BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
G. SpagnolliEmiliano Biasini


Recent computational advancements in the simulation of biochemical processes allow investigating the mechanisms involved in protein regulation with realistic physics-based models, at an atomistic level of resolution. Using these techniques to study the negative regulation of the androgen receptor (AR), we discovered a key functional role played by non-native metastable states appearing along the folding pathway of this protein. This unexpected observation inspired us to design a completely novel drug discovery approach, named Pharmacological Protein Inactivation by Folding Intermediate Targeting (PPI-FIT), based on the rationale of negatively regulating protein expression by targeting folding intermediates. Here, PPI-FIT was tested for the first time on the cellular prion protein (PrP), a cell surface glycoprotein playing a key role in fatal and transmissible neurodegenerative pathologies known as prion diseases. We predicted the all-atom structure of an intermediate appearing along the folding pathway of PrP, and identified four different small molecule ligands for this conformer, all capable of selectively lowering the expression of the protein by promoting its degradation. Our data support the notion that the level of target...Continue Reading

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