Computational modeling-based discovery of novel classes of anti-inflammatory drugs that  target lanthionine synthetase C-like protein 2

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Virginia Tech

Lanthionine synthetase C-like protein 2 (LANCL2) is a member of the LANCL protein family, which is broadly expressed throughout the body. LANCL2 is the molecular target of abscisic acid (ABA), a compound with insulin-sensitizing and immune modulatory actions. LANCL2 is required for membrane binding and signaling of ABA in immune cells. Direct binding of ABA to LANCL2 was predicted in silico using molecular modeling approaches and validated experimentally using ligand-binding assays and kinetic surface plasmon resonance studies. The therapeutic potential of the LANCL2 pathway ranges from increasing cellular sensitivity to anticancer drugs, insulin-sensitizing effects and modulating immune and inflammatory responses in the context of immune-mediated and infectious diseases. A case for LANCL2-based drug discovery and development is also illustrated by the anti-inflammatory activity of novel LANCL2 ligands such as NSC61610 against inflammatory bowel disease in mice. This dissertation discusses the value of LANCL2 as a novel therapeutic target for the discovery and development of new classes of orally active drugs against chronic metabolic, immune-mediated and infectious diseases and as a validated target that can be used in precision medicine.

Specifically, in Chapter 2 of the dissertation, we performed homology modeling to construct a three-dimensional structure of LANCL2 using the crystal structure of LANCL1 as a template. Our molecular docking studies predicted that ABA and other PPAR - agonists share a binding site on the surface of LANCL2.

In Chapter 3 of the dissertation, structure-based virtual screening was performed. Several potential ligands were identified using molecular docking. In order to validate the anti-inflammatory efficacy of the top ranked compound (NSC61610) in the NCI Diversity Set II, a series of in vitro and pre-clinical efficacy studies were performed using a mouse model of dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis.

In Chapter 4 of the dissertation, we developed a novel integrated approach for creating a synthetic patient population and testing the efficacy of the novel pre-clinical stage LANCL2 therapeutic for Crohn's disease in large clinical cohorts in silico. Efficacy of treatments on Crohn's disease was evaluated by analyzing predicted changes of Crohn's disease activity index (CDAI) scores and correlations with immunological variables were evaluated. The results from our placebo-controlled, randomized, Phase III in silico clinical trial at 6 weeks following the treatment shows a positive correlation between the initial disease activity score and the drop in CDAI score. This observation highlights the need for precision medicine strategies for IBD.

LANCL2, Anti-inflammatory Drug Discovery, Molecular Modeling, Virtual Screening, In Silico Clinical Trial