Rationalisation and design of molecular recognition: computational and experimental approaches.

  • Luz Flores Michel

Student thesis: Phd


Molecular recognition is essential to all biological interactions and processes. Knowledge of the structural basis of recognition offers a powerful mechanism for understanding, predicting and controlling the behaviour of biological systems. In this thesis, we present, firstly a computational and crystallographic analysis of molecular recognition in protein-ligand systems; and secondly, progress towards the synthesis of a fluorescent probe for calcium ion recognition.Class I phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks), in particular PI3Kγ, have long been considered promising drug targets for the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. As a step towards improved understanding of PI3K binding preferences, we examine the basis on which PI3Kγ distinguishes γ-selective inhibitors AS-605240 and AS-604850, with a ~30-fold preference for the former. Interestingly, despite the chemical similarity of the two ligands, the X-ray structures for their PI3Kγ complexes exhibit the molecules in different conformers, s-cis for AS-604850 and s-trans for AS-605240. Here, we re-examine the PI3Kγ/AS-605240 crystallographic data and find that not only is a s-cis conformation possible but in fact it has a much higher occupancy (87%) than the originally modelled s-trans isomer (13%). Subsequently, to account for the isomeric complexities presented by the ligands, we perform 140 ns MD simulations of the four PI3Kγ complexes in explicit solvent: this reveals similar conformational flexibility at the active site for all systems. Yet, the conformations sampled by the s-cis isomers are more consistent with the conformations reported by the X-ray crystal structures. Subsequent energetic analysis was performed incorporating ensemble-averaging and desolvation effects via the Poisson-Boltzmann continuum solvent model. For both inhibitors the s-cis isomers are predicted to be the most favourable conformations. Additionally, the results indicate a preference for AS-605240, as observed experimentally. The molecular basis for this preference is discussed, together with a comparison of molecular mechanical and quantum chemical treatments of the key ligand-Val882 interaction. This study provides structural, dynamical and energetic insights into the subtle basis of molecular recognition by PI3Kγ.Fluorescent probes have evolved into an extremely useful tool for the detection of calcium in biological systems. Benzothiazole derivatives BTC, and its iminocoumarin analogue BTIC, are two low affinity calcium indicators featuring many desirable properties for cellular calcium measurement. In an effort to produce fluorophores that can be chemically conjugated with a screening protein, such as Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), we aimed to derivatise BTC and BTIC. Two synthetic approaches towards the synthesis of these potential fluorescent probes are outlined.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Bryce (Supervisor)


  • FRET
  • GFP
  • Fluorescent probes
  • PI3K
  • Molecular Dynamics
  • Molecular recognition

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