Cheminformatics Modeling of Closantel Analogues for Treating River Blindness
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Onchocerciasis (also known as river blindness) is a neglected tropical disease caused by the Onchocerca volvulus parasitic nematode. Currently, the only approved drug for treating this disease is ivermectin, which is a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent. However, signs of resistance towards ivermectin have started to emerge. New therapeutic agents are thus urgently needed. The OvCHT1 chitinase enzyme from O. volvulus has been established as a relevant biological target for combatting river blindness. The veterinary anthelmintic drug closantel has been found to be a potent, micro-molar OvCHT1 inhibitor. Herein, we investigated the chemical space of closantel and all its synthesized analogues, focusing on the analysis of their potential binding modes towards OvCHT1. First, we conducted an unsupervised hierarchical clustering to group highly similar analogues and explore structure-activity relationships. Second, we conducted a structure-based molecular docking to predict and study the binding modes of all 57 closantel analogues in the active site of OvCHT1. Third, we screened more than 4 million lead-like compounds from the ZINC library to identify other structurally similar ligands that could potentially bind to OvCHT1. The cheminformatics analysis of the closantel analogues illustrated how minor structural changes in closantel analogues can impact their OvCHT1 activity.