Structure-based discovery of CFTR potentiators and inhibitors

bioRxiv 2023, in press

DOI: 10.1101/2023.09.09.557002

Liu F.; Kaplan A.; Levring J.; Einsiedel J.; Tiedt S.; Distler K.; Omattage N.; Kondratov I.; Moroz Y.; Pietz H.; Irwin J.; Gmeiner P.; Shoichet B.; Chen J.

The cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is a crucial ion channel whose loss of function leads to cystic fibrosis, while its hyperactivation leads to secretory diarrhea. Small molecules that improve CFTR folding (correctors) or function (potentiators) are clinically available. However, the only potentiator, ivacaftor, has suboptimal pharmacokinetics and inhibitors have yet to be clinically developed. Here we combine molecular docking, electrophysiology, cryo-EM, and medicinal chemistry to identify novel CFTR modulators. We docked ∼155 million molecules into the potentiator site on CFTR, synthesized 53 test ligands, and used structure-based optimization to identify candidate modulators. This approach uncovered novel mid-nanomolar potentiators as well as inhibitors that bind to the same allosteric site. These molecules represent potential leads for the development of more effective drugs for cystic fibrosis and secretory diarrhea, demonstrating the feasibility of large-scale docking for ion channel drug discovery.