Structure-based discovery of positive allosteric modulators for the calcium sensing receptor
bioRxiv 2023, in press
Drugs acting as positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) to enhance the activation of the calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) and to suppress parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion can treat hyperparathyroidism but suffer from side effects including hypocalcemia and arrhythmias. Seeking new CaSR modulators, we docked libraries of 2.7 million and 1.2 billion molecules against transforming pockets in the active-state receptor dimer structure. Consistent with the idea that docking improves with library size, billion-molecule docking found new PAMs with a hit rate that was 2.7-fold higher than the million-molecule library and with hits up to 37-fold more potent. Structure-based optimization of ligands from both campaigns led to nanomolar leads, one of which was advanced to animal testing. This PAM displays 100-fold the potency of the standard of care, cinacalcet, in ex vivo organ assays, and reduces serum PTH levels in mice by up to 80% without the hypocalcemia typical of CaSR drugs. Cryo-EM structures with the new PAMs show that they promote CaSR dimer conformations that are closer to the G-protein coupled state compared to established drugs. These findings highlight the promise of large library docking for therapeutic leads, especially when combined with experimental structure determination and mechanism.