Computer-Assisted Carbohydrate Structural Studies and Drug Discovery
Abstract: Carbohydrates are abundant in nature and have functions ranging from energy storage to acting as structural components. Analysis of carbohydrate structures is important and can be used for, for instance, clinical diagnosis of diseases as well as in bacterial studies. The complexity of glycans makes it difficult to determine their structures. NMR spectroscopy is an advanced method that can be used to examine carbohydrates at the atomic level, but full assignments of the signals require much work. Reliable automation of this process would be of great help. Herein studies of Escherichia coli O-antigen polysaccharides are presented, both a structure determination by NMR and also research on glycosyltransferases which assemble the polysaccharides. The computer program CASPER has been improved to assist in carbohydrate studies and in the long run make it possible to automatically determine structures based only on NMR data.Detailed computer studies of glycans can shed light on their interactions with proteins and help find inhibitors to prevent unwanted binding. The WaaG glycosyltransferase is important for the formation of E. coli lipopolysaccharides. Molecular docking analyses of structures confirmed to bind this enzyme have provided information on how inhibitors could be composed. Noroviruses cause gastroenteritis, such as the winter vomiting disease, after binding human histo-blood group antigens. In one of the projects, fragment-based docking, followed by molecular dynamics simulations and binding free energy calculations, was used to find competitive binders to the P domain of the capsid of the norovirus VA387. These novel structures have high affinity and are a very good starting point for developing drugs against noroviruses. The protein targets in these two projects are carbohydrate binding, but the techniques are general and can be applied to other research projects.
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