Utilization of AlphaFold Models for Drug Discovery: Feasibility and Challenges. Histone Deacetylase 11 as a Case Study

26 October 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Histone deacetylase 11 (HDAC11), an enzyme that is cleaving acyl groups from acylated lysine residues, is the sole member of class IV of HDAC family with no reported crystal structure so far. The catalytic domain of HDAC11 shares low sequence identity with other HDAC isoforms which complicates the conventional template based homology modeling. AlphaFold is a neural network machine learning approach for predicting the 3D structures of proteins with atomic accuracy even in absence of similar structures. However, the structures predicted by AlphaFold are missing small molecules as ligands and cofactors. In our study, we first optimized the HDAC11 AlphaFold model by adding the catalytic zinc ion followed by assessment of the usability of the model by docking of the selective inhibitor FT895. Minimization of the optimized model in presence of transplanted inhibitors, previously described as HDAC11 inhibitors for which X-ray structures with the related HDAC8 are available was performed. Four complexes were generated and proved to be stable using three replicas of 50 ns MD simulations and were successfully utilized for docking of the selective inhibitors FT895 and MIR002 and SIS17 The most reasonable pose was selected based on structural comparison between HDAC6, HDAC8 and the HDAC11 optimized AlphaFold model. The manually optimized HDAC11 model is thus able to explain the binding behavior of known HDAC11 inhibitors and can be used for further structure based optimization.


histone deacetylases
homology model
molecular dynamics

Supplementary materials

Analyis of molecular dynamics simulations
RMSD and RMSF plots of molecular dynamics simulations. Figures of relevant docking complexes and frames from molecular dynamics simulations.


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