The IL-6/IL-6R or IL-6/GP130 protein-protein interactions play a significant role in controlling the development of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Castleman disease, psoriasis, and, most recently, COVID-19. Modulating or antagonizing protein-protein interactions of IL6 binding to its receptors by oral drugs promises similar efficacy to biological therapy in patients, namely monoclonal antibodies. In this study, we used a crystal structure of the Fab part of olokizumab in a complex with IL-6 (PDB ID: 4CNI) to uncover starting points for small molecule IL-6 antagonist discovery. Firstly, a structure‑based pharmacophore model of the protein active site cavity was generated to identify possible candidates, followed by virtual screening with a significant database Drugbank. After the docking protocol validation, a virtual screening by molecular docking was carried out and a total of 11 top hits were reported. Detailed analysis of the best scoring molecules was performed with ADME/T analysis and molecular dynamics simulation. Furthermore, the Molecular Mechanics-Generalized Born Surface Area (MM/GBSA) technique has been utilized to evaluate the free binding energy. Based on the finding, one newly obtained compound in this study, namely DB15187, may serve as a lead compound for the discovery of IL-6 inhibitors.
By Que-Huong Tran, Hoang-Nhi Cao, Dac-Nhan Nguyen, Thi-Thuy-Nga Tran, Minh-Tri Le, Quoc-Thai Nguyen