid structures including double-stranded DNA, hairpins, DNA/protein complexes and chemically-modified DNA. Overall, our quantum chemical calculations yield highly/very accurate predictions with mean absolute deviations of 0.3–0.6 ppm and correlation coefficients (r2) usually above 0.9. This will allow for identifying misassignments and validating 3D structures. Furthermore, our calculations reveal that chemical shifts of protons involved in hydrogen bonding are predicted significantly less accurately. This is in part caused by insufficient inclusion of solvation effects. However, it also points toward shortcomings of current force fields used for structure determination of nucleic acids. Our quantum chemical calculations could therefore provide input for force field optimization.
Simultaneous occurence of three different valence tautomers in meso-vinyl ruthenium-modified Zn-Porphyrin radical cations
2013-03-06, Chen, Jing, Wuttke, Evelyn, Polit, Walther, Exner, Thomas E., Winter, Rainer F.
The mixed-valent radical cation of a styrylruthenium-modified meso-tetraarylzinc porphyrin forms a mixture of three different valence tautomers (VTs) in CH2Cl2 or 1,2-C2H4Cl2 solutions. One of these VTs has the charge and spin delocalized over the porphyrin and the styrylruthenium moieties, while the other two display charge and spin localization on just one of the different redox sites. The relative amounts of the three different VTs were determined by EPR and IR spectroscopies at variable temperatures, while delocalization in the ground state was confirmed by DFT calculations.
Binding of HasA by its transmembrane receptor HasR follows a conformational funnel mechanism
2020-01, Exner, Thomas E., Becker, Stefanie, Becker, Simon, Boniface-Guiraud, Audrey, Delepelaire, Philippe, Diederichs, Kay, Welte, Wolfram
HasR in the outer membrane of Serratia marcescens binds secreted, heme-loaded HasA and translocates the heme to the periplasm to satisfy the cell’s demand for iron. The previously published crystal structure of the wild-type complex showed HasA in a very specific binding arrangement with HasR, apt to relax the grasp on the heme and assure its directed transfer to the HasR-binding site. Here, we present a new crystal structure of the heme-loaded HasA arranged with a mutant of HasR, called double mutant (DM) in the following that seemed to mimic a precursor stage of the abovementioned final arrangement before heme transfer. To test this, we performed first molecular dynamics (MD) simulations starting at the crystal structure of the complex of HasA with the DM mutant and then targeted MD simulations of the entire binding process beginning with heme-loaded HasA in solution. When the simulation starts with the former complex, the two proteins in most simulations do not dissociate. When the mutations are reverted to the wild-type sequence, dissociation and development toward the wild-type complex occur in most simulations. This indicates that the mutations create or enhance a local energy minimum. In the targeted MD simulations, the first protein contacts depend upon the chosen starting position of HasA in solution. Subsequently, heme-loaded HasA slides on the external surface of HasR on paths that converge toward the specific arrangement apt for heme transfer. The targeted simulations end when HasR starts to relax the grasp on the heme, the subsequent events being in a time regime inaccessible to the available computing power. Interestingly, none of the ten independent simulation paths visits exactly the arrangement of HasA with HasR seen in the crystal structure of the mutant. Two factors which do not exclude each other could explain these observations: the double mutation creates a non-physiologic potential energy minimum between the two proteins and /or the target potential in the simulation pushes the system along paths deviating from the low-energy paths of the native binding processes. Our results support the former view, but do not exclude the latter possibility.
On-the-Fly Integration of Data from a Spin-Diffusion-Based NMR Experiment into Protein–Ligand Docking
2015-09-28, Onila, Ionut, ten Brink, Tim, Fredriksson, Kai, Codutti, Luca, Mazur, Adam, Griesinger, Christian, Carlomagno, Teresa, Exner, Thomas E.
INPHARMA (interligand nuclear Overhauser enhancement for pharmacophore mapping) determines the relative orientation of two competitive ligands in the protein binding pocket. It is based on the observation of interligand transferred NOEs mediated by spin diffusion through protons of the protein and is, therefore, sensitive to the specific interactions of each of the two ligands with the protein. We show how this information can be directly included into a protein-ligand docking program to guide the prediction of the complex structures. Agreement between the experimental and back-calculated spectra based on the full relaxation matrix approach is translated into a score contribution that is combined with the scoring function ChemPLP of our docking tool PLANTS. This combined score is then used to predict the poses of five weakly bound cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) ligands. After optimizing the setup, which finally also included trNOE data and optimized protonation states, very good success rates were obtained for all combinations of three ligands. For one additional ligand, no conclusive results could be obtained due to the ambiguous electron density of the ligand in the X-ray structure, which does not disprove alternative ligand poses. The failures of the remaining ligand are caused by suboptimal locations of specific protein side chains. Therefore, side-chain flexibility should be included in an improved INPHARMA-PLANTS version. This will reduce the strong dependence on the used protein input structure leading to improved scores overall, not only for this last ligand.
