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Special Issue "Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Biochemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Claudiu T. Supuran
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Guest Editor
Neurofarba Department, Section of Farmaceutical and Neutraceutical Sciences, University of Florence, Sesto Fiorentino (Florence) 50019, Italy
Interests: drug design; metalloenzymes; carbonic anhydrases, anticancer agents; antiinfectives; sulfonamides; coumarins
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Paola Gratteri
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Guest Editor
Neurofarba Department, University of Florence, Via Ugo Schiff 6, Polo Scientifico, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze), Italy
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Silvia Selleri
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Guest Editor
Neurofarba Department, University of Florence, Via Ugo Schiff 6, Polo Scientifico, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze), Italy
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The proteins are probably the most essential biomolecules for all life processes. In the last 20 years, huge progress with genomics, proteomics, and other OMICS has led to a deep understanding of most aspects of these important biomolecules. However, their study remains as fascinating as ever, because the exact functions of many proteins are not well understood, the regulatory processes and the interactions between proteins have been investigated in detail only recently, and the applications of this research have produced relevant results only in the last decade. These and other aspects related to molecular biology, regulation, structure, and function, as well as druggability of proteins, will be dealt with in this special issue of IJMS. Potential authors are invited to present their latest research in all these fields.

Prof. Dr. Claudiu T. Supuran
Prof. Paola Gratteri
Prof. Silvia Selleri
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Molecular Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. There is an Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal. For details about the APC please see here. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Protein structure and function
  • Proteins as drug targets
  • Protein folding
  • Protein–protein interaction

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
The Fibronectin Expression Determines the Distinct Progressions of Malignant Gliomas via Transforming Growth Factor-Beta Pathway
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(7), 3782; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms22073782 - 06 Apr 2021
Viewed by 406
Abstract
Due to the increasing incidence of malignant gliomas, particularly glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a simple and reliable GBM diagnosis is needed to screen early the death-threaten patients. This study aimed to identify a protein that can be used to discriminate GBM from low-grade astrocytoma [...] Read more.
Due to the increasing incidence of malignant gliomas, particularly glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a simple and reliable GBM diagnosis is needed to screen early the death-threaten patients. This study aimed to identify a protein that can be used to discriminate GBM from low-grade astrocytoma and elucidate further that it has a functional role during malignant glioma progressions. To identify proteins that display low or no expression in low-grade astrocytoma but elevated levels in GBM, glycoprotein fibronectin (FN) was particularly examined according to the mining of the Human Protein Atlas. Web-based open megadata minings revealed that FN was mainly mutated in the cBio Cancer Genomic Portal but dominantly overexpressed in the ONCOMINE (a cancer microarray database and integrated data-mining platform) in distinct tumor types. Furthermore, numerous different cancer patients with high FN indeed exhibited a poor prognosis in the PrognoScan mining, indicating that FN involves in tumor malignancy. To investigate further the significance of FN expression in glioma progression, tumor specimens from five malignant gliomas with recurrences that received at least two surgeries were enrolled and examined. The immunohistochemical staining showed that FN expression indeed determined the distinct progressions of malignant gliomas. Furthermore, the expression of vimentin (VIM), a mesenchymal protein that is strongly expressed in malignant cancers, was similar to the FN pattern. Moreover, the level of epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) inducer transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) was almost recapitulated with the FN expression. Together, this study identifies a protein FN that can be used to diagnose GBM from low-grade astrocytoma; moreover, its expression functionally determines the malignant glioma progressions via TGF-β-induced EMT pathway. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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Open AccessArticle
Identification of a Selective RelA Inhibitor Based on DSE-FRET Screening Methods
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(23), 9150; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21239150 - 30 Nov 2020
Viewed by 1000
Abstract
Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is an important transcription factor involved in various biological functions, including tumorigenesis. Hence, NF-κB has attracted attention as a target factor for cancer treatment, leading to the development of several inhibitors. However, existing NF-κB inhibitors do not discriminate between its [...] Read more.
Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is an important transcription factor involved in various biological functions, including tumorigenesis. Hence, NF-κB has attracted attention as a target factor for cancer treatment, leading to the development of several inhibitors. However, existing NF-κB inhibitors do not discriminate between its subunits, namely, RelA, RelB, cRel, p50, and p52. Conventional methods used to evaluate interactions between transcription factors and DNA, such as electrophoretic mobility shift assay and luciferase assays, are unsuitable for high-throughput screening (HTS) and cannot distinguish NF-κB subunits. We developed a HTS method named DNA strand exchange fluorescence resonance energy transfer (DSE-FRET). This assay is suitable for HTS and can discriminate a NF-κB subunit. Using DSE-FRET, we searched for RelA-specific inhibitors and verified RelA inhibition for 32,955 compounds. The compound A55 (2-(3-carbamoyl-6-hydroxy-4-methyl-2-oxopyridin-1(2H)-yl) acetic acid) selectively inhibited RelA–DNA binding. We propose that A55 is a seed compound for RelA-specific inhibition and could be used in clinical applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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Open AccessArticle
The Molecular Basis and Biologic Significance of the β-Dystroglycan-Emerin Interaction
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(17), 5944; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21175944 - 19 Aug 2020
Viewed by 1042
Abstract
β-dystroglycan (β-DG) assembles with lamins A/C and B1 and emerin at the nuclear envelope (NE) to maintain proper nuclear architecture and function. To provide insight into the nuclear function of β-DG, we characterized the interaction between β-DG and emerin at the molecular level. [...] Read more.
