A benchmark study of loop modeling methods applied to G protein-coupled receptors


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) are important drug discovery targets. Despite progress, many GPCR structures have not yet been solved. For these targets, comparative modeling is used in virtual ligand screening to prioritize experimental efforts. However, the structure of extracellular loop 2 (ECL2) is often poorly predicted. This is significant due to involvement of ECL2 in ligand binding for many Class A GPCR. Here we examine the performance of loop modeling protocols available in the Rosetta (cyclic coordinate descent [CCD], KIC with fragments [KICF] and next generation KIC [NGK]) and Molecular Operating Environment (MOE) software suites (de novo search). ECL2 from GPCR crystal structures served as the structure prediction targets and were divided into four sets depending on loop length. Results suggest that KICF and NGK sampled and scored more loop models with sub-angstrom and near-atomic accuracy than CCD or de novo search for loops of 24 or fewer residues. None of the methods were able to sample loop conformations with near-atomic accuracy for the longest targets ranging from 25 to 32 residues based on 1000 models generated. For these long loop targets, increased conformational sampling is necessary. The strongly conserved disulfide bond between Cys3.25 and Cys45.50 in ECL2 proved an effective filter. Setting an upper limit of 5.1 Å on the S–S distance improved the lowest RMSD model included in the top 10 scored structures in Groups 1–4 on average between 0.33 and 1.27 Å. Disulfide bond formation and geometry optimization of ECL2 provided an additional incremental benefit in structure quality.

Publication Title

Journal of Computer-Aided Molecular Design