A Biophysical Study with Carbohydrate Derivatives Explains the Molecular Basis of Monosaccharide Selectivity of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa Lectin LecB
2014, Sommer, Roman, Exner, Thomas E., Titz, Alexander
The rise of resistances against antibiotics in bacteria is a major threat for public health and demands the development of novel antibacterial therapies. Infections with Pseudomonas aeruginosa are a severe problem for hospitalized patients and for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis. These bacteria can form biofilms and thereby increase their resistance towards antibiotics. The bacterial lectin LecB was shown to be necessary for biofilm formation and the inhibition with its carbohydrate ligands resulted in reduced amounts of biofilm. The natural ligands for LecB are glycosides of d-mannose and l-fucose, the latter displaying an unusual strong affinity. Interestingly, although mannosides are much weaker ligands for LecB, they do form an additional hydrogen bond with the protein in the crystal structure. To analyze the individual contributions of the methyl group in fucosides and the hydroxymethyl group in mannosides to the binding, we designed and synthesized derivatives of these saccharides. We report glycomimetic inhibitors that dissect the individual interactions of their saccharide precursors with LecB and give insight into the biophysics of binding by LecB. Furthermore, theoretical calculations supported by experimental thermodynamic data suggest a perturbed hydrogen bonding network for mannose derivatives as molecular basis for the selectivity of LecB for fucosides. Knowledge gained on the mode of interaction of LecB with its ligands at ambient conditions will be useful for future drug design.
Template for the description of cell-based toxicological test methods to allow evaluation and regulatory use of the data
2019, Krebs, Alice, Waldmann, Tanja, Rovida, Costanza, Pallocca, Giorgia, Hartung, Thomas, Gantner, Florian, Exner, Thomas E., Dietrich, Daniel R., Busquet, Francois, Leist, Marcel
Only few cell-based test methods are described by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) test guidelines or other regulatory references (e.g., the European Pharmacopoeia). The majority of toxicity tests still falls into the category of non-guideline methods. Data from these tests may nevertheless be used to support regulatory decisions or to guide strategies to assess compounds (e.g., drugs, agrochemicals) during research and development if they fulfill basic requirements concerning their relevance, reproducibility and predictivity. Only a method description of sufficient clarity and detail allows interpretation and use of the data. To guide regulators faced with increasing amounts of data from non-guideline studies, the OECD formulated Guidance Document 211 (GD211) on method documentation for the purpose of safety assessment. As GD211 is targeted mainly at regulators, it leaves scientists less familiar with regulation uncertain as to what level of detail is required and how individual questions should be answered. Moreover, little attention was given to the description of the test system (i.e., cell culture) and the steps leading to it being established in the guidance. To address these issues, an annotated toxicity test method template (ToxTemp) was developed (i) to fulfill all requirements of GD211, (ii) to guide the user concerning the types of answers and detail of information required, (iii) to include acceptance criteria for test elements, and (iv) to define the cells sufficiently and transparently. The fully annotated ToxTemp is provided here, together with reference to a database containing exemplary descriptions of more than 20 cell-based tests.
Cα torsion angles as a flexible criterion to extract secrets from a molecular dynamics simulation
2014, Devadoss, Fredrick Robin, Exner, Thomas E.
Given the increasing complexity of simulated molecular systems, and the fact that simulation times have now reached milliseconds to seconds, immense amounts of data (in the gigabyte to terabyte range) are produced in current molecular dynamics simulations. Manual analysis of these data is a very time-consuming task, and important events that lead from one intermediate structure to another can become occluded in the noise resulting from random thermal fluctuations. To overcome these problems and facilitate a semi-automated data analysis, we introduce in this work a measure based on Cα torsion angles: torsion angles formed by four consecutive Cα atoms. This measure describes changes in the backbones of large systems on a residual length scale (i.e., a small number of residues at a time). Cluster analysis of individual Cα torsion angles and its fuzzification led to continuous time patches representing (meta)stable conformations and to the identification of events acting as transitions between these conformations. The importance of a change in torsion angle to structural integrity is assessed by comparing this change to the average fluctuations in the same torsion angle over the complete simulation. Using this novel measure in combination with other measures such as the root mean square deviation (RMSD) and time series of distance measures, we performed an in-depth analysis of a simulation of the open form of DNA polymerase I. The times at which major conformational changes occur and the most important parts of the molecule and their interrelations were pinpointed in this analysis. The simultaneous determination of the time points and localizations of major events is a significant advantage of the new bottom-up approach presented here, as compared to many other (top-down) approaches in which only the similarity of the complete structure is analyzed.
Discovery of Two Classes of Potent Glycomimetic Inhibitors of Pseudomonas aeruginosa LecB with Distinct Binding Modes
2013-08-16, Hauck, Dirk, Joachim, Ines, Frommeyer, Benjamin, Varrot, Annabelle, Philipp, Bodo, Möller, Heiko M., Imberty, Anne, Exner, Thomas E., Titz, Alexander
The treatment of infections due to the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa is often difficult, as a consequence of bacterial biofilm formation. Such a protective environment shields the bacterium from host defense and antibiotic treatment and secures its survival. One crucial factor for maintenance of the biofilm architecture is the carbohydrate-binding lectin LecB. Here, we report the identification of potent mannose-based LecB inhibitors from a screening of four series of mannosides in a novel competitive binding assay for LecB. Cinnamide and sulfonamide derivatives are inhibitors of bacterial adhesion with up to a 20-fold increase in affinity to LecB compared to the natural ligand methyl mannoside. Because many lectins of the host require terminal saccharides (e.g., fucosides), such capped structures as reported here may offer a beneficial selectivity profile for the pathogenic lectin. Both classes of compounds show distinct binding modes at the protein, offering the advantage of a simultaneous development of two new lead structures as anti-pseudomonadal drugs with an anti-virulence mode of action.