β-dystroglycan (β-DG) assembles with lamins A/C and B1 and emerin at the nuclear envelope (NE) to maintain proper nuclear architecture and function. To provide insight into the nuclear function of β-DG, we characterized the interaction between β-DG and emerin at the molecular level. Emerin is a major NE protein that regulates multiple nuclear processes and whose deficiency results in Emery–Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD). Using truncated variants of β-DG and emerin, via a series of in vitro and in vivo binding experiments and a tailored computational analysis, we determined that the β-DG–emerin interaction is mediated at least in part by their respective transmembrane domains (TM). Using surface plasmon resonance assays we showed that emerin binds to β-DG with high affinity (KD in the nanomolar range). Remarkably, the analysis of cells in which DG was knocked out demonstrated that loss of β-DG resulted in a decreased emerin stability and impairment of emerin-mediated processes. β-DG and emerin are reciprocally required for their optimal targeting within the NE, as shown by immunofluorescence, western blotting and immunoprecipitation assays using emerin variants with mutations in the TM domain and B-lymphocytes of a patient with EDMD. In summary, we demonstrated that β-DG plays a role as an emerin interacting partner modulating its stability and function. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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Open AccessArticle
Drug Discovery Targeting the Disorder-To-Order Transition Regions through the Conformational Diversity Mimicking and Statistical Analysis
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(15), 5248; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21155248 - 24 Jul 2020
Viewed by 818
Abstract
Intrinsically disordered proteins exist as highly dynamic conformational ensembles of diverse forms. However, the majority of virtual screening only focuses on proteins with defined structures. This means that computer-aided drug discovery is restricted. As a breakthrough, understanding the structural characteristics of intrinsically disordered [...] Read more.
Intrinsically disordered proteins exist as highly dynamic conformational ensembles of diverse forms. However, the majority of virtual screening only focuses on proteins with defined structures. This means that computer-aided drug discovery is restricted. As a breakthrough, understanding the structural characteristics of intrinsically disordered proteins and its application can open the gate for unrestricted drug discovery. First, we segmented the target disorder-to-order transition region into a series of overlapping 20-amino-acid-long peptides. Folding prediction generated diverse conformations of these peptides. Next, we applied molecular docking, new evaluation score function, and statistical analysis. This approach successfully distinguished known compounds and their corresponding binding regions. Especially, Myc proto-oncogene protein (MYC) inhibitor 10058F4 was well distinguished from others of the chemical compound library. We also studied differences between the two Methyl-CpG-binding domain protein 2 (MBD2) inhibitors (ABA (2-amino-N-[[(3S)-2,3-dihydro-1,4-benzodioxin-3-yl]methyl]-acetamide) and APC ((R)-(3-(2-Amino-acetylamino)-pyrrolidine-1-carboxylic acid tert-butyl ester))). Both compounds bind MBD2 through electrostatic interaction behind its p66α-binding site. ABA is also able to bind p66α through electrostatic interaction behind its MBD2-binding site while APC-p66α binding was nonspecific. Therefore, structural heterogeneity mimicking of the disorder-to-order transition region at the peptide level and utilization of the new docking score function represent a useful approach that can efficiently discriminate compounds for expanded virtual screening toward intrinsically disordered proteins. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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Open AccessArticle
Identification of Selective Novel Hits against Plasmodium falciparum Prolyl tRNA Synthetase Active Site and a Predicted Allosteric Site Using In Silico Approaches
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(11), 3803; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21113803 - 27 May 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1413
Abstract
Recently, there has been increased interest in aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) as potential malarial drug targets. These enzymes play a key role in protein translation by the addition of amino acids to their cognate tRNA. The aaRSs are present in all Plasmodium life [...] Read more.
