UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Computer-Aided Discovery of Small Molecule Inhibitors of Thymocyte Selection-Associated High Mobility Group Box Protein (TOX) as Potential Therapeutics for Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphomas Agrawal, Vibudh; Su, Mingwan; Huang, Yuanshen; Hsing, Michael; Cherkasov, Artem; Zhou, Youwen


Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCL) are the most common primary lymphomas of the skin. We have previously identified thymocyte selection-associated high mobility group (HMG) box protein (TOX) as a promising drug target in CTCL; however, there are currently no small molecules able to directly inhibit TOX. We aimed to address this unmet opportunity by developing anti-TOX therapeutics with the use of computer-aided drug discovery methods. The available NMR-resolved structure of the TOX protein was used to model its DNA-binding HMG-box domain. To investigate the druggability of the corresponding protein–DNA interface on TOX, we performed a pilot virtual screening of 200,000 small molecules using in silico docking and identified ‘hot spots’ for drug-binding on the HMG-box domain. We then performed a large-scale virtual screening of 7.6 million drug-like compounds that were available from the ZINC15 database. As a result, a total of 140 top candidate compounds were selected for subsequent in vitro validation. Of those, 18 small molecules have been characterized as selective TOX inhibitors.

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