Identification of novel non-hydroxamate anthrax toxin lethal factor inhibitors by topomeric searching, docking and scoring, and in vitro screening

Ting Lan Chiu, Jonathan Solberg, Satish Patil, Todd W. Geders, Xia Zhang, Subhashree Rangarajan, Rawle Francis, Barry C. Finzel, Michael A. Walters, Derek J. Hook, Elizabeth A. Amin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a Gram-positive, rod-shaped, anaerobic bacterium. The lethal factor (LF) enzyme is secreted by B. anthracis as part of a tripartite exotoxin and is chiefly responsible for anthrax-related cytotoxicity. As LF can remain in the system long after antibiotics have eradicated B. anthracis from the body, the preferred therapeutic modality would be the administration of antibiotics together with an effective LF inhibitor. Although LF has garnered a great deal of attention as an attractive target for rational drug design, relatively few published inhibitors have demonstrated activity in cell-based assays and, to date, no LF inhibitor is available as a therapeutic or preventive agent. Here we present a novel in silico high-throughput virtual screening protocol that successfully identified 5 non-hydroxamic acid small molecules as new, preliminary LF inhibitor scaffolds with low micromolar inhibition against that target, resulting in a 1.2.8% experimental hit rate. This protocol screened approximately 35 million nonredundant compounds for potential activity against LF and comprised topomeric searching, docking and scoring, and drug-like filtering. Among these 5 hit compounds, none of which has previously been identified as a LF inhibitor, three exhibited experimental IC50 values less than 100 mu;M. These three preliminary hits may potentially serve as scaffolds for lead optimization as well as templates for probe compounds to be used in mechanistic studies. Notably, our docking simulations predicted that these novel hits are likely to engage in critical ligand-receptor interactions with nearby residues in at least two of the three (Sl.′, S1-S2, and S2′) subsites in the LF substrate binding area, Further experimental characterization of these compounds is in process. We found that micromolar-level LF inhibition can be attained by compounds with non-hydroxamate zinc-binding groups that exhibit monodentate zinc chelation as long as key hydrophobic interactions with at least two LF subsites are retained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2726-2734
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 28 2009


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