Recently, there has been increased interest in aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) as potential malarial drug targets. These enzymes play a key role in protein translation by the addition of amino acids to their cognate tRNA. The aaRSs are present in all Plasmodium life cycle stages, and thus present an attractive malarial drug target. Prolyl tRNA synthetase is a class II aaRS that functions in charging tRNA with proline. Various inhibitors against Plasmodium falciparum ProRS (PfProRS) active site have been designed. However, none have gone through clinical trials as they have been found to be highly toxic to human cells. Recently, a possible allosteric site was reported in PfProRS with two possible allosteric modulators: glyburide and TCMDC-124506. In this study, we sought to identify novel selective inhibitors targeting PfProRS active site and possible novel allosteric modulators of this enzyme. To achieve this, virtual screening of South African natural compounds against PfProRS and the human homologue was carried out using AutoDock Vina. The modulation of protein motions by ligand binding was studied by molecular dynamics (MD) using the GROningen MAchine for Chemical Simulations (GROMACS) tool. To further analyse the protein global motions and energetic changes upon ligand binding, principal component analysis (PCA), and free energy landscape (FEL) calculations were performed. Further, to understand the effect of ligand binding on the protein communication, dynamic residue network (DRN) analysis of the MD trajectories was carried out using the MD-TASK tool. A total of ten potential natural hit compounds were identified with strong binding energy scores. Binding of ligands to the protein caused observable global and residue level changes. Dynamic residue network calculations showed increase in betweenness centrality (BC) metric of residues at the allosteric site implying these residues are important in protein communication. A loop region at the catalytic domain between residues 300 and 350 and the anticodon binding domain showed significant contributions to both PC1 and PC2. Large motions were observed at a loop in the Z-domain between residues 697 and 710 which was also in agreement with RMSF calculations that showed increase in flexibility of residues in this region. Residues in this loop region are implicated in ATP binding and thus a change in dynamics may affect ATP binding affinity. Free energy landscape (FEL) calculations showed that the holo protein (protein-ADN complex) and PfProRS-SANC184 complexes were stable, as shown by the low energy with very few intermediates and hardly distinguishable low energy barriers. In addition, FEL results agreed with backbone RMSD distribution plots where stable complexes showed a normal RMSD distribution while unstable complexes had multimodal RMSD distribution. The betweenness centrality metric showed a loss of functional importance of key ATP binding site residues upon allosteric ligand binding. The deep basins in average L observed at the allosteric region imply that there is high accessibility of residues at this region. To further analyse BC and average L metrics data, we calculated the ΔBC and ΔL values by taking each value in the holo protein BC or L matrix less the corresponding value in the ligand-bound complex BC or L matrix. Interestingly, in allosteric complexes, residues located in a loop region implicated in ATP binding had negative ΔL values while in orthosteric complexes these residues had positive ΔL values. An increase in contact frequency between residues Ser263, Thr267, Tyr285, and Leu707 at the allosteric site and residues Thr397, Pro398, Thr402, and Gln395 at the ATP binding TXE loop was observed. In summary, this study identified five potential orthosteric inhibitors and five allosteric modulators against PfProRS. Allosteric modulators changed ATP binding site dynamics, as shown by RMSF, PCA, and DRN calculations. Changes in dynamics of the ATP binding site and increased contact frequency between residues at the proposed allosteric site and the ATP binding site may explain how allosteric modulators distort the ATP binding site and thus might inhibit PfProRS. The scaffolds of the identified hits in the study can be used as a starting point for antimalarial inhibitor development with low human cytotoxicity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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Open AccessArticle
Identification of Inhibitors to Trypanosoma cruzi Sirtuins Based on Compounds Developed to Human Enzymes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(10), 3659; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21103659 - 22 May 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 835
Abstract
Chagas disease is an illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, affecting more than 7 million people in the world. Benznidazole and nifurtimox are the only drugs available for treatment and in addition to causing several side effects, are only satisfactory [...] Read more.
Chagas disease is an illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, affecting more than 7 million people in the world. Benznidazole and nifurtimox are the only drugs available for treatment and in addition to causing several side effects, are only satisfactory in the acute phase of the disease. Sirtuins are NAD+-dependent deacetylases involved in several biological processes, which have become drug target candidates in various disease settings. T. cruzi presents two sirtuins, one cytosolic (TcSir2rp1) and the latter mitochondrial (TcSir2rp3). Here, we characterized the effects of human sirtuin inhibitors against T. cruzi sirtuins as an initial approach to develop specific parasite inhibitors. We found that, of 33 compounds tested, two inhibited TcSir2rp1 (15 and 17), while other five inhibited TcSir2rp3 (8, 12, 13, 30, and 32), indicating that specific inhibitors can be devised for each one of the enzymes. Furthermore, all inhibiting compounds prevented parasite proliferation in cultured mammalian cells. When combining the most effective inhibitors with benznidazole at least two compounds, 17 and 32, demonstrated synergistic effects. Altogether, these results support the importance of exploring T. cruzi sirtuins as drug targets and provide key elements to develop specific inhibitors for these enzymes as potential targets for Chagas disease treatment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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Open AccessArticle
High Cell Selectivity and Bactericidal Mechanism of Symmetric Peptides Centered on d-Pro–Gly Pairs
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(3), 1140; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21031140 - 08 Feb 2020
Viewed by 1007
Abstract
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have a unique action mechanism that can help to solve global problems in antibiotic resistance. However, their low therapeutic index and poor stability seriously hamper their development as therapeutic agents. In order to overcome these problems, we designed peptides based [...] Read more.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have a unique action mechanism that can help to solve global problems in antibiotic resistance. However, their low therapeutic index and poor stability seriously hamper their development as therapeutic agents. In order to overcome these problems, we designed peptides based on the sequence template XXRXXRRzzRRXXRXX-NH2, where X represents a hydrophobic amino acid like Phe (F), Ile (I), and Leu (L), while zz represents Gly–Gly (GG) or d-Pro–Gly (pG). Showing effective antimicrobial activity against Gram-negative bacteria and low toxicity, designed peptides had a tendency to form an α-helical structure in membrane-mimetic environments. Among them, peptide LRpG (X: L, zz: pG) showed the highest geometric mean average treatment index (GMTI = 73.1), better salt, temperature and pH stability, and an additive effect with conventional antibiotics. Peptide LRpG played the role of anti-Gram-negative bacteria through destroying the cell membrane. In addition, peptide LRpG also exhibited an anti-inflammatory activity by effectively neutralizing endotoxin. Briefly, peptide LRpG has the potential to serve as a therapeutic agent to reduce antibiotic resistance owing to its high therapeutic index and great stability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Inhibitors of Chemoresistance Pathways in Combination with Ara-C to Overcome Multidrug Resistance in AML. A Mini Review
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(9), 4955; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms22094955 - 07 May 2021
Viewed by 312
Abstract
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the most common type of leukemia in older adults, is a heterogeneous disease that originates from the clonal expansion of undifferentiated hematopoietic progenitor cells. These cells present a remarkable variety of genes and proteins with altered expression and function. [...] Read more.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the most common type of leukemia in older adults, is a heterogeneous disease that originates from the clonal expansion of undifferentiated hematopoietic progenitor cells. These cells present a remarkable variety of genes and proteins with altered expression and function. Despite significant advances in understanding the molecular panorama of AML and the development of therapies that target mutations, survival has not improved significantly, and the therapy standard is still based on highly toxic chemotherapy, which includes cytarabine (Ara-C) and allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. Approximately 60% of AML patients respond favorably to these treatments and go into complete remission; however, most eventually relapse, develop refractory disease or chemoresistance, and do not survive for more than five years. Therefore, drug resistance that initially occurs in leukemic cells (primary resistance) or that develops during or after treatment (acquired resistance) has become the main obstacle to AML treatment. In this work, the main molecules responsible for generating chemoresistance to Ara-C in AML are discussed, as well as some of the newer strategies to overcome it, such as the inclusion of molecules that can induce synergistic cytotoxicity with Ara-C (MNKI-8e, emodin, metformin and niclosamide), subtoxic concentrations of chemotherapy (PD0332991), and potently antineoplastic treatments that do not damage nonmalignant cells (heteronemin or hydroxyurea + azidothymidine). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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Open AccessReview
Flavodoxins as Novel Therapeutic Targets against Helicobacter pylori and Other Gastric Pathogens
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(5), 1881; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21051881 - 10 Mar 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1559
Abstract
Flavodoxins are small soluble electron transfer proteins widely present in bacteria and absent in vertebrates. Flavodoxins participate in different metabolic pathways and, in some bacteria, they have been shown to be essential proteins representing promising therapeutic targets to fight bacterial infections. Using purified [...] Read more.
Flavodoxins are small soluble electron transfer proteins widely present in bacteria and absent in vertebrates. Flavodoxins participate in different metabolic pathways and, in some bacteria, they have been shown to be essential proteins representing promising therapeutic targets to fight bacterial infections. Using purified flavodoxin and chemical libraries, leads can be identified that block flavodoxin function and act as bactericidal molecules, as it has been demonstrated for Helicobacter pylori (Hp), the most prevalent human gastric pathogen. Increasing antimicrobial resistance by this bacterium has led current therapies to lose effectiveness, so alternative treatments are urgently required. Here, we summarize, with a focus on flavodoxin, opportunities for pharmacological intervention offered by the potential protein targets described for this bacterium and provide information on other gastrointestinal pathogens and also on bacteria from the gut microbiota that contain flavodoxin. The process of discovery and development of novel antimicrobials specific for Hp flavodoxin that is being carried out in our group is explained, as it can be extrapolated to the discovery of inhibitors specific for other gastric pathogens. The high specificity for Hp of the antimicrobials developed may be of help to reduce damage to the gut microbiota and to slow down the development of resistant Hp mutants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Druggability of Proteins)
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