Parasitic infections are a widespread health problem and research of novel anthelmintic compounds is of the utmost importance. In this study we performed a virtual screening campaign by coupling ligand-based pharmacophore, homology modeling and molecular docking. The virtual screening campaign was conducted using a joined pool of the Drugbank database and a library of purchasable compounds in order to identify drug like compounds with similar pharmacological activity. Our aim was to identify compounds with a potential antihelmintic modulatory effect on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR). We derived a 3D pharmacophore model based on the chemical features of known Ascaris suum nAChR modulators. To evaluate the in silico predictions, we tested selected hit compounds in contraction assays using somatic muscle flaps of the Ascaris suum neuromuscular tissue. We tested the modulatory effects of GSK575594A, diazepam and flumazenil hit compounds on nematode contractions induced by acetyl choline (ACh). The compound GSK575594A (3 μM) increased the Emax by 21 % with the EC50 dose ratio of 0.96. Diazepam (100 μM) decreased the Emax by 15 % (1.11 g to 0.95 g) with the EC50 ratio of 1.42 (shifted to the left from 11.25 to 7.93). Flumazenil decreased the EC50 value (from 11.22 μM to 4.88 μM) value showing dose ratio of 2.30, and increased the Emax by 4 % (from 1.54 g to 1.59 g). The observed biological activity was rationalized by molecular docking calculations. Docking scores were calculated against several binding sites within the Ascaris suum homology model. We constructed the homology model using the ACR-16 subunit sequence. The compound GSK575594A showed strong affinity for the intersubunit allosteric binding site within the nAChR transmembrane domain. The binding modes of diazepam and flumazenil suggest that these compounds have a comparable affinity for orthosteric and allosteric nAChR binding sites. The selected hit compounds displayed potential for further optimization as lead compounds. Therefore, such compounds may be useful in neutralizing the growing resistance of parasites to drugs, either alone or in combination with existing conventional anthelmintics.
By Strahinja Stevanovica, Djordje S.Marjanović, Sasa M.Trailović, Nemanja Zdravković, Andrej Perdih, Katarina Nikolic