Conventional drug design embraces the “one gene, one drug, one disease” philosophy. Polypharmacology, which focuses on multi-target drugs, has emerged as a new paradigm in drug discovery. The rational design of drugs that act via polypharmacological mechanisms can produce compounds that exhibit increased therapeutic potency and against which resistance is less likely to develop. Additionally, identifying multiple protein targets is also critical for side-effect prediction. One third of potential therapeutic compounds fail in clinical trials or are later removed from the market due to unacceptable side effects often caused by off-target binding. In the current work, we introduce a multidimensional strategy for the identification of secondary targets of known small-molecule inhibitors in the absence of global structural and sequence homology with the primary target protein. To demonstrate the utility of the strategy, we identify several targets of 4,5-dihydroxy-3-(1-naphthyldiazenyl)-2,7-naphthalenedisulfonic acid, a known micromolar inhibitor of Trypanosoma brucei RNA editing ligase 1. As it is capable of identifying potential secondary targets, the strategy described here may play a useful role in future efforts to reduce drug side effects and/or to increase polypharmacology.
Proteins play a critical role in human disease; bacteria, viruses, and parasites have unique proteins that can interfere with human health, and dysfunctional human proteins can likewise lead to illness. In order to find cures, scientists often try to identify small molecules (drugs) that can inhibit disease-causing proteins. The goal is to identify a molecule that can fit snugly into the pockets and grooves, or “active sites,” on the protein's surface. Unfortunately, drugs that inhibit a single disease-causing protein are problematic. A single protein can evolve to evade drug action. Additionally, when only one protein is targeted, drug potency is often diminished. Single drugs that simultaneously target multiple disease-causing proteins are much more effective. On the other hand, if scientists are not careful, the drugs they design might inhibit essential human proteins in addition to inhibiting their intended targets, leading to unexpected side effects. In our current work, we have developed a computer-based procedure that can be used to identify proteins with similar active sites. Once unexpected protein targets have been identified, scientists can modify drugs under development in order to increase the simultaneous inhibition of multiple disease-causing proteins while avoiding potential side effects by decreasing the inhibition of useful human proteins.