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Papers of the Week

2023 Jan 07

Int J Mol Sci



In Silico Investigation of the Human GTP Cyclohydrolase 1 Enzyme Reveals the Potential of Drug Repurposing Approaches towards the Discovery of Effective BH Therapeutics.


The GTP cyclohydrolase 1 enzyme (GTPCH1) is the rate-limiting enzyme of the tetrahydrobiopterin (BH) biosynthetic pathway. Physiologically, BH plays a crucial role as an essential cofactor for the production of catecholamine neurotransmitters, including epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine, as well as the gaseous signaling molecule, nitric oxide. Pathological levels of the cofactor have been reported in a number of disease states, such as inflammatory conditions, neuropathic pain and cancer. Targeting the GTPCH1 enzyme has great potential in the management of a number of disease pathologies associated with dysregulated BH physiology. This study is an in silico investigation of the human GTPCH1 enzyme using virtual screening and molecular dynamic simulation to identify molecules that can be repurposed to therapeutically target the enzyme. A three-tier molecular docking protocol was employed in the virtual screening of a comprehensive library of over 7000 approved medications and nutraceuticals in order to identify hit compounds capable of binding to the GTPCH1 binding pocket with the highest affinity. Hit compounds were further verified by molecular dynamic simulation studies to provide a detailed insight regarding the stability and nature of the binding interaction. In this study, we identify a number of drugs and natural compounds with recognized anti-inflammatory, analgesic and cytotoxic effects, including the aminosalicylate olsalazine, the antiepileptic phenytoin catechol, and the phlorotannins phlorofucofuroeckol and eckol. Our results suggest that the therapeutic and clinical effects of hit compounds may be partially attributed to the inhibition of the GTPCH1 enzyme. Notably, this study offers an understanding of the off-target effects of a number of compounds and advocates the potential role of aminosalicylates in the regulation of BH production in inflammatory disease states. It highlights an in silico drug repurposing approach to identify a potential means of safely targeting the BH biosynthetic pathway using established therapeutic agents.