Benchmarking GPCR homology model template selection in combination with de novo loop generation


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) comprise the largest family of membrane proteins and are of considerable interest as targets for drug development. However, many GPCR structures remain unsolved. To address the structural ambiguity of these receptors, computational tools such as homology modeling and loop modeling are often employed to generate predictive receptor structures. Here we combined both methods to benchmark a protocol incorporating homology modeling based on a locally selected template and extracellular loop modeling that additionally evaluates the presence of template ligands during these modeling steps. Ligands were also docked using three docking methods and two pose selection methods to elucidate an optimal ligand pose selection method. Results suggest that local template-based homology models followed by loop modeling produce more accurate and predictive receptor models than models produced without loop modeling, with decreases in average receptor and ligand RMSD of 0.54 Å and 2.91 Å, respectively. Ligand docking results showcased the ability of MOE induced fit docking to produce ligand poses with atom root-mean-square deviation (RMSD) values at least 0.20 Å lower (on average) than the other two methods benchmarked in this study. In addition, pose selection methods (software-based scoring, ligand complementation) selected lower RMSD poses with MOE induced fit docking than either of the other methods (averaging at least 1.57 Å lower), indicating that MOE induced fit docking is most suited for docking into GPCR homology models in our hands. In addition, target receptor models produced with a template ligand present throughout the modeling process most often produced target ligand poses with RMSD values ≤ 4.5 Å and Tanimoto coefficients > 0.6 after selection based on ligand complementation than target receptor models produced in the absence of template ligands. Overall, the findings produced by this study support the use of local template homology modeling in combination with de novo ECL2 modeling in the presence of a ligand from the template crystal structure to generate GPCR models intended to study ligand binding interactions.

Publication Title

Journal of Computer-Aided Molecular Design