Biochemistry and Pharmacology - Research Publications

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    Structural landscapes of PPI interfaces
    Rodrigues, CHM ; Pires, DE ; Blundell, TL ; Ascher, DB (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2022-06-02)
    Proteins are capable of highly specific interactions and are responsible for a wide range of functions, making them attractive in the pursuit of new therapeutic options. Previous studies focusing on overall geometry of protein-protein interfaces, however, concluded that PPI interfaces were generally flat. More recently, this idea has been challenged by their structural and thermodynamic characterisation, suggesting the existence of concave binding sites that are closer in character to traditional small-molecule binding sites, rather than exhibiting complete flatness. Here, we present a large-scale analysis of binding geometry and physicochemical properties of all protein-protein interfaces available in the Protein Data Bank. In this review, we provide a comprehensive overview of the protein-protein interface landscape, including evidence that even for overall larger, more flat interfaces that utilize discontinuous interacting regions, small and potentially druggable pockets are utilized at binding sites.
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    Understanding and predicting the functional consequences of missense mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2.
    Aljarf, R ; Shen, M ; Pires, DEV ; Ascher, DB (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2022-06-21)
    BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumour suppressor genes that play a critical role in maintaining genomic stability via the DNA repair mechanism. DNA repair defects caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 missense variants increase the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Accurate identification of these variants becomes clinically relevant, as means to guide personalized patient management and early detection. Next-generation sequencing efforts have significantly increased data availability but also the discovery of variants of uncertain significance that need interpretation. Experimental approaches used to measure the molecular consequences of these variants, however, are usually costly and time-consuming. Therefore, computational tools have emerged as faster alternatives for assisting in the interpretation of the clinical significance of newly discovered variants. To better understand and predict variant pathogenicity in BRCA1 and BRCA2, various machine learning algorithms have been proposed, however presented limited performance. Here we present BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene-specific models and a generic model for quantifying the functional impacts of single-point missense variants in these genes. Across tenfold cross-validation, our final models achieved a Matthew's Correlation Coefficient (MCC) of up to 0.98 and comparable performance of up to 0.89 across independent, non-redundant blind tests, outperforming alternative approaches. We believe our predictive tool will be a valuable resource for providing insights into understanding and interpreting the functional consequences of missense variants in these genes and as a tool for guiding the interpretation of newly discovered variants and prioritizing mutations for experimental validation.
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    Evaluating hierarchical machine learning approaches to classify biological databases
    Rezende, PM ; Xavier, JS ; Ascher, DB ; Fernandes, GR ; Pires, DE (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2022-06-21)
    The rate of biological data generation has increased dramatically in recent years, which has driven the importance of databases as a resource to guide innovation and the generation of biological insights. Given the complexity and scale of these databases, automatic data classification is often required. Biological data sets are often hierarchical in nature, with varying degrees of complexity, imposing different challenges to train, test and validate accurate and generalizable classification models. While some approaches to classify hierarchical data have been proposed, no guidelines regarding their utility, applicability and limitations have been explored or implemented. These include 'Local' approaches considering the hierarchy, building models per level or node, and 'Global' hierarchical classification, using a flat classification approach. To fill this gap, here we have systematically contrasted the performance of 'Local per Level' and 'Local per Node' approaches with a 'Global' approach applied to two different hierarchical datasets: BioLip and CATH. The results show how different components of hierarchical data sets, such as variation coefficient and prediction by depth, can guide the choice of appropriate classification schemes. Finally, we provide guidelines to support this process when embarking on a hierarchical classification task, which will help optimize computational resources and predictive performance.
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    cropCSM: designing safe and potent herbicides with graph-based signatures
    Pires, DE ; Stubbs, KA ; Mylne, JS ; Ascher, DB (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2022-02-24)
    Herbicides have revolutionised weed management, increased crop yields and improved profitability allowing for an increase in worldwide food security. Their widespread use, however, has also led to a rise in resistance and concerns about their environmental impact. Despite the need for potent and safe herbicidal molecules, no herbicide with a new mode of action has reached the market in 30 years. Although development of computational approaches has proven invaluable to guide rational drug discovery pipelines, leading to higher hit rates and lower attrition due to poor toxicity, little has been done in contrast for herbicide design. To fill this gap, we have developed cropCSM, a computational platform to help identify new, potent, nontoxic and environmentally safe herbicides. By using a knowledge-based approach, we identified physicochemical properties and substructures enriched in safe herbicides. By representing the small molecules as a graph, we leveraged these insights to guide the development of predictive models trained and tested on the largest collected data set of molecules with experimentally characterised herbicidal profiles to date (over 4500 compounds). In addition, we developed six new environmental and human toxicity predictors, spanning five different species to assist in molecule prioritisation. cropCSM was able to correctly identify 97% of herbicides currently available commercially, while predicting toxicity profiles with accuracies of up to 92%. We believe cropCSM will be an essential tool for the enrichment of screening libraries and to guide the development of potent and safe herbicides. We have made the method freely available through a user-friendly webserver at http://biosig.unimelb.edu.au/crop_csm.
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    Systematic evaluation of computational tools to predict the effects of mutations on protein stability in the absence of experimental structures
    Pan, Q ; Nguyen, TB ; Ascher, DB ; Pires, DE (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2022-03-10)
    Changes in protein sequence can have dramatic effects on how proteins fold, their stability and dynamics. Over the last 20 years, pioneering methods have been developed to try to estimate the effects of missense mutations on protein stability, leveraging growing availability of protein 3D structures. These, however, have been developed and validated using experimentally derived structures and biophysical measurements. A large proportion of protein structures remain to be experimentally elucidated and, while many studies have based their conclusions on predictions made using homology models, there has been no systematic evaluation of the reliability of these tools in the absence of experimental structural data. We have, therefore, systematically investigated the performance and robustness of ten widely used structural methods when presented with homology models built using templates at a range of sequence identity levels (from 15% to 95%) and contrasted performance with sequence-based tools, as a baseline. We found there is indeed performance deterioration on homology models built using templates with sequence identity below 40%, where sequence-based tools might become preferable. This was most marked for mutations in solvent exposed residues and stabilizing mutations. As structure prediction tools improve, the reliability of these predictors is expected to follow, however we strongly suggest that these factors should be taken into consideration when interpreting results from structure-based predictors of mutation effects on protein stability.
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    Oxidative desulfurization pathway for complete catabolism of sulfoquinovose by bacteria
    Sharma, M ; Lingford, JP ; Petricevic, M ; Snow, AJD ; Zhang, Y ; Jarva, MA ; Mui, JW-Y ; Scott, NE ; Saunders, EC ; Epa, R ; da Silva, BM ; Pires, DEV ; Ascher, DB ; McConville, MJ ; Davies, GJ ; Williams, SJ ; Goddard-Borger, ED (NATL ACAD SCIENCES, 2022-01-25)
    Catabolism of sulfoquinovose (SQ; 6-deoxy-6-sulfoglucose), the ubiquitous sulfosugar produced by photosynthetic organisms, is an important component of the biogeochemical carbon and sulfur cycles. Here, we describe a pathway for SQ degradation that involves oxidative desulfurization to release sulfite and enable utilization of the entire carbon skeleton of the sugar to support the growth of the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens SQ or its glycoside sulfoquinovosyl glycerol are imported into the cell by an ATP-binding cassette transporter system with an associated SQ binding protein. A sulfoquinovosidase hydrolyzes the SQ glycoside and the liberated SQ is acted on by a flavin mononucleotide-dependent sulfoquinovose monooxygenase, in concert with an NADH-dependent flavin reductase, to release sulfite and 6-oxo-glucose. An NAD(P)H-dependent oxidoreductase reduces the 6-oxo-glucose to glucose, enabling entry into primary metabolic pathways. Structural and biochemical studies provide detailed insights into the recognition of key metabolites by proteins in this pathway. Bioinformatic analyses reveal that the sulfoquinovose monooxygenase pathway is distributed across Alpha- and Betaproteobacteria and is especially prevalent within the Rhizobiales order. This strategy for SQ catabolism is distinct from previously described pathways because it enables the complete utilization of all carbons within SQ by a single organism with concomitant production of inorganic sulfite.
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    mmCSM-NA: accurately predicting effects of single and multiple mutations on protein nucleic acid binding affinity
    Thanh, BN ; Myung, Y ; de Sa, AGC ; Pires, DE ; Ascher, DB (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2021-11-17)
    While protein-nucleic acid interactions are pivotal for many crucial biological processes, limited experimental data has made the development of computational approaches to characterise these interactions a challenge. Consequently, most approaches to understand the effects of missense mutations on protein-nucleic acid affinity have focused on single-point mutations and have presented a limited performance on independent data sets. To overcome this, we have curated the largest dataset of experimentally measured effects of mutations on nucleic acid binding affinity to date, encompassing 856 single-point mutations and 141 multiple-point mutations across 155 experimentally solved complexes. This was used in combination with an optimized version of our graph-based signatures to develop mmCSM-NA (http://biosig.unimelb.edu.au/mmcsm_na), the first scalable method capable of quantitatively and accurately predicting the effects of multiple-point mutations on nucleic acid binding affinities. mmCSM-NA obtained a Pearson's correlation of up to 0.67 (RMSE of 1.06 Kcal/mol) on single-point mutations under cross-validation, and up to 0.65 on independent non-redundant datasets of multiple-point mutations (RMSE of 1.12 kcal/mol), outperforming similar tools. mmCSM-NA is freely available as an easy-to-use web-server and API. We believe it will be an invaluable tool to shed light on the role of mutations affecting protein-nucleic acid interactions in diseases.
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    pdCSM-GPCR: predicting potent GPCR ligands with graph-based signatures.
    Velloso, JPL ; Ascher, DB ; Pires, DEV ; Mulder, N (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2021)
    MOTIVATION: G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) can selectively bind to many types of ligands, ranging from light-sensitive compounds, ions, hormones, pheromones and neurotransmitters, modulating cell physiology. Considering their role in many essential cellular processes, they are one of the most targeted protein families, with over a third of all approved drugs modulating GPCR signalling. Despite this, the large diversity of receptors and their multipass transmembrane architectures make the identification and development of novel specific, and safe GPCR ligands a challenge. While computational approaches have the potential to assist GPCR drug development, they have presented limited performance and generalization capabilities. Here, we explored the use of graph-based signatures to develop pdCSM-GPCR, a method capable of rapidly and accurately screening potential GPCR ligands. RESULTS: Bioactivity data (IC50, EC50, Ki and Kd) for individual GPCRs were curated. After curation, we used the data for developing predictive models for 36 major GPCR targets, across 4 classes (A, B, C and F). Our models compose the most comprehensive computational resource for GPCR bioactivity prediction to date. Across stratified 10-fold cross-validation and blind tests, our approach achieved Pearson's correlations of up to 0.89, significantly outperforming previous methods. Interpreting our results, we identified common important features of potent GPCRs ligands, which tend to have bicyclic rings, leading to higher levels of aromaticity. We believe pdCSM-GPCR will be an invaluable tool to assist screening efforts, enriching compound libraries and ranking candidates for further experimental validation. AVAILABILITY AND IMPLEMENTATION: pdCSM-GPCR predictive models and datasets used have been made available via a freely accessible and easy-to-use web server at http://biosig.unimelb.edu.au/pdcsm_gpcr/. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics Advances online.
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    Unveiling six potent and highly selective antileishmanial agents via the open source compound collection 'Pathogen Box' against antimony-sensitive and -resistant Leishmania braziliensis
    Souza Silva, JA ; Tunes, LG ; Coimbra, RS ; Ascher, DB ; Pires, DE ; Monte-Neto, RL (ELSEVIER FRANCE-EDITIONS SCIENTIFIQUES MEDICALES ELSEVIER, 2021-01-01)
    Despite all efforts to provide new chemical entities to tackle leishmaniases, we are still dependent on a the limited drug arsenal, together with drawbacks like toxicity and drug-resistant parasites. Collaborative drug discovery emerged as an option to speed up the way to find alternative antileishmanial agents. This is the case of Medicines for Malaria Ventures - MMV, that promotes an open source drug discovery initiative to fight diseases worldwide. Here, we screened 400 compounds from 'Pathogen Box' (PBox) collection against Leishmania braziliensis, the main etiological agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis in Brazil. Twenty-three compounds were able to inhibit ≥ 80 % L. braziliensis growth at 5 μM. Six out of the PBox selected 23 compounds were found to be highly selective against L. braziliensis intracellular amastigotes with selectivity index varying from > 104 to > 746 and IC50s ranging from 47 to 480 nM. The compounds were also active against antimony-resistant L. braziliensis isolated from the field or laboratory selected mutants, revealing the potential on treating patients infected with drug resistant parasites. Most of the selected compounds were known to be active against kinetoplastids, however, two compounds (MMV688703 and MMV676477) were part of toxoplasmosis and tuberculosis 'PBox' disease set, reinforcing the potential of phenotyping screening to unveil drug repurposing. Here we applied a computational prediction of pharmacokinetic properties using the ADMET predictor pkCSM (http://biosig.unimelb.edu.au/pkcsm/). The tool offered clues on potential drug development needs and can support further in vivo studies. Molecular docking analysis identified CRK3 (LbrM.35.0660), CYP450 (LbrM.30.3580) and PKA (LbrM.18.1180) as L. braziliensis targets for MMV676604, MMV688372 and MMV688703, respectively. Compounds from 'Pathogen Box' thus represents a new hope for novel (or repurposed) small molecules source to tackle leishmaniases.
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    A Family of Dual-Activity Glycosyltransferase-Phosphorylases Mediates Mannogen Turnover and Virulence in Leishmania Parasites
    Sernee, MF ; Ralton, JE ; Nero, TL ; Sobala, LF ; Kloehn, J ; Vieira-Lara, MA ; Cobbold, SA ; Stanton, L ; Pires, DEV ; Hanssen, E ; Males, A ; Ward, T ; Bastidas, LM ; van der Peet, PL ; Parker, MW ; Ascher, DB ; Williams, SJ ; Davies, GJ ; McConville, MJ (CELL PRESS, 2019-09-11)
    Parasitic protists belonging to the genus Leishmania synthesize the non-canonical carbohydrate reserve, mannogen, which is composed of β-1,2-mannan oligosaccharides. Here, we identify a class of dual-activity mannosyltransferase/phosphorylases (MTPs) that catalyze both the sugar nucleotide-dependent biosynthesis and phosphorolytic turnover of mannogen. Structural and phylogenic analysis shows that while the MTPs are structurally related to bacterial mannan phosphorylases, they constitute a distinct family of glycosyltransferases (GT108) that have likely been acquired by horizontal gene transfer from gram-positive bacteria. The seven MTPs catalyze the constitutive synthesis and turnover of mannogen. This metabolic rheostat protects obligate intracellular parasite stages from nutrient excess, and is essential for thermotolerance and parasite infectivity in the mammalian host. Our results suggest that the acquisition and expansion of the MTP family in Leishmania increased the metabolic flexibility of these protists and contributed to their capacity to colonize new host niches.