Evaluation of the binding performance of flavonoids to estrogen receptor alpha by Autodock, Autodock Vina and Surflex-Dock


Molecular docking is a widely used method to predict the binding modes of small-molecule ligands to the target binding site. However, it remains a challenge to identify the correct binding conformation and the corresponding binding affinity for a series of structurally similar ligands, especially those with weak binding. An understanding of the various relative attributes of popular docking programs is required to ensure a successful docking outcome. In this study, we systematically compared the performance of three popular docking programs, Autodock, Autodock Vina, and Surflex-Dock for a series of structurally similar weekly binding flavonoids (22) binding to the estrogen receptor alpha (ERα). For these flavonoids-ERα interactions, Surflex-Dock showed higher accuracy than Autodock and Autodock Vina. The hydrogen bond overweighting by Autodock and Autodock Vina led to incorrect binding results, while Surflex-Dock effectively balanced both hydrogen bond and hydrophobic interactions. Moreover, the selection of initial receptor structure is critical as it influences the docking conformations of flavonoids-ERα complexes. The flexible docking method failed to further improve the docking accuracy of the semi-flexible docking method for such chemicals. In addition, binding interaction analysis revealed that 8 residues, including Ala350, Glu353, Leu387, Arg394, Phe404, Gly521, His524, and Leu525, are the key residues in ERα-flavonoids complexes. This work provides reference for assessing molecular interactions between ERα and flavonoid-like chemicals and provides instructive information for other environmental chemicals.

Authors: Qiao Xue, Xian Liu, Paul Russell, Jin Li, Wenxiao Pan, Jianjie Fu, Aiqian Zhang
; Full Source: Ecotoxicology and environmental safety 2022 Feb 17;233:113323. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2022.113323.