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Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics

Theoretical studies on FGFR isoform selectivity of FGFR1/FGFR4 inhibitors by molecular dynamics simulations and free energy calculations

Authors: Weitao Fu; Lingfeng Chen; Zhe Wang; Yanting Kang; Chao Wu; Qinqin Xia; Zhiguo Liu; Jianmin Zhou; Guang Liang; Yuepiao Cai

Publication Date: 2017-02-01  Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 3649-3659

The activation and overexpression of fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) are highly correlated with a variety of cancers. Most small molecule inhibitors of FGFRs selectively target FGFR1-3, but not FGFR4. Hence, designing highly selective inhibitors towards FGFR4 remains a great challenge because FGFR4 and FGFR1 have a high sequence identity. Recently, two small molecule inhibitors of FGFRs, ponatinib and AZD4547, have attracted huge attention. Ponatinib, a type II inhibitor, has high affinity towards FGFR1/4 isoforms, but AZD4547, a type I inhibitor of FGFR1, displays much reduced inhibition toward FGFR4. In this study, conventional molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, molecular mechanics/generalized Born surface area (MM/GBSA) free energy calculations and umbrella sampling (US) simulations were carried out to reveal the principle of the binding preference of ponatinib and AZD4547 towards FGFR4/FGFR1. The results provided by MM/GBSA illustrate that ponatinib has similar binding affinities to FGFR4 and FGFR1, while AZD4547 has much stronger binding affinity to FGFR1 than to FGFR4. A comparison of the individual energy terms suggests that the selectivity of AZD4547 towards FGFR1 versus FGFR4 is primarily controlled by the variation of the van der Waals interactions. The US simulations reveal that the PMF profile of FGFR1/AZD4547 has more peaks and valleys compared with that of FGFR4/AZD4547, suggesting that the dissociation process of AZD4547 from FGFR1 are easily trapped into local minima. Moreover, it is observed that FGFR1/AZD4547 has much higher PMF depth than FGFR4/AZD4547, implying that it is more difficult for AZD4547 to escape from FGFR1 than from FGFR4. The physical principles provided by this study extend our understanding of the binding mechanisms and provide valuable guidance for the rational design of FGFR isoform selective inhibitors.  Read more