Docking for EP4R antagonists active against inflammatory pain
Nat. Commun. 2023, 14 (1), 8067
The lipid prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) mediates inflammatory pain by activating G protein-coupled receptors, including the prostaglandin E2 receptor 4 (EP4R). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce nociception by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis, however, the disruption of upstream prostanoid biosynthesis can lead to pleiotropic effects including gastrointestinal bleeding and cardiac complications. In contrast, by acting downstream, EP4R antagonists may act specifically as anti-inflammatory agents and, to date, no selective EP4R antagonists have been approved for human use. In this work, seeking to diversify EP4R antagonist scaffolds, we computationally dock over 400 million compounds against an EP4R crystal structure and experimentally validate 71 highly ranked, de novo synthesized molecules. Further, we show how structure-based optimization of initial docking hits identifies a potent and selective antagonist with 16 nanomolar potency. Finally, we demonstrate favorable pharmacokinetics for the discovered compound as well as anti-allodynic and anti-inflammatory activity in several preclinical pain models in mice.