Bell-Evans model and steered molecular dynamics in uncovering the dissociation kinetics of ligands targeting G-protein-coupled receptors
"Recently, academic and industrial scientific communities involved in kinetics-based drug development have become immensely interested in predicting the drug target residence time. Screening drug candidates in terms of their computationally predicted residence times, which is a measure of drug efficacy in vivo, and simultaneously assessing computational binding affinities are becoming inevitable. Non-equilibrium molecular simulation approaches are proven to be useful in this purpose. Here, we have implemented an optimized approach of combining the data derived from steered molecular dynamics simulations and the Bell-Evans model to predict the absolute residence times of the antagonist ZMA241385 and agonist NECA that target the A2A adenosine receptor of the G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) protein family. We have predicted the absolute ligand residence times on the timescale of seconds. However, our predictions were many folds shorter than those determined experimentally. Additionally, we calculated the thermodynamics of ligand binding in terms of ligand binding energies and the per-residue contribution of the receptor. Subsequently, binding pocket hotspot residues that would be important for further computational mutagenesis studies were identified. In the experiment, similar sets of residues were found to be in significant contact with both ligands under study. Our results build a strong foundation for further improvement of our approach by rationalizing the kinetics of ligand unbinding with the thermodynamics of ligand